Prince Edward Island is hardly the place to expect a gruelling ultramarathon. After all, what are you going to do? Run 50K along the flat beach? While come-from-aways (as Islanders call mainlanders) believe P.E.I. to be largely flat, skiers, mountain bikers and runners know better.
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Central P.E.I. is full of steep, sharp hills and Brookvale Provincial Park (a 25-minute drive west of Charlottetown) contains some of the most daunting, along with the single-track trails, double-track and fire roads needed to put together a good ultra.
Shawn McCardle lives 10 minutes away from Brookvale and uses it as his training ground for his sub-three hour marathons and his ultra racing. McCardle approached the province’s Parks and Forestry department about holding the race. “I explained that ultra trail running around here was still a bit of fringe sport and if we got 30 people out, that would be a success,” he says.
In its first year in 2009, the inaugural Brookvale Ultra had 65 competitors. Most chose the 10K and 25K loops, but a few tackled the 50K route, two laps of the 25K course, starting and finishing in the Nordic ski park. The park has a 75-metre hill and about 32K of trails.
Brookvale Provincial Park opened in 1967. In addition to the skiing trails, over the years, local mountain bikers built single-track trails within the area, linking them with clay roads to other sections of single-track and a demonstration woodlot nearby. This network is now home to the Brookvale Ultra, every August.
The course winds through the undulating, single-track mountain-bike trails in the park. The 10K course stays within the ski park while the 25K and 50K routes go from the park to the McKenna Road (a clay heritage road). From there, the runners take the rolling Secret Snake mountain-bike trail before coming out onto Highway 13. Competitors head up to the Demo Woodlot and do the hilly 4K nature trail before heading back to the Nordic park and the McKenna Road. The 50K runners do this loop twice.
“We have received a lot of positive feedback on the course from experienced trail and ultra runners. And a lot of surprise as to how tough it is.
Brookvale is a three-season park for running. During the winter it’s reserved for downhill and cross-country skiing, and snow-shoeing. Fall is the best time to run in Brookvale, when you can have the single-track trails largely to yourself and enjoy the sights of the leaves changing colours.
Where: Brookvale Provincial Park, P.E.I.
Directions: From Charlottetown, take Kingston Road west, then turn left on the McKenna Road.
When: Spring, Summer, Fall
Race: Brookvale Ultra 10, 25, 50K