By Jay Smith

After running various Alberta trail races, Nordic skier-cum-ultramarathoner and Golden, B.C. resident Magi Scallion realized her hometown’s trails were superb, even in comparison with famous, destination trail races.

“I knew I could put together an amazing 60K loop with practically no road or double track in it,” she says. “Golden isn’t a super trendy town in comparison to Banff, Alta. or Revelstoke, B.C. but I live here and I love it.”

RELATED: Canada wins team gold at NACAC Mountain Running Championships.

Three years ago, she screwed her courage and struck up the Golden Ultra: a three-day trail running stage race. The marquee distance was a combined 85K of gnarly skyline-scraping, September-snow-kissed single track. Day one consists of the vertical kilometre, spread out over 5K. Day two features a pure-form ultra run of 60K. Day three: a modest half-marathon. (Less audacious runners can tackle the “half-pint:” the vertical kilometre, 30K and 10.5K. Or, you can pick and choose race events individually.) There are also fun race divisions like the ‘hobby horse’ where participants run the entire race on…yes, a hobby horse.

Year three saw 539 participants, including the hobby horsers, which reflects almost a twofold increase from last year, toe the start line. The 10K acted as the North American, Central American and Carribean (NACAC) Mountain Running Championships too. “It was a long 10K, 10.2K to be exact, and the men ran 35:00 and the women just under 39:00,” Scallion says. “Even with the single track and the elevation gain.” Mexico’s Juan Carlos Caiera Casas and Susana Bautista Villegas won the men’s and women’s races while Canada won the women’s team title, led by Colleen Wilson’s third-place finish in her first-ever mountain race. Canadians finished 3-4-5 in the women’s race while Gareth Hadfield was the nation’s top finisher, in fourth, in the men’s race.

The race didn’t go off without a hitch however. Just as the smoke from a record-busting forest fire season aired, the snow hit. “We went from smoke from the friggin’ fire season to snow the week before the race,” Scallion says. Luckily for the race, the white stuff melted from the higher-elevation trails just enough to create good traction.

Winners this year were Edmonton’s Richard Reid and Spokane, Wash.’s Kelly Quinn in the full ultra distance. Edmonton’s Andrew Cassidy and Kristen Hansen won the half-pint distance. (“There was a super strong posse from Edmonton this year,” observes Scallion.)

“This year, one of the coolest new things we introduced was a three-day stage race for the little kids,” she says. Scallion designed their courses to finish most days on the same arches as the adult races. “Kids don’t have the ugly pain faces, just the cute little angel faces,” Scallion notes.

“Although we’ve had super amazing runners at Golden, to me it matters as much, if not more, that ‘Joe Public’ has an amazing time,” she adds. “So that’s why I do things like the hobby horse challenge and I don’t really focus on the elite end (although I do give prize money). I’d rather have people with really similar values as me, people who love trails and the mountains and exploring, come out and have a great time.”

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