Vancouver area has a wealth of options

By Maurice Wilson, Special to the Vancouver Sun September 21, 2009

There are many types of cross-country runs, but what they all have in common is that they take advantage of the natural landscape to create an interesting and challenging race for runners of all abilities.

Traditional cross-country is run primarily on grass in parks or across open countryside, involving multiple laps of a relatively short distance. The multi-lap format makes such events spectator- and children-friendly.

Whether it is a big mud puddle, a stretch of sandy beach, twisty forest trails, or eye-popping scenery, every race presents unique and memorable challenges in a way that running on the roads cannot match.

The softer surfaces associated with getting off the roads helps build leg strength and endurance while reducing the possibility of injury. This makes cross-country running excellent cross training for other sports, too.

Constantly changing conditions and the need to pay attention to route markings strengthens the mind as well as the body. Adjusting for natural obstacles such as fallen trees, rocks, roots, and mud requires agility to maintain momentum. Running up and down hills and changing stride length stretches muscle groups, helping prevent overuse injuries.

Around Vancouver, we are fortunate to have parks, trails and mountains that allow you to experience all forms of cross-country running.

The Lower Mainland Cross Country Series appeals to the traditionalist. The North Shore Trail Series provides the solitude of the trails. The 5-Peaks Trail Running Series features some of our best local mountains. And the BC Ultra Trailrunning Series will have you running all day, and into the night.

The longest established of all local races is the BC Cross Country Championships. The 61st annual championships take place in Stanley Park on Oct. 31, with races for all ages and abilities.

Past winners include many of Canada’s best endurance runners. The Whistler Spirit Run on Sept. 26-27 provides a warm-up to the provincial championships.

For a complete listing of all races throughout B.C., check out the BC Athletics website: www.bcathletics.org.

Maurice Wilson is the technical manager, Road & Cross Country Running, for BC Athletics.

To read a longer version of this article, go to vancouversun.com/ sunrunseries