Secret Spots: New Brunswick trail runner Blair Mann's faves
Blair Mann is a software engineer and family man in Moncton who raced his first 50K in 2011 and hasn’t looked back.
"People ask me all the time why do you love it, why do you do it? I honestly don’t know," he says. "I know it makes my mind, body and soul very happy. I think about running frequently. It’s a lot of things for me. If I haven’t been on a long exhausting run (sufferfest) in a while - I crave it. It is a meditation for me — I love long solitary miles and hours alone."
We asked Mann about his favourite running spots near his New Brunswick home.
What is your secret spot?
My go-to local spot for an amazing trail run is Halls Creek. It's not a huge secret by any means, however, I rarely see other runners there — mostly mountain bikers. It's an inner city network of twisting single track close to the University of Moncton — maintained and created by local mountain bikers.
Originally, I had heard that it was only a few kilometres of biking trails. As a result, I didn't bother checking it out. At some point, curiosity got the best of me — I decided to check it out. I went early spring and trudged along, extremely disappointed, on a very wet power line section. I continued to hear about these great trails like a myth of some kind. I went back yet again to explore. This time I stumbled upon one of two 'official' trailheads which are somewhat hidden from the roadside unless you are almost beside them.
Wow! Stunning single track for miles alongside a flowing creek, beautiful ferns and just about every type of landscape you could hope for - rocks, roots, steep climbs, flowing creeks, runnable sections, bridges, boardwalks — spectacular! After many visits, I nailed down a route that maximizes the circumference which amounts to about a 10-12 km loop covering both sides of the creek. The beauty and seclusion of the trails would fool you into thinking you were in a remote protected land reserve when in reality you are in the middle of the city.
Tell me about some of your other favourite spots around town for trail running, as well as coffee and other essentials out east.
The Northwest Trail/Riverfront Trail (Moncton, Riverview, Dieppe): This is primarily rail trail (gravel bike trail) that runs throughout Moncton along the Petitcodiac River as well as the surrounding towns of Riverview and Dieppe. It's flat and runnable — great for long hours of turnover and training. I have spent many early mornings and sunrises training alongside the marshes with pheasants, geese, ducks, muskrats and the occasional fox.
Fundy National Park (Alma, NB): Fundy National Park is about an hour drive from Moncton, but well worth it. The Fundy Coast is one of the most unique in the world. It features the world's highest tides and a stunning 50-km loop that covers the park perimeter. The loop known as the Fundy Circuit changes from coastal to inland, around lakes, ravines and river crossings. It can get quite technical at times and wildlife encounters are always possible. This was my first real day long outing on a trail. It really is spectacular.
Dobson Trail (Riverview, NB): The Dobson Trail is a 59-km trail that runs from Riverview, NB to Fundy National Park. The first few kilometres are used heavily by dog walkers and family hikes. However, beyond that first few kilometres is a scenic trail that runs all the way to Alma. Our favourite section is an out and back from Berryton to Hayward Pinnacle, which is a highpoint off the main trail. It gives a nice mix of single track, climbing and rolling terrain with a couple of great vistas as well.
Wentworth Valley (Wentworth, Nova Scotia) - Ski Wentworth is a little over an hour drive from Moncton, but hosts a vast network of singletrack trails in and around the mountain. If you want to get vertical training and lots of climbing - this is a great spot. It's home to two of three races from the Nova Scotia Trail Running series. Extremely beautiful when the trees are changing in the fall. Amazing view from the top of the mountain (High Head) as well.
Best coffee spot: Cafe Codiac, which offers friendly service, warm atmosphere, locally roasted organic coffee. Stop in or pick up a bag of beans to brew at home.
Best beer/food/music: One-stop shopping at the Tide & Boar Gastropub featuring a unique yet affordable menu, awesome atmosphere, a great local craft beer list on tap and really cool music venue as well. Heck, they even brew their own beer! Love this place!