What It’s Like to Run Canada’s Hardest (and Most Beautiful) Relay Race

Parkdale Roadrunners Take The Cabot Trail

Legend has it that the Cabot Trail Relay began in 1988 when six brave teams of runners ventured to run the entirety of the trail – all 276.33 kilometers. The race begins in the Cape Breton town of Baddeck, and loops around the Cabot Trail along a beautiful and daunting course in 17 Legs. Thus began the rich and storied history of the Cabot Trail Relay.

This year, in its 30th anniversary, teams from across Canada and the U.S. vied for the chance to run this historic course. Toronto’s Parkdale Roadrunners were selected as one the 70 teams lucky enough to be a part of this exclusive race. This is a recount of that race, as told over two legs, by Saucony Ambassadors, Justin Osei-Dwumoh and Moe Bsat.

Cabot Trail: Leg 6
Length: 17.5 KM
Runner: Justin “Juice” Osei-Dwumoh, Parkdale Roadrunners

Speed and endurance. Anticipation and serenity. 

After all the anticipation of waiting to hear if we got in, all the time planning, the e-mails and the slack conversations, I have finally made it to Cape Breton for the infamous Cabot Trail Relay. I couldn’t have planned it better if I tried – I have made it to this race on the 30th year. So safe to say, this is kind of a big deal and great honor to be a part of the 10-person relay team. A little bit of a motley crew of Parkdale roadrunners; some of us running on injured legs, tired legs and eager legs ready to tackle this coveted race on the East Coast.

This was my first time on the East Coast and I was excited for the opportunity to get out of the city for a few days. Time to see if all the training and running has paid off and how I match up against the boys and girls from out east. The scenery was incredible and not as flat as the city streets that I’m used to running. I was up for the challenge; for taking on this hilly terrain, with views that looked like postcards.

For me, the night before any race is always the same. I’m kind of annoyed, nervous, eager, and have a little bit of self-doubt that I will suck or have a bad race. The only thing that I can draw a comparison to is that feeling you had when you were younger and you were in your car waiting for the driving instructor to take your road test. So usually I will listen to some music or a podcast and zone out for a while. Then I usually tell myself “Relax you can do this… You run all the time… you got this, J.” After that I’m usually good to go.

Cabot Trail: Leg 10
Length: 14.7 KM
Runner: Moe Bsat, Parkdale Road Runners

Simply known as the mountain night run. 

The first 3 KMs of this leg is the appetizer, it’s flat and fast. Runners burst out of the gates jockeying for position before having to take their journey upwards. As the first official night leg of the race, it is often stacked with the strongest runners. It is undoubtedly hard and makes you question your intentions of running this leg. It has the ability to bring the most seasoned and talented runners to their knees. After the initial 3 KM burner, I started going up and I started questioning everything. This was arguably the darkest I’ve ever felt during a race. After already having run Leg 2 earlier in the day, I was doing everything I could to hold pace for our team. I had read How Bad Do You Want It? before coming into this race and I kept repeating the title of that book over and over again. I did all I could to use the stories and inspiration from that book to keep me afloat in the darkness. My only reprieve from the darkness, pain, anguish and pace was seeing the rest of team intermittently along the course. I began praying to see them and every time it brought me peace. Then something switched. I found bliss in the pain and it all made sense. The rest of that leg was now mine to finish. I repeated everything I was grateful for in my head, and that carried me through to the end.

There’s more to running than putting one foot in front of the other, and these insider reports from the Cabot Trail Relay prove just that. Congratulations to Justin and Moe—and the rest of the brave runners on the Cabot Trail this year—on conquering the mental and spiritual hurdles that every runner faces, sometimes as tall as the rocky cliffs on the very edge of Canada.  

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