Northwestern Alberta set to host the inaugural Klondike Ultra
There is a new ultra event scheduled for June 11-13 2021. The Klondike Ultra is set to take place in northwestern Alberta at Fort Assiniboine Sandhills Wildland Provincial Park, and a welcome sight following a year of cancelled and postponed races.
The Klondike Ultra offers six different distances from a kids 6K to a 100K ultra as well as a relay set in Wildland Park — a unique environment that is more closely associated with gold rush prospectors than (somewhat) fleet-footed endurance runners.
“The terrain is unique compared to any other place, I would say in the world. You have the Klondike gold rush and fur trading history, ancient sand dunes now mostly covered in moss with the boreal forest suspended above,” says Monty McNeice, Klondike Ultra’s founder and race director. “The hills are steep in some sections and trails are windy. The trail also provides beautiful views of the mighty Athabasca River and Clear Water creek.”
McNeice says he’s been planning the race since the spring before COVID-19 hit, while he was out running in Wildland with a friend, and he’s been working on it for several months getting permits in order from the county and the province of Alberta.
“We wanted the start/finish and camping to be on private property to make the permit process easier,” he explains. “I made two calls to area landowners and a couple that own land in the middle of the Wildland Park returned my call. They thought that this idea I had was great as a race of this nature has minimal impact on the area and they want more people to experience the Wildland Park and see it's significance.”
The Fort Assiniboine Sandhills Wildland Provincial Park is a 66 square-kilometre park on the north shore of the Athabasca River.
“This Wildland Park is a hidden gem!” says McNeice. “I've been running the trails for four years now and have met a fair bit of equestrian users and have only come across two lady's hiking in all those years.”
But Alberta does have a fair number of ultra-running events already, and that was a consideration, according to McNeice, who says he took his time to find the ideal date so it wouldn’t conflict with the existing race calendar.
Of course, the other consideration is the relentless virus that put a stop to most ultras this year.
“We are staying positive as the race date is still months away and we can all attest to the fact things can change quickly,” he says. “Watching how other race directors have adapted to the current situation has and will help us come race day. We set up our registration so if the Klondike Ultra has to be cancelled due to the virus refunds can be an option.”
One thing that will help the Klondike Ultra stand out from the proverbial crowd is the decision to offer prize money to the top finishers. A move that should also help to attract elite runners to the northern outpost.
“Good trail running shoes have become an expensive, yet necessary part of our lives as we go through multiple pairs in a year. I would be ecstatic if our shoes could be paid for!” says McNeice. “Ultrarunners that put in the time and commitment to achieve first, second and third place in the male and female categories of the Klondike Ultra 100km should receive something that shows that their hard work has helped pay to reach their goal.”
McNeice says he’s gotten plenty of positive feedback from the move and the event in general.
“Currently there are no running races in the region. It will bring people to the community not only for the weekend for the event but will draw people to the area once they get to experience what the area has to offer,” he says. “If we can bring revenue to the region in an environmentally friendly way, it's a win-win for everyone. I feel there is a buzz about the Klondike Ultra as it's the first new Ultra running event in Alberta in some time. We have a lot of family and friends that are willing to help out to make this a very successful Ultra, this just feeds my optimism!”
McNeice is himself an ultra runner, having been introduced to the sport four years ago. He says he was motivated to start the Klondike Ultra by the opportunity to show off the location and by his appreciation for the ultra running community.
“I believe we can create strong bonds within the community and raise funds for some good causes. All we need are the runners,” he says. “Running any distance can be a goal and to see people complete that goal with family, friends and competitors standing at the finish line while cheering them on brings tears to my eyes as I know how much effort, determination, and sacrifice they have gone through. It's just simply awesome!”
For more information check out the Klondike Ultra website.