A new hybrid trail series in Ontario to stoke the competitive fire
N89 has two events planned for this summer
Got virtual run malaise? A terrific new trail running series in Ontario takes things to the next level by allowing competitors to run the same course at different times and stoking the competitive spirits we so desperately want to rekindle right now. North of 89 Trail Series is founded by Creemore runner Kathy Webber.
The first event was last year, and the series is back this year with multiple events showcasing some of the best trail running locations in Southern Ontario including Dufferin Forest, and the Kolapore Wilderness Trails.
“North of 89 is a child of the pandemic,” Webber says. “I started getting inundated with virtual race emails. And I thought, well, that's fine, except all the people who have been training hard in this area that wanted to test themselves against a course, are now kind of stuck. And so I thought well we can’t all get together, but there's nothing that says we can't all run the same course.”
Kathy Webber and her trusty trail dog
The first go-around for the new trail series allowed everyone to set their race dates and compete against each other. Webber noted that although she assumed people would dedicate a specific date to their run and gear up, people started asking if they could do it more than once.
“I said, ‘well, yeah,’ you know, until you get logged into Race Roster it's up to you,” she says. “So it was families competing, people new to trail running finding their groove, or friends coming out in twos and threes as the restrictions allowed.”
This year, there are two big summer events to be run over six weeks beginning August 1 and ending Sept. 15. Long Run 2021 features a return to beautiful Dufferin Forest, the site of last year’s inaugural race. The event features a six or an 11-kilometre distance as well as a new half-marathon option. The event partners with the always-delicious Creemore Brewery.
Running concurrently is Rocks & Cider 2021 with six and 11-kilometre distance options in the Kolapore Wilderness Trails near Collingwood. This event is partnered with the Thornbury Village Craft Beer & Cidery.
Each event and distance has its course and its leaderboard, and participants are asked to submit the GPS data or a screenshot of their race (or use Runkeeper to submit the race directly) to see how times compare with the rest of the competitors.
Singletrack at the Kolapore Wilderness Trails
Registration kits include an awesome head wrap,medal with a reusable lanyard, trail donations, and free beer. Each event in the N89 Trail Series is partnered with a local brewery. The half-marathon distance for the Long Run also includes a dye sublimated tech t-shirt. There is other cool swag available for purchase.
According to Webber, the trail fees, 12 percent of entry, goes directly to the trail association that looks after each trail network. All race packages are delivered to the local participating brewery for pickup.
“With this, you go out, you run the same course, and you have a real result if you want to,” Webber explains. “Then, after you’re done the run, you can go pick up your package and your beer, and hopefully in August we'll be out of the lockdown scenario and you can sit on the patio and enjoy almost like a real race.”
Webber is excited about the expansion this year and hopes to potentially move the hybrid events to physical events next year once the pandemic is in the rear-view mirror for good.
“I thought, you know, to try and open it up to some areas that are a little further afield. But also just to give the people who ran it last year, a little bit more variety,” she says.
Until the return of bona fide in-person events, this unique hybrid trail race with the option to pick up race kits, medals, and, yes, free beer at a local brewery after participating on a set course against other timed competition is pretty darn close.
Stay tuned for details of the fourth race in the N89 Trail Series set for this fall in Muskoka.