Many Miles to Go
Squamish, British Columbia, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Canada, with good reason. Just an hour’s drive away from Vancouver, and just a short drive from popular skiing destination, Whistler, Squamish is nestled in the foothills of several mountains and boasts every kind of terrain, from beaches to forests, plains to mountains.
This diverse terrain has made Squamish a year-round tourist favourite, with both summer and winter sports enthusiasts making this their base from which to enjoy climbing, skiing – water and snow – cycling, biking, all kinds of watersports and snow activities and, of course, hiking and running.
Thanks to its proximity and access to several provincial parks, including Stawamus Chief, Alice Lake and Brackendale Eagles Provincial Parks, the many forests that blanket the hills and mountains, as well the numerous lakes and waterways that dot the landscape, Squamish is the ideal location for hikers and runners who enjoy a bit of a challenge. That’s why, each year, the city hosts the Squamish 50, a gruelling, challenging 50-mile race that takes participants through some of the most beautiful scenery that British Columbia has to offer.
Race organisers make no bones about the fact that this is a tough race – in fact, the levels of challenge built in are a point of pride; nonetheless, every year, hundreds of avid runners and trail runners sign up to take part in one of the several events that take place over the race weekend.
The main attraction of the Squamish 50 is the 50-mile race that takes place on the Saturday. This race leads runners through such creatively named points as Dead End Loop, Tracks from Hell, Hide-a-Bike and Somewhere Over There. Sections of this run are single-track, and the second half of the race is notoriously more difficult than the first half. Runners can expect to climb nearly three and a half kilometres over the course of the race, including a 760m single climb. This race’s final cut-off is a staggering seventeen full hours after the start, proving just how challenging it can be.
Only slightly less challenging is the other “50”, the 50-kilometre race that takes place on the Sunday, following the 50-mile race. Following much of the same terrain, and several of the same trails, this is a point-to-point race that cuts out the numerous loops found in the 50-mile race. That, however, doesn’t make this race any less daunting. Runners will climb two and a half kilometres during this race. The cut-off time for the 50km race is a full eleven and a half hours after the start.
If this all sounds a little hectic, spare a thought for those brave souls who take the 50/50 challenge and run both races, back-to-back on the two consecutive days of this weekend. In total, those finishing both races will have run 130 kilometres of some of the toughest – and most gorgeous – terrain in Western Canada.
Taking it… not so easy
For those who are venturing into the Squamish 50 for the first time, or those who want to enjoy the scenic run without tackling the daunting 50-mile or 50-kilometre races, there is also a 23-kilometre trail run that takes you through Farside, Fartherside, Seven Stitches and Mountain of Phlegm, among other equally charmingly named points. This race takes place on the Sunday, so 50-mile participants who want to really push themselves, but aren’t quite up to the challenge of the 50/50 can take on this run. The total race climb is one thousand metres, much of it right near the end of the race.
While the adults are pounding away at the many kilometres of trail, the children get to enjoy their own races, as well. Kids under age five can take part in a half-kilometre race, those aged between five and eight can tackle a one-kilometre race, and children ages eight and over a one and a half-kilometre race. The children’s race is free to enter and takes place on the Saturday.
A well-deserved rest
While spectators and crew are only permitted at the aid stations along the various routes, every year sees many visitors who have come to cheer along family and friends as they take on this trail ultra marathon.
Runners and non-runners alike get to enjoy the beauty and various attractions on offer in Squamish, like the Sea-to-Sky Gondola that takes you to the Summit Lodge, 885m above sea level; the West Coast Railway Heritage Park or the Britannia Mine Museum; or perhaps craft brewery tours for those looking for something a little less active. There’s even horseback riding for those who want to enjoy the natural beauty that surrounds Squamish, without taking on the Squamish 50.
Those checking in at the August Jack Motor Inn will find themselves in the shadow of the famous Stawamus Chief, and with an unparalleled view of Shannon Falls, all with the convenience of being within walking distance of several amenities, restaurants, grocery stores and more. Located at 37947 Cleveland Avenue, August Jack is central to most of Squamish and just a few minutes’ drive from the start of the Squamish 50.