Canadian runner Reid Coolsaet on the switch to ultra trail running

The Hamilton native has his eyes firmly set on the Western States 100-miler in June

Reid Coolsaet is one of Canada’s best-known and accomplished marathoners. Now, he’s moving over to the dirt, tackling ultras, and eyeing his first 100-miler this summer. 

“I've always wanted to get into trail and ultra running but my goals in the marathon were burning hot and I couldn't pull myself away,” Coolsaet says. “I was also making a living running road races and was apprehensive about the transition. After failing to make the 2021 Olympics in the marathon and already having transitioned to coaching as my profession it was a no-brainer to get into ultras.”

Even when Coolsaet’s focus was on the road, he says he’d always preferred the trails. 

“Even when my focus was the roads I'd run on trails about 80 percent of the time some weeks,” he says. “Now that I don't need the specificity of paved roads I'm running on them even less. It's also been fun to test myself in new ways, both in terms of distance and terrain. Having new challenges within the same sport has been reinvigorating.”

Coolsaet has had a road running career, although his first international appearance happened to be on trails at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in 2002. He is also a four-time national champion in the 5000 metres and upon switching to the marathon distance in 2009 continued his success culminating in being named to Canada’s Olympic team in 2016. 

Coolsaet ran his debut ultra last year at Quebec Mega Trail, although he did take a wrong turn that added 10 kilometres to his day. Still, the fleet-footed Coolsaet won, crossing the finish line more than 20 ahead of his closest competitor. It bodes well for the Hamilton runner’s coming season in which he has six races planned so far including the Black Canyon Ultra 100K this month as well as ATB 30K, Canyons Endurance 100K, and Sulphur Springs 50K all leading up to the big Wester States Endurance Run, a 100-mile race scheduled for June 25. 

But, it’s still too early in his ultra career to set long-term goals. He’s still figuring it out. 

“I still don't know what running a "runnable" 100k is like,” he says. “Once I run one I think I'll have a better sense of what I should aim for. It's hard to pinpoint a goal for my first 100-miler. But I would say my goal for the Western States is to finish in the top 10, which would guarantee me a spot for 2023.”

Lately, Coolsaet has been incorporating longer and longer runs and a lot more elevation week to week, he says, cutting back on doing multiple runs in a day and speed work. He is also seeing out more technical trails. But, he still has his favourites locally.

“I really like the Bruce Trail, especially from Sydenham to Waterdown Road,” Coolsaet says. “I’ve always liked Monarch trail but now I'm running the single track that runs alongside Monarch.”

Along with his new trail and ultra running, Coolsaet has signed on with Salomon Running to support his efforts. 

“I raced my first ultra (QMT 110k) in Salomon S/lab Ultra shoes. I really liked the shoes but felt I could have used a little more cushion. And then I tried the Salomon Ultra Glide and it was exactly what I was looking for,” he says. “Salomon also makes the best running packs so when the opportunity to partner with Salomon presented itself I jumped on it.”

The Canadian trail running community must be excited to see how Coolsaet does in his first full season. Stay tuned. 

Lead photo: André Morgan



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