By Jerelyn Craden
The Haliburton Forest and Wild Life Reserve team is excited and for good reason. On September 10-11, their hugely popular and internationally recognized event – the Haliburton Forest Trail Race (HFTR) – enters its 29th year with more runners than ever.
“We continue to break our entry record,” race director Tegan Legge said. “Last year was the first time we had sold out the race, with 500 runners. There are five different categories, so we had 100 people per category due to COVID rules, which only allowed 100 runners This year, we opened it a little more and have 575 people registered, with 180 people on the waiting list.
Of the 575 registrants, 24 are local residents and 95% are from Ontario, “with a few people coming from Germany, England, Quebec, Alberta and the United States,” Legge said.
Last year, the course changed from linear to circular, and many runners consider it one of the toughest courses in Ontario.
The trails are rocky, muddy, dry, uphill and downhill, flat, grassy, not grassy, anything you can imagine. Also, there are small sections of gravel roads that connect to the next trail.
“It’s very challenging and offers spectacular views,” Legge said. “They go around lakes, marshes and wetlands, and two sections go up to Lookout Point.”
The race has five different categories: 12 km, 26 km, 50 km, 50 miles and the signature 100 miles. Each category has its own fees starting at $50 for the 12K up to $250 for the 100 miles with an early bird registration of $200.
“In the past,” Legge said, “we’ve had runners as young as five, six and seven years old running with their parents in the 12K.” She added: “About 20-25% of runners are over 50.”
The HFTR Difference
“The HFTR is more than just a race,” Legge said. “People are here for the camaraderie, the atmosphere, and for the property itself. People run together, support and encourage each other. And if someone is in trouble on a section of trail, the runner passing them will go to the next aid station and let them know to watch out for them. They take care of each other. Our riders call it, the Haliburton Forest Family Reunion.
Last year, Haliburton resident Gord Darling competed in the 50K for the first time. This year, he will participate in the 50 miles. Once a nature professional, when his back gave out he was no longer able to carry a backpack, run or canoe.
“The recommendations for this,” Darling said, “were – don’t run uphill and raise your heart rate so you’re maxed out. I had to unlearn a lot of what I learned about fitness and running.
It was from reading the book, Born to Run, that Darling’s problems began to resolve themselves.
“In April, before last year’s race, I started walking 5km four or five days a week on my lunch break. And whenever my breathing got a little difficult, I slowed down. My goal wasn’t to win anything,” Darling said, “It was to be injury-free and go to work the next day.”
Today, he no longer has those issues and looks forward to his young son and daughter handing him water and snacks at an aid station and cheering him on at the finish line.
“It really is a family event,” Darling said. “It’s not competitive. People are there to have fun. »
The 100 miles
“They leave at 6 a.m. on Saturday morning and have until 3 p.m. on Sunday to complete the course,” Legge said. “They run all night, wearing headlamps. We have aid stations throughout the forest that provide food, water and electrolytes. About sixty volunteers help us throughout the weekend. Then the riders have their crew, made up of family, friends and coaches who are on the course to help them with whatever they need. They also have attendants – at night in the dark they are allowed to bring a friend with them.
Legge added: “The driving force for the 100 miles is to cross that finish line within the time limit and get a large gold and black belt buckle with the HFTR logo on it.”
This year’s biggest sponsor of the race is Canadian ultra-marathon runner, Derrick Spafford’s company, Spafford Health & Adventure. There are $700 in prizes given away, which include camp running vests, Kahtoola winter running ExoSpikes and more.
“Our paddle shop also donated paddles as prizes,” Legge said. “Algonquin Outfitters typically does Haliburton Highlands Brew. The top contenders get a prize, then if we get enough prizes, more entrants will get a prize.
Legge estimates that over the weekend around 1,000 people will be there.
For more information on the race, visit www.haliburtonforest100.org/and Haliburton Forest Trail Race on Facebook.