On the Run In...
On The Run In… Guelph, OntarioJune 21, 2011
By John Marsden
Although it’s a small city, Guelph stands out from the pack in the running world. The University of Guelph Gryphon runners have dominated the provincial and national university scene. Many of them run with the Speed River Track and Field Club, one of the best groups of distance runners that Canada has ever seen. Other groups for runners of all ages and levels include the Guelph Victors and Guelph Track clubs.
The Guelph Victors hold open interval workouts on Tuesday evenings, everyone is welcome. Visit www.GuelphVictors.ca and www.GuelphRunning.ca for more information.
5K - River Trail
Starting at the Boathouse (between the University and downtown), head south on Gordon St., left on James St., continue on a small trail along the river. Just before the bridge at Victoria Road, the trail climbs steeply up the bank on your right, turn left across the bridge and left again on the trail through the park. Follow this through to the covered bridge that will take you back to the Boathouse.
13K - Dam Run
This out and back route starts at the fire station on Speedvale Ave. The trail goes through Riverside Park and crosses Woodlawn Road. The trail winds along the river through pine and cedar forests across Victoria Road. The trail continues to Guelph Lake. At the base of the dam, keep to your right and run along the forested ridge turning around a smaller shoulder dam.
25K - Arboretum/Starkey loop
There’s a good chance you’ll spot a few Olympians here, as this route takes you through the heart of Speed River training country. From the University of Guelph, go up Arboretum Road across Victoria Road. Continue on the farm lane ahead of you, and left to Stone Road. At the bottom of the hill on Stone Road, turn right into the Scout Camp and follow the trail. Turn left on Cook’s Mill Rd. Turn right on Watson Road to the trailhead. The trail runs through the cedars to a small lake. Cross the dam, entering the Spring Grounds and follow the service road up to Arkell Road, which leads to Starkey’s Loop, a beautiful, hilly 4K loop through mature hardwood forest. Return to the Spring Ground trails, ending with a long descent through dense cedar forest to Wellington Road 29. Cross the bridge and climb the hill. The last gate on your left near the top of the hill will lead you back to the trails. After the steps, turn to your right and climb the steep hill. You will be rewarded with a long gradual descent through pine forest back to the Watson Road trailhead. Return along Cook’s Mill Road and back to Stone Road. Just after the railway tracks follow the trail on your right through open country through to the Turf Grass Institute. Take the lane down and across Victoria Road to the site of the national cross-country championships. At the R.J. Hilton centre, cross College Ave. on the service road, and turn right on Arboretum Road to finish.
Guelph is home to one of the oldest running events in Canada - the Thanksgiving Day Races - first run in 1894. It’s part of a series of eight races, that begins with the Billy Taylor 5K and 15K in April, the Guelph Lake 5K and 10K in June, the Summer’s Night 5K in July, the Highland Games 10K in August, the Downtown 5K in September, the Falling Leaves 7.5K and trail half-marathon in October, and the Winter Running Festival in November. Some of Canada’s top runners also compete on the track at the Speed River Inferno meet, held in late May.
There are two specialty running stores, the Running Works (33 Quebec St.) in downtown Guelph, and the Running Room (160 Kortright Rd W). Both have group runs from the store.
Downtown Guelph offers a lot of choices; coffee at the Red Brick Café, pub food at the Albion and the Woolwich Arms, a bistro menu at Artisanale, and vegan fare at Cornerstone. Wherever you choose to eat, don’t go home without trying the local microbrews from Wellington Brewery.
For access to running routes, it’s best to stay near the University or downtown, both of which offer a selection of hotels, and bed and breakfasts.
John Marsden is a writer and runner in Guelph, Ont.