Byron Jenkins runs wild in Prince Albert National Patrk. photos Max Conrad
Cross Country Paradise
Prince Albert National Park has been discovered as a cross-country running treasure.
One of the most important things trail runners can wear,” the running store woman told me, “are protective gloves.”
“Protective gloves?” I asked. “For running?”
“You can trip and fall,” she said matter-of-factly. “And you may have to grope your way up a hill. Gloves help save your hands.”
I never imagined taking a nosedive, or crawling over a steep slope on my first trail run. My ability to go the distance over rugged terrain was a concern. I knew I’d probably meet wildlife. But a face plant in mid-run? Creeping up an incline on all fours? Never.
Forewarned is forearmed; I’ll watch my step. I’m prepared to risk a tumble to test out one of the hottest crazes in recreational sport.
North American runners are going gaga over trail running. Essentially, it’s taking your suburban jogging outside the city, eschewing pavement for bucolic forest pathways.
Saskatchewan is a place to run back to nature. Much of the province is one large wilderness trail-running zone. So where to begin?
The 8.5 kilometre Spruce River Highlands Trail in Prince Albert National Park seemed just right. Traversing a river valley through deep forest, open meadow, high ridges, and low swamp, it’s perfect trail-run terrain.
My start at its trailhead is a daunting climb through a sea of towering white aspen. Training on hills for weeks prior to this didn’t prevent my legs from soon going wobbly. Ten minutes in, I’m soaking with perspiration.
This is the optimal time for a run, though. Fall is often called Saskatchewan’s best season. Running through October’s crisp, intoxicating air here is a life-affirming experience.
Hearing a mating elk bugling in the distance doesn’t distract my attention from the task. Park literature describes the SRHT as ‘strenuous terrain.’
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