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Dylan Morgan, 39, of Squamish, British Columbia, had wanted to create an ultra for several years, but he didn’t know where. Then, a friend introduced him to the 110-mile Sunshine Coast trail (SCT) on BC’s rugged Pacific Coast. He knew he’d found his venue.
Located nearly four hours north of Vancouver, British Columbia, the Sunshine Coast Trail is a true wilderness experience: unforgiving, technical and gorgeous. The route traces the line where lush, temperate rainforest merges with the Salish Sea—ancient evergreens flirt with azure lapping waves, white-capped peaks rise up from the sprawling Strait of Georgia.
A Little-Known Gem
Morgan’s first experience on the SCT was in 2016, at a local cult-classic race, the Marathon Shuffle.
“[I remember] running along beautifully wooded singletrack next to a series of waterfalls,” he says. “It was so pretty I stopped to clamber down a few meters to the stream to take photos and drink the cool water. Then, later, I popped out on the top of a bluff with panoramic views south to Powell River and across the Salish Sea.”
By the end of the race, he knew he wanted to stage an ultramarathon and cover the full length of the trail.
The result is the Sunshine Coast Longest Day Run (LDR), which will take place for the first time in June 2017, debuting on—you guessed it—the summer solstice, with 110-mile, 115K and 20K distances.
The routes combine canopied, dank tunnels typical of the Pacific Northwest, with rocky ridgelines. Rooty and tangled in places, the trail has aggressive, stair-like ascents that peak to 180-degree views of the Pacific Ocean. Each distance is strenuous: the 110-miler boasts 24,000 feet of vertical gain; the 115K and 20K gain 18,044 and 2,296 feet, respectively.
Not for Beginners
The SCT was built in 1992, though it has recently been redeveloped to include more singletrack, more elevation gain and more old-growth forest. In 2015, the trail was named “One of the 50 Best Hikes in the World” by Explore Magazine. However, because it is so remote and technical, this “new” route doesn’t have an FKT (as of this writing).
The Longest Day Race is not for the inexperienced or faint of heart. The race page warns, “Due to the remoteness and difficulty of evacuation, along with the [scarcity of] aid stations, this is a graduate-level race.”
Entrants are required to have run “at least one mountain 50-mile race, with significant technical terrain and a minimum of 3,000 meters of ascent.” Exceptions may be made for runners able to demonstrate advanced running capabilities to the race organizers. To ensure a high level of safety and keep first-year logistics under control, Morgan is capping each distance at 30 entrants.
All races finish at Saltery Bay, a beachside park with water access, and start at varying trailheads near the town of Powell River, British Columbia.
Bring It On
The competition promises to be strong, even in this relatively unpopulated region. Morgan has already confirmed several elite runners including Paul Romero, who has twice finished on the podium at the Tahoe 200 Endurance Run; 2016 Black Hills 100 champ Mike Jimenez; and Nicola Gildersleeve, who won the 2014 Kodiak 100 and holds the current women’s FKT, in 33 hours 50 minutes, for the “old” Sunshine Coast Trail.
Runners will be transported to the harbor village of Lund from Powell River. Then, via water taxi, athletes will travel from Lund to Sarah Point, the start of the race. After winding through the Copeland Islands Marine Park, runners will “leap ashore” to the start. If you prefer to transport yourself to the starting line, know that four-wheel drive is required, and there is a one-mile hike in.
The Longest Day Race
June 24, 2017
Registration closes June 22.
From Vancouver: Fly directly into Powell River or drive and ferry hop from West Vancouver via two ferries. Transport to the race start is provided.
Powell River Town Centre Hotel, Beach Gardens Resort and Marina, Old Courthouse Inn and Westview Centre Motel, Willingdon Beach Campsite, Kent’s Beach Resort, Saltery Bay Provincial Park Campground.
Food and beer at the finish line in Saltery Bay, and post-race dinner in Powell River.