A virtual run that celebrates the epic Great Lakes

The Nautical Miles Challenge from Happy Trails Racing

Did you know that there are over 6,000 shipwrecks in the Great Lakes? How about the fact that there were Great Lakes pirates? Neither did we, and these are just two unique bits of information to be celebrated courtesy of a cool new virtual run from the fine folks at Happy Trails Racing that shines a light on our Canada’s five Great Lakes and builds a unique and intriguing running challenge around them. Dubbed the Nautical MIles Challenge, this virtual event is set to get underway on March 1.
“In our other virtual runs, we’ve had runners run into outer space and over the pyramids.  We thought that it was important to focus on a feature that’s not only unique and important but also one that is closer to home —  the Great Lakes,” says Jeff Rowthorn, race director of Happy Trails Racing since its first race in 2017. “As the temperatures start to rise in March, we figured that this would give people the motivation to set goals and start to push themselves again.”

Happy Trails Racing founders Heather Borsellino and Jeff Rowthorn

For the Nautical Miles Challenge, participants can choose one of five different expedition options to be completed during the month of March. The five distance options are all linked to aspects of the Great Lakes from the Lake Erie Voyage that has runners completing 92 kilometres over a one-month period equal to the width of the lake all the way up to the Lake Superior Voyage with runners completing 560 kilometres, which is the length of the largest of the Great Lakes. 
“I believe that there are a few elements that make this virtual event unique. The distances of the five different challenges that participants can choose from are based on the size of the different lakes, which will give us an idea of the incredible volume of freshwater that we have access to,” Rowthorn says. “Another unique feature is the fact that, in addition to the distance that they complete, participants get to add one kilometre for every 100 metres of elevation gain that they travel. We think that this will encourage people to explore new areas, get in a little more hill work, and will also create a level playing field for those participants who live in hillier regions.”
Rowthorn says some registrants have also been sharing interesting facts and stories through email and social media. 
In addition to the exploration of the Great Lakes in all their grandeur, Happy Trails Racing is also offering its most epic race kit to date. 
“This is going to be our last virtual event for a while so we decided to put together our biggest race kit yet.  Participants will each get two really unique race medals — one of them features a lighthouse with a flashing LED light while the other has a cork backing and can be used as a drink coaster,” Rowthorn says. “There are a whole bunch of other items in the kit including a multi-functional headband, stickers, pins, an item from our sponsor Merrell Canada, and a special souvenir for the first 350 registrants. All of the items can be viewed on our registration page.”

Nautical Miles Challenge medal complete with flashing lighthouse 

According to Rowthorn, one of the great things about virtual races is that they provide a platform where others from around the world can connect.  
“It has been fun to look at our participant map and see clusters of people from far away places completing our challenges together,” he says. “For example, we have been pleasantly surprised to connect with a large number of people from Canada’s east coast, who definitely don’t seem to let poor weather keep them indoors.”
Rowthorn stresses the importance of keeping active and virtual events provide a great opportunity to set goals and stay connected as a community until the return of physical events, which will hopefully be later this year. It is also a great way to support race organizers so there are physical events to return to.
“Even though we aren’t quite ready to open up physical events, we hope that the running/walking community will use this opportunity to connect, motivate, and encourage one another while getting outside and, hopefully, have a lot of fun while working towards their goal,” Rowthorn adds.
Although it is too early to pinpoint a specific date, Rowthorn says he’s looking forward to a return to physical events and is readying a slate of Happy Trails events, while also acknowledging that some things might never return to the way they were. 
“Gone are the days of a communal bowl of gummy bears at aid stations!” he says. “However, there are a number of safety precautions that we can implement for the time being that will certainly reduce risks.  Staggered starts, masks before the race and while entering aid stations, COVID self-screenings, and contactless aid stations are some examples. We aren’t going to start until it is safe to do so, but we can’t wait to see our gigantic, extended trail family again soon!”

To register for the Nautical Miles Challenge head to the Race Roster page



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