About Blackfoot Ultra

Blackfoot Ultra started, like most good ideas, with a run. Gary was brought out to Islet Staging area by a friend, and ran the trails of Cooking Lake-Blackfoot provincial recreation area for the first time. He immediately fell in love. At the time, there was only one ultra in the Edmonton area (the Edmonton marathon had a 50 km where you ran 4 extra laps of Hawrelak Park). Gary had also starting soloing the Canadian Death race. He recognized that racers needed a way to prepare for the challenges of mountain ultras later in the season. Gary combined his love of the Cooking Lake-Blackfoot trails with the needs of the trail running community to create his own ultra, Blackfoot Ultra. This is the reason that Blackfoot ultra is always run on the last Saturday in May (10 weeks before the Canadian Death Race).

The first year, the race started from Central staging area. The distances were 25 km, 50 km, 100 km and a relay. Racers registered on paper and paid with cash or cheque. After this first year, the parks staff were so impressed with how clean our racers were that they gave Blackfoot Ultra permission to start at Islet Staging area. Islet Staging area continues to be our start/finish for the race.

In the second year, a 50 miler was added. A Kids’ race followed as many kids came out to cheer on/crew their parents. Over the years, we have hosted a number of Canadian championships for the ACU (50 km, 50 mile, 100 km). We also had a canine ultra, for a number of years, in honor of one of our former co-RD’s dog.

Blackfoot Ultra uses its race proceeds to support the work of other non-profits in Alberta. Our current non-profits are Spirit North and the Stewards of Ghost Horse Hills.

In typical Alberta fashion, Blackfoot racers have seen all kinds of weather over the years. On any given Saturday, racers have ran in sun, rain, snow, sleet, hail and wind. The trails are generally grass covered, rolling hills with beautiful views of lakes and other water bodies. There are lots of animals out in the park. Usually there are sightings of moose, dear, ducks, beavers, garter snakes, and various birds. The more rare sightings include cougars, bears, and elk. The animals are the inspiration for our racer medals.

If you asked us what we love most about Blackfoot, it is the community! We start the day in the dark. Our volunteers and 100 km racers start rolling in and Islet is humming with excitement. We get the start/finish set up, and send the 100 km racers on their way. We then finish putting up the tents and welcome our next group of runners, the 50 milers. The day continues on, and soon racers are coming through with their first lap completed, the aide stations are set up and food is cooking. We love meeting new racers and catching up with veterans. Around 1230 we start seeing our first finishers. They push up the last hill with everything they have. It is awesome! Over the years, we have had many finishers in our golden hour, between 6 and 7 pm. It is such an amazing sight to see someone push their limit and achieve their goal! Is it race day yet?