Squamish 50 2013 Preview
It feels like survival. The Arc'teryx Squamish 50 ultra run is a really TOUGH race. The 50 mile course, 85% of it singletrack, has 3,800m/12,000ft of climb and descent. Technical and wild, it's also grueling, remote, and punishing terrain, albeit with stunning views. Welcome to ultra running, Canadian style.
In only its second year of existence, the Squamish 50 is sold out. On August 10, 2013 an international roster of 600 runners from 9 countries will put themselves through the paces, running courses of 50 miles, 50km, and 23km.
Relatively new as a sport, ultra running covers distances longer than a marathon. The runs are uniquely about pushing personal limits, pushing those limits hard, and pushing them far. Courses require absolute commitment. At Squamish, the back half of the 50 is more difficult than the first. Just to reach the finish line is a victory. Gary Robbins, one of the two main organizers of the race, credits the striking surge in popularity of ultra runs to an "experienced road running/marathoning community that's looking for a new challenge, and a younger generation that's going straight onto the trails," in addition to a growing mainstream culture with an intense focus on personal journeys and fitness. "Ultra running is no longer looked upon as a fringe sport pursued by extremists, as much as it's an extreme challenge that is doable by the vast majority of the population."
Having a local high performance outdoor brand sponsor the event underlines the intensity of both the course and the event. Robbins is quick to note that "Arc'teryx was the very first brand Geoff (Langford) and I approached about coming on board as our title sponsor. Arc'teryx has a heritage of quality, innovation, style, and mountain culture that instantly helped our event gain international exposure and credibility."
Lawyer and local Arc'teryx athlete Adam Campbell describes ultra runs this way; "There are certain races that you do to see how you stack up against the rest of the world and then there are certain races where you're looking at this incredible scenery under insane fatigue. Your senses become quite heightened." Campbell, one of the world's top flight runners, will be competing in this year's event. Also in the exclusive field are Americans Karl Meltzer, current World Record holder of the most 100 mile victories of all time (34); and Krissy Moehl, ultra running superstar and recent winner of the Mt Fuji 100 miler in Japan. Canadians David le Porho, Lisa Polizzi, Nicola Gildersleeeve, Catrin Jones, and Jason Loutitt are strong contenders, as are dark horses Nathan Barrett of Vancouver and Stacey Cleveland from Penticton.
"This is our home turf and it's one gnarly race," says Laura Fergusson, North American Events and Athletes Manager for Arc'teryx. "We have athletes who are true competitors and working with Geoff Langford and Gary Robbins is a positive partnership. It's a huge win."
The 50 mile course begins at 5:30 am, Saturday August 10, with a final cut-off of 9:30pm. That's 16 hours of suffering? Suffering implies there is no benefit, no reward. With these views, challenges, and the camaraderie of going to the brink and surviving, that is simply not the truth.