This summer, the popular ski resort of Mont-Sainte-Anne will welcome unprecedented numbers of international ultratrail racers at Quebec Mega Trail, from June 30 to July 3. More than 100 runners from 15 countries (not including Canadians) have signed up to test their skills on the area’s challenging slopes, and already the race has seen a 20 per cent increase in registrations over last year.
Crossing the scenic Charlevoix and Côte de Beaupré regions up to Mont-Sainte-Anne, the race, which started in 2012, attracts more than 2,500 runners each year. Founding race director Jean Fortier credits QMT’s partnerships with Le Grand Raid de la Réunion (on Reunion Island, in the Indian Ocean) and Swiss Canyon Trail in Switzerland for the increased interest in QMT. “We really made an effort to travel to make sure people know about our race,” says Fortin. “Some really great runners come over here and discover that our race is really good; we are trying to put on something very professional. People see that we have a nice course, and that it’s very tough. And the only way to get to know it is to run it.”
Fortier also mentions that American and Europeans may at first see that QMT’s elevation gain (6,500m of ascent and 6,260m of descent) is less than some races in Colorado or the French Alps, so they assume the course is not difficult, but they are mistaken. “The course is brutal, and runners like that,” he says. QMT is also the only point-to-point 100-miler in Quebec. (Looped courses are simpler to organize, but may be less interesting for competitors.)
But one of the race’s attractive features for locals, especially, is its friendliness toward less experienced runners and the family and friends of the long-distances competitors, who can a try shorter distance. In addition to the 100-miles and 100K, QMT also offers 80K, 50K, 25K, 15K, 10K and 6K races and even a 1K kids’ run. “We think it’s important to be inclusive,” says Fortier.
Heat and humidity are likely to add to the race’s difficulty. In 2021, the race was postponed to August due to the pandemic, making it even hotter. Two-time Olympic marathoner Reid Coolsaet won the 110K in his first ultratrail race, despite going off course and adding at least 10 km to the distance; this year he is headed to the Western States 100. “He’s such a good athlete,” says Fortier. After his win, QMT arranged for him to race at Le Grand Raid de la Réunion, where he finished sixth in the 72K distance.
Canadians to watch at this year’s 100-mile distance include Jean-François Cauchon, who was third in the QMT 110 in 2019 and who has won the Transmartinique and the Ultra Trail Harricana twice each, and Julien Lachance. Anne Champagne, also from Quebec, will be the favourite on the women’s side; she set the course record in the 100K distance on Reunion Island in 2019 and won the QMT 110K in 2019. We’ll also be watching Kelsey Hogan (third at Ultra Trail Gaspésia in 2019), Sylvie Descoteaux and Sandra Lafontaine, among others.