By Jared Epp
Friendly cows, a river crossing, navigating a beaver dam, does this experience sound like a pleasant Saturday? This and more were all part and parcel of the third annual River’s Edge Ultra Running Series that took place on September 23, 2017. The race snakes in and out of the North Saskatchewan River valley in Parkland County just west of Edmonton, Alberta. It includes varied terrain on private and public land from gnarly single track, open ankle-biting pasture, a river crossing to a mile-long island loop and, finally, rocky track along the river’s edge.
As varied as the terrain, are the different race opportunities that invite both the young and new, while still challenging even the most experienced trail runner. The race includes options of: 100 km “Magilla” Solo, 80 km “Wallace” Solo and 80 km Relay, 50 km “Muskeg” Solo, 12 km “Half Yak,” “Taste of River’s Edge” Solo and 3 km kids “Muskrat.”
The trails constantly wind, climb and drop. Though the shorter distances provide a great opportunity for new ultrarunners, the 100 km and 80 km solo races have built a reputation of being unforgiving to “back of the pack” runners. For example, Jason Kinsella, winner of both the Tahoe 200 and the Bigfoot 200, as well as various Alberta races, completed the 100 km with a time of 12:25:27, not a significant margin below the 15:30:00 hour limit.
The River’s Edge Ultra is headed up by race director Bryan Wallace, who along with a great team of friends, hopes to increase the race’s popularity and continue to contribute to the rich ultrarunning community in Alberta. The race also provides a means to support Olive Tree Projects, an organization in Jacmel, Haiti, that operates a maternity center and birth clinic, which was founded and is run by his daughter, Sarah Wallace. The family connection doesn’t end here, as part of the race takes place on land that had been owned by Sarah’s grandfather.
Leading up to race day there was fear of heavy rain that would have made the track even gnarlier. And well, it being late September in central Alberta, who knew what the weather would be. Fortunately, on race day the rains stayed away making for excellent conditions. There was also fear that the river level would be too high to cross for the island loop. The race director tested the crossing first thing in the morning and felt that at just below waist level (around three feet) the crossing was fine.
The race flowed smoothly with the only distraction an encounter with some bovine spectators. Race day was topped off with an after party in the beautiful river valley with live music, a food truck, free camping, free massages, hot showers and a free pancake breakfast the next morning. The feeling now is that three years in, the race has found its groove and looking to grow an already popular local race. With excellent trails and event vibe, the River’s Edge Ultra running series is a great way to close off the summer.
For more information, please visit the website: http://www.riversedgeultra.com