Ultramarathon through B.C.’s Cascade Mountains cancelled due to wildfires

193-kilometre race course from Keremeos to Manning Park on hold until next year

A 193-kilometre ultramarathon through three provincial parks has been cancelled due to ongoing wildfires and park closures in the Cascade Mountains.

Four hundred people from 12 countries had signed up for this weekend’s Fat Dog 120 ultramarathon, named after the 120 miles participants run from Cathedral Provincial Park near Keremeos to Manning Park. The race was first re-routed, then cancelled, as wildfires in Cathedral and Skagit provincial parks have forced park closures and evacuations.

The original route took runners through Cathedral Provincial Park, through Manning Provincial Park and finally a half moon shaped loop through the Skagit Valley Provincial Park, ending up at Manning again.

Race director Heather MacDonald had already re-routed the race away from a large fire burning in Cathedral park. With the closure of the Skagit park today at noon, the race had to be cancelled.

MacDonald said scrapping a race of this size is a big deal — about 1,000 people including runners, their families, crew support and volunteers were expected for the race, including participants from as far away as Thailand, the Philippines and New Zealand.

“Imagine that, you’ve been preparing all year. If this is your big race, which for many people it is, you don’t do that many similar races so you might be building, building, building towards this, your hardest race. So if this is the one, for them, that’s the hardest,” MacDonald said.

“It’s known internationally and they come here because it’s difficult. It’s a hard race and they want to do that so they can qualify for other races as well, that are difficult. And also because we have the best trails, the best scenery.”

Preparation for a race of this caliber involves an intensive training program — experimenting with what fuel to bring on the race and how to run through the night wearing a headlamp, in addition to running and strength training.

Runners also need to be mentally prepared for the race, considered one of the world’s nine toughest ultramarathons by Outside magazine.

The disappointment was also felt by race organizers and volunteers who spent hundreds of hours clearing trails, flagging the running route and setting up water and aid stations, all of which need to be dismantled.

“I’m so bummed, I don’t know if you can imagine but I plan all year for this,” MacDonald said.

As many of the participants have arrived or are in the process of arriving at Manning Park Resort for the race, MacDonald said she plans to lessen the sting by organizing runs around the park this weekend.

“It’s a big disappointment for them, but if they take part in the runs I think that will really help them mentally,” she said.

Wildfires in Cathedral and Skagit provincial parks have forced closures in both parks.

Cathedral park is dealing with three fires in and around the park, with a massive 12,000 hectare fire burning near Snowy Mountain and another 2,000 hectare fire burning on Placer Mountain. Core areas of the park remain open but under an evacuation alert, and remaining areas are closed.

A 50-hectare fire burning in the Skagit led to the complete closure of the provincial park from 12 noon Thursday, Aug. 9.


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