Cradled in south-central British Columbia between the Columbia, Rocky and Cascadia Mountain ranges on Okanagan Lake, Kelowna sits on the northern tip of the Sonora Desert. Kelowna’s name is loosely derived from the native Okanagan language meaning “Grizzly Bear.”
The province’s third-largest city (population: 160,000), Kelowna is an emerging golf destination boasting 101,382 yards of golf on 18 courses, but it’s best known as wine country, with over 20 unique wineries to satisfy almost any palate. The area has sandy beaches, vineyards, orchards and pine forests, providing a wealth of running trails. With short mild winters and long hot summers, Kelowna offers an ideal recreational playground. “The area is very popular for running, walking, horseback-riding and biking,” says Canadian Olympic middle-distance runner Malindi Elmore.
Short: Apple Tri Route (5km)
Run the Kelowna Apple Triathlon route. Flat and paved, half of the route is on the Greenway, traffic free and along the water. Start at Waterfront Park on Water Street between Dolphins Fountain and Prospera Place, head south and make a quick left onto Cawston Avenue, turn right on the foot path immediately and go right on Smith Avenue. Then turn left back onto Water Street, right at Bernard Avenue, and 80m later turn back, heading north on the Greenway. Continue across the Queensway Boat Launch. You will pass through Stuart Park, followed by the Water Street Boat Launch to the finish at Waterfront Park.
Medium: City Park to Paul’s Tomb (10K)
From City Park on Harvey Avenue, go north along the path and boardwalk to Manhattan Drive, then left at the Mill along Ellis Street. Continue through Rotary and Sunset Drive Park at the bottom of Knox Mountain Drive, left up Poplar Point Drive to the entrance to Paul’s Tomb, which is about 2K of nice gravel with gorgeous vistas in both directions. “This is a great run in winter and shoulder seasons as it’s milder with less snow and ice along these parks,” Elmore says.
Long: The Greenway (Up to 34K)
The Greenway is a 17K-long gravel path that starts at Lakeshore Road and finishes at Gallagher’s Canyon along Mission Creek. It has a wide gravel surface throughout. There are interpretive signs, kilometre markers and its trails connect to other parks. You can run without interruption since there are bridges with under and overpasses. “It is absolutely gorgeous in the fall with many colours and is a great environment for workouts” Elmore says. The second half of the out and back features a canyon-like setting with narrow trails and steeper hills.
The BMO Okanagan Marathon happens on the first Sunday in October. The event includes five different distances: a 1.6K kid’s race, 5K, 10K, half-marathon and marathon. This well-established fixture offers a marathon course that is flat, fast and a Boston qualifier. The Kelowna Mid-Summer 8K, on the first Sunday of July, is part of the Timex Road Race Series and the Canadian Tire Interior Series. Kelowna also hosts the Jack Brow Memorial Track meet, a popular three-day competition in early July that has been running since 1983.
The Kelowna Apple Triathlon is an Olympic distance event that has hosted various championships over the years. The greater Okanagan area provides many more races that are all within a 30 to 90-minute drive, in nearby Peachland, Kamloops, Vernon and Penticton.
Where to stay:
For luxury your first choice may be the Manteo Resort Waterfront Hotel and Villas. The hotel offers a unique fusion of a fireside library, private theatre, spacious two- and three-bedroom suites, and guesthouses, all located on the water and within an hour’s drive of powder skiing heaven: Big White Ski resort. The Manteo’s Wild Apple Restaurant offers fine Pacific Northwest cuisine.
If your budget can’t afford such luxury, there are over 40 hotels in the city. The Holiday Inn Express is a safe choice with clean, well-appointed rooms, high-speed wireless internet and conveniently located near downtown, within walking distance to just about everything.
Fresh Air Experience (2070 Harvey Ave.) provides expertise in biking and skiing, and a fully dedicated running section. They offer clinics and are involved in the local race scene by sponsoring events. The Running Room (Unit 124, 1876 Cooper Rd., Orchard Plaza) also has gear and clinics.
Christopher Kelsall is a running columnist based in Victoria.