Saskatoon’s name comes from the Cree word for the famous berries that grow there, boasts nearly 65K of protected forest and prairie grassland trails along its riverbanks, not including the trails and dedicated bike lanes connecting other neighbourhoods.
The city’s booming economy of recent years has led to an influx of fellow Canadians and immigrants from many non-traditional countries, injecting welcome diversity to the historic aboriginal and Eastern European population. You can fly direct to this city of 250,000 people from all major Canadian centres and the airport is just a 10-minute car or taxi ride (or 15 minutes by bike) to the downtown hotels.
Like many North American cities, the “City of Bridges” allowed itself to fall victim to urban sprawl, but recent improvements have invigorated core areas. The downtown and hip Broadway district are now coming back to life, as local bike, book and clothing shops, ethnic restaurants, improved public transit and dense residential developments lead the revitalization.
On the Town
The Saskatchewan Marathon – takes place the last weekend in May, with more than 2,500 people participating in the 10K, half- and full marathon. A largely flat course with a few small hills, the race winds along the South Saskatchewan River trail system and roads. The event has grown since its inception in 1979, when 66 runners paid an entry fee of $5 each. www.saskmarathon.ca
The Bridge City Boogie – A charity event organized by Saskatoon’s daily newspaper, the StarPhoenix, the Boogie has become the largest road race in Saskatchewan’s history, attracting 5,200 people this year to the 2K, 5K and 10K events. Part race, part party, participants run along the riverbank, past the greystone architecture of the University of Saskatchewan campus and finish with a lap of the 400m track at Griffiths Stadium. Held on the second Sunday in June.
Brainsport – 704 Broadway Ave.
Brainsport, and the adjacent Pedestrian Shoe Fitting Centre, have recently expanded their floor space and continue to offer clinics, weekly runs and sponsorships of Saskatoon’s largest races and fundraisers.
The Running Room – 14A 7 Assiniboine Drive and 601 8th St. E
With the only running store to serve Saskatoon’s north end, the Running Room also hosts clinics and sponsors several local events.
Delta Bessborough – 601 Spadina Crescent E.
The Bessborough, also known as the “castle on the river” is a Saskatoon landmark, located in the middle of downtown on the river’s edge. Boasting several restaurants and a modern health club and pool overlooking the riverbank, the Bessborough is perfect for guests who want river trails and downtown shopping.
Hotel Senator – 243 21st St. E
A European-style boutique hotel with just 38 rooms, it offers in-room spa services, an elegant dining room, and a raucous Irish pub next door. The Senator is in the heart of the downtown shopping district, but is still just two short blocks from the riverbank running trails.
To Eat and Drink
Amigo’s Cantina – 632 10th St. E – It’s a Mexican restaurant and pub by day, but when the sun goes down, it becomes one of Saskatoon’s oldest and best live music venues, just half a block off the trendy Broadway Avenue. Grab a hearty burrito and a pint after a long run, then return later for some dancing.
Caffe Sola – 38 23rd St. E
Stop by this funky coffee bar for an espresso and homemade pear and brie panini. Located on the border of Saskatoon’s downtown and the warehouse districts, Sola also offers unique desserts and light lunches.
Starting from the Vimy Memorial bandshell in Kiwanis Park downtown, head north on the Meewasin Trail over the 25th St. Bridge. Running along the partially wooded trail on the east side of the South Saskatchewan River, you’ll soon forget about the chaos and traffic. You’ll cross the Senator Sid Buckwold Bridge, then pass a new children’s water park to complete the loop.
Set out from Brainsport or The Roastery coffee shop near the Broadway Bridge, proceed southwest up a 1.5-long, gradual incline past some of Saskatoon’s oldest and most expensive homes under the tree-lined canopy of Spadina Crescent, then snake along the riverbank’s prairie grassland trails in Gabriel Dumont Park. When you arrive at the turnaround at Diefenbaker Park, run the one-mile park loop (including the city’s most popular toboggan hill for a view of the entire city) to check your speed before heading back.
This route begins downtown at the Meewasin outdoor skating rink, recently voted Canada’s best. Head northeast along the river, passing the flocks of pelicans feeding at the weir, and over the Circle Drive Bridge to the University of Saskatchewan campus. You’ll pass the Canadian Light Source synchrotron, the country’s largest science project, livestock and farm demonstration fields near the college of agriculture, and the Field House indoor track, home of the CIS track champion Huskies. Take a stroll through university district residential areas, as well as the 100-year-old homes of Nutana, before crossing the narrow Traffic Bridge, originally designed for horse carriages, and head back downtown.
Jason Warick is a reporter at the StarPhoenix newspaper in Saskatoon and a member of Team New Balance Canada. A 2:19 marathoner, his strength training consists of pushing his kids Annie, 4, and Taras, 1, about 35K per week in one of his three jogging strollers.