By: Rich Wheater
Every year, Canadian Running names its Golden Shoe Awards. After a national reader’s survey and round-table conversations with CR‘s regular contributors and experts, we recognize the best and most essential runners, races, clubs and places in the country.
Trail Runner of the Year: Nick Elson
Since entering a series of high-profile races between 2013 and 2015, 32-year-old Squamish, B.C. runner Nick Elson has been blowing people’s minds with his incredible feats in mountain sports endurance events, casting a blinding light on the fact that the future of mountain running lies in multi-sport excellence combined with a willingness to stick one’s neck out. Way out.
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Elson’s ability to annihilate the competition in the 20–50K distances and be a podium contender at short, hill climbing specialty events proves his potential to dominate mountain running in the coming years. Arguably, he already is. But he’ll be the last to tell you, as his disarmingly quiet and self-effacing demeanour gracefully undermines an inner Wolverine.
This past year, Elson’s antics have grown ever more impressive. He’s the current Canadian national champion in both mountain running and ski mountaineering. He holds the FKT on Wyoming’s legendary Teton Range Grand Traverse (6:30), B.C.’s McBride Traverse (15:36), Spearhead Traverse (3:10), Garibaldi Neve Traverse (4:27), Tantalus Traverse (11:20) and Stawamus Chief (17 minutes, 35 seconds to the south summit), Washington’s Mount Baker (3:17), and many remote wilderness excursions that most people struggle to even comprehend, let alone recognize.
In addition to his local achievements, Elson has travelled internationally, placing second at Alaska’s celebrated Mount Marathon (which is actually a 5k climb and descent down a fierce mountain) and performing well at various Skimo World Cups throughout the European Alps. Eric Carter, elite Skimo athlete and one of Elson’s frequent training partners, emphasizes “Nick is truly one of the most competent multi-sport (running-climber-skier) athletes that I know of. It’s been discussed previously if the Grand Traverse record would succumb to a runner or a climber. I think Nick showed that the next person to break the record will need to be world-class in both disciplines.”
With hardcore rock and ice climbing and high-altitude alpinism ingrained in his DNA, Nick Elson is poised to become a world-class force in organized mountain running events. But more so, his primary interest in wilderness adventure hints that his potential will likely be realized in the world’s great mountain ranges, far from any crowds.
Editor’s note: Elson is also credited with helping save Adam Campbell’s life in 2016 when Campbell suffered life threatening injuries during a mountain run in British Columbia. See the full details of that accident here.