Last year about 200 ultra-marathon runners came to Kimberley for the inaugural Black Spur Ultra race. This year, on August 19 through 21, over 300 have signed up to run the 54 and 108 K course which runs through the Kimberley Nature Park, out to Horse Barn Valley and around North Star Mountain.
Organizer Brian Gallant is pleased with the growth of the Black Spur Ultra, with the ultimate goal being 500 racers. He hopes to get to that number in a few years as word gets out about the Kimberley race.
“Runners like to talk, and word of mouth about a race attracts more runners,” Gallant said. “Elite runners don’t want to waste a weekend doing a race that’s not good. But the feedback from last year in Kimberley was great. In 2015, the inaugural year, Black Spur gained a reputation as an “instant classic” and a “bucket list” event. The course is unlike any other. A world-class venue, the natural beauty, and the rugged terrain are a perfect combination for an epic mountain ultra”.
“Runners appreciate a personal endorsement. A lot said it was one of the more technical races they’ve run. And especially for elite runners, they like to walk out of the hotel and be at the start line.”
As further attraction for runners, the Black Spur Ultra is an opportunity to collect points and qualify for other ultra-marathons. The 54K event for men and women is this year’s Canadian National Championship as well as a qualifier for a huge ultra-marathon in France later in the year.
The race is not for the faint of heart, Gallant says. Many competitors will find the distance, combined with the rough course, fatigue, and weather, too much to handle.
But he says it is the kind of racing he likes to do, especially the rougher parts.
“We veer off the Round the Mountain track and take the cutline to a goat rail to a rocky gully. We tell runners to bring your ‘goatitude’ because you’ll have to be a mountain goat. It’s a wonderful part of the course. The terrain is just fantastic, great views. Everyone really enjoyed it last year.”
While runners start in a pack, they will quickly spread out and will run alone for most of the race.
During the race, the runners will be largely self-sufficient, despite the aid stations located at approximately 15km intervals. These aid stations are vital not only as feeding stations but also as an opportunity to keep track of runners and have an idea where everyone is on the course.
“We record every runner going through every station,” Gallant said. “So if someone fails to arrive at a station, we know roughly where to start looking.”
The Black Spur Ultra is committed to a “leave no trace” policy during the event and work with local stakeholders and the province to ensure it is sustainable and well run. A monetary donation will be made to the Kimberley Nature Park Society, Kimberley Trails Society, and Kootenay Freewheelers for the purposes of trail development and maintenance.
“Maintaining the natural beauty that attracts our racers to these venues is one of our highest priorities, and we do this by supporting groups whenever we can.” says Gallant.
For people who would like to see what is happening, the race is hosted at Kimberley Alpine resort, and spectators are welcome. For those who would like to get more involved, there are many volunteer opportunities,and the organizers provide a fun atmosphere at the event.
“It’s important to us that the volunteers enjoy themselves and the runners really appreciate the volunteers.”
More information about the race and course can be found at www.blackspurultra.com