A Q&A with Quebec Mega Trail founder Jean Fortier
Quebec Mega Trail is one of the biggest ultra-running and trail events in Eastern North America. It features incredible trails along the banks of the St. Lawrence River and into the two most famous mountains of the Laurentians: Massif de Charlevoix and Mont-Sainte-Anne. It’s a world away in spirit, yet just minutes from gorgeous Quebec City.
The race has grown to become one of the premier events on the ultra-running calendar, and not just in Canada. It has become so popular that competitors from around the world come to Quebec to participate.
This year, the race weekend is scheduled for July 2 to 5.
Get Out There caught up with race director and founder Jean Fortier to ask him about the origins of the race, and it’s remarkable growth.
When was the QCMT first founded and why?
Since I have been living at the bottom of Mont-Sainte-Anne, it has always been my favourite training place. I used to do a training loop of 20K around it and I thought that would be a great course for a race. So in 2012 I decided to create Quebec Mega Trail with that loop being the centre of it.
What makes the race unique in Canada?
A lot of things. But the first is the huge St. Lawrence River. The course offers many magnificent views of the St. Lawrence. It makes you feel pretty small in such a big scenery. It gets you in a really wild area with easy access for your family and friends that are there to support you. So it's simple for them to see you and help you along with the race. Quebec City is 40 minutes away from the race venue and definitely worth a visit because it's one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
How has it grown over the years?
It’s always been a popular trail race in the Quebec area, but a local trail race. In 2017 I made it a non-profit organization and convinced some local people to make it their own. It really worked well and now people from around here are really attached to it. In 2018 we added the 110K course that quickly gained recognition around the world. So we have gone from an average of 700 racers to 1,500 racers in two years and it's still growing up. We expect over 2,000 runners this year.
What is the area like for racing?
The course is very different from start to finish and can be split into three sections.
First, you have the Sentier des Caps which is 60K of singletrack along the caps of the St. Lawrence river, everyone likes this part.
The second section is the Infamous Mestachibo trail that goes through the canyon gorge of Saint-Anne River. It is a brutal trail, but so unique and beautiful that everyone is talking about it after the race.
The last part is Mont-Sainte-Anne that offers incredible views of the Laurentian mountains and the St. Lawrence River. It's also more accessible and the trails are more runnable.
How challenging is the race?
In Quebec, race directors like to say that we have very technical trails. That is true, but I can honestly say that QMT is probably the most technical one. It's also a big challenge in terms of elevation gain. Having a course with 5,000 metres of elevation gain on the Eastern side of North America is very rare.
Is this one of the toughest races in Eastern Canada or all of Canada?
Last year, Ailsa MacDonald told me that it was the hardest race that she had ever done, I think that says a lot. It's also challenging because you have a lot of very good runners in every race. You also get to compete along with Europeans, Americans and many more international athletes who come to run here.
You have many different races, what is the most popular distance?
The most popular one is 25K. It's a beautiful loop around Mont-Sainte-Anne and it's very accessible to a large level of runners. Last year, we changed the 50K and added the Mestachibo trail to it and it became very popular. With a maximum field of 360 runners, it's already sold out.
What would you say to runners in terms of recommending the race to them?
If you want to experience a big deployment race but with a true trail running course, this is it. It's a very family-friendly event like a small race in the United States and it's also a pretty impressive organization like the French ones.
Check out our own race reporter Active Steve's race review of last year's 25K trail race.