The Liminality 50 mile race in Clarenville, Nfld. is about stepping out of your comfort zone and trying something new. It’s directed by Robert Pond and promoted by Trail Running Newfoundland and Labrador, emphasizing community and inclusivity for all. On June 1, 2019, only one woman toed the line. Although Katie Wadden is tough competition for any endurance athlete, she won the female race and placed third overall. For Wadden, winning Liminality 50 represented something much bigger.

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Wadden breaking the tape. Photo: Greg Greening

The word Liminality comes from the Latin word limens, meaning threshold. The race consists of one 13.36K (8.3 mile) loop. To complete the 50-mile race, runners must complete six loops. Runners have two hours to complete the loop, before the clock restarts and the direction changes. Every runner must wait until the clock starts again before attempting the next loop. Whether you’re new at trail and ultrarunning, or a veteran, the Liminality 50 encourages all runners to challenge themselves in the unique event.

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It’s not about beating the boys. 15 toed the line for the 50-mile race. Eight males finished and one female. Wadden knew she was the only female in the race, but that didn’t dim her competitive light. She ran hard, as she believes trail runners “compete to be the best versions of ourselves as a person, regardless of gender. In my head, I knew I was running to show what females are capable of. I knew I was running for something bigger than me.”

Wadden has been leading the way at encouraging more people (especially more women) on Canada’s east coast to explore trail running. All year round, she leads a weekly trail running group for a range of experience levels. At Liminality, Wadden was reminded why she loves trail and ultrarunning. It’s about “what I learn about myself when I put myself in opportunities that test my physical and mental limits.” Her 13-year-old niece even crewed and supported her until midnight.

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Wadden is the first and only woman to start and finish the Liminality 50-mile race. Last year, only three men finished. Wadden speculates why women, especially on the east coast, may not be dabbling in outdoor recreation as much as their male counterparts. Theories such as a concern for safety, uneven divisions of unpaid labour, societal expectations, and cultural norms are starting to get more attention. For all genders still, Wadden explains, “trail running is relatively new here, and it takes time to build that base for ultra distances.”

Second-place finisher Tim McDonough. Photo: Pierre-Mark Lavoie

Wadden will continue to advocate for the east coast trail running community. She finished 50 miles in 9:45:46, placing third overall. 18-year-old Abraham Rodgers won the race overall, finishing in 7:56:25, and Tim McDonough placed second overall in 8:33:56.

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