I have thought about doing this race before, but it just seemed “complicated” to get to, so I brushed it off. The race starts in Coburg, Ontario and ends at Niagara Falls, Ontario. We run within Canada the entire time. On a whim I responded to a post on the Ragnar Niagara page for a team needing a runner, and the rest was history. And getting there was a piece of cake!
I was super excited to do my first INTERNATIONAL Ragnar, especially since there is a second one planned this fall. I considered it like a trial run.
I met my team at the Toronto airport and we rolled out out to Port Hope, where we would spend the night before the race. We had the first available start (5am), as speed was not our forte. Everyone was super friendly, and knew each other already. I was the odd man out, but I’m used to it.
The race is definitely one of the smaller ones that I’ve done. The start area was small, and the exchanges were pretty easy to get in and out of. I was runner 6 and I saw that my first leg was 16.59 Km, or just over 10 miles. Yikes.
One of the main differences in this Ragnar is all the distance is in Kilometers instead of miles. It definitely messes with your head!
This leg had a beautiful start. Right on lake Ontario, on a paved path, then a dirt trail. I did not see a soul for almost 3 miles! Say what! All of a sudden a woman came up behind me and I was like wow, another person! She started chatting me up, and wanted to stay together. I’m typically a solo runner who likes to take walking breaks, but she was a fascinating Canadian, and I wanted to keep talking to her!
Qani was a very positive person, waving energetically at anyone we saw – truck drivers, telephone pole repairmen, doesn’t matter. 7 miles later, we were coming up to the finish (after taking a wrong turn on the trail), and she couldn’t believe it. I said “grab my hand, girl, we’re doing this!” and so it was. I have kept in touch with Qani since the race and I’m so glad I met her.
After I finished, we headed out for a quintesentially Canadian lunch – poutine! I got something over the top, but I enjoyed it. Then we went to the exchange to rest for a bit.
Leg 2 would provide a different type of scenery – a downtown Toronto skyline view near the waterfront. It was 5.7 mles. The first few miles honestly were a bit sketchy with lots of transients, but once I was in the heart of downtown and other runners were nearby, it was more fun. The CN tower was on full display.
I loved the end of this leg. We had to run up a bridge that was all lit up in bright colors, it just looked fun in a lively setting. After the finish, we drove on to the next big exchange and slept in the van. And by van, I mean minivan. Ugh, not my first choice. Super duper uncomfortable for sleeping. I was sleep and coffee deprived by the time we rolled out for our next set of legs. The team knew how caffeine dependent I am and what a fondness I developed for Tim Horton’s, Canada’s version of Dunkin Donuts. Their coffee and cheese tea biscuits are the bomb – and cheap! Anyhoo, they graciously stopped to get me my goodies right before I ran. I just had a 3.5 miler left to go!
My last run had some nice water views, but ran along the shoulder of a highway, which is not my favorite. The finish area was really nice though, a great way to end!
Hot damn, van 1 was done and after a 25 mile drive, we got the chance to explore Niagara Falls while waiting for van 2! We took #allthepics.
All the hills and walking was exhausting, but fun. I hadn’t been to the falls since I was a kid with my parents. We had lunch and visited all the souvenir shops. Then we went to the finish to wait for Van 2 to arrive.
The finish area, like all Ragnars, was stunning. It literally backed up to the falls! Wow. Teeny tiny gear tent, so I wasn’t able to buy anything at the end. No “free” food at the finish, all for purchase. There were “good” beer choices – and everything was in both (a little overpriced) in US and CAN prices. But the best surprise was seeing the bonus medal tent. I had been told that only US Ragnar races qualify for the bonus medals, which made me extremely sad. It’s a huge motivator for me in doing these races. Our team was super happy to see the medal lady sitting there, as many of us had already done Ragnars this year. Made my day.
This team was very easygoing. They do several Ragnar Relays a year, so there is a good chance I will get to do another one with them in the future!
So, the main differences were -
Running in Canada was unique and I would definitely do it again! Canada kind of puts their own spin on everything. I fell in love with the scenery and the local favorites like Tim Hortons. This experience made me even more excited for my next International Ragnar Relay race, coming this fall!
Hi, I'm Emily! I'm an avid runner in Arizona with a passion for travel and racing around the country!