Run. Connection. Friendships.

By Raf Lopez

As tough as the weather was, the whole weekend was like beautiful Instagram story. 

We woke up to the soft pitter-patter of rain that poured through the night onto the canvas roofs of our trapper’s tents.  And that morning while we sipped our fire roasted coffee we could see our breath in the cool mountain air as our run guide went through the basics of running through the wilderness.  That whole weekend a stubborn resilience kept us warm and the dampness of our clothes was already being worn like a badge of honor.

It’s hard to believe that surrounded by mountains and dense pine forest we were just an hour and a half from Calgary.  But there we were, two-dozen runners from a variety of athletic backgrounds, all ready to get soaked while running some singletrack trails.

It didn’t matter whether we were a hundred kilometers from the city or a thousand, for the next few hours it would just be the mountains and us. 

Getting people to leave their comfort zones and into nature was exactly why we started Wander Adventure Company.  Our intention with Wander is to create special events that could connect unique athletic endeavors with once in a lifetime culinary and cultural experiences.  Behind it all we know that combining trails, running, amazing food, and cool people provides the perfect opportunity for our guests find something special in the great outdoors.

The Run Retreat we held this June did exactly that.

It poured all morning on our biggest day but somehow, almost by magic, the moment we reached the trailhead it stopped raining and we saw the first blue skies of the weekend.  Our route for the day was a semi-technical 18km out and back stretch of single and doubletrack.  It would be 9km straight up, and 9km straight down.

We figured all that running uphill would reward us with some great views, and the mountain didn’t disappoint.   We reached a high alpine waterfall called Ribbon Falls after about an hour and every minute of the climb was worth it. 

There’s something special about sports like trail running and mountain biking.  My origins in running come from huffing and puffing through 5k runs in my neighborhood when I was a teenager and it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I discovered what the trails could offer.  I’ve since learned that when you replace running on sidewalks and pathways with the vast open spaces that we’re blessed with in Canada, you find yourself looking less at your watch and more at your surroundings.

When I set out for a 10k training run in the city, or line up at the start line of a half marathon, its all about the clock and the distance.  How fast can I run?  Can I PR that segment on Strava?  What’s my heart rate?  Will I negative split?  How many minutes per km am I laying down?

When I get to the trailhead all of that goes away.  The challenge of running against the clock gets replaced by the challenge of just making it up a climb.  And the mental game of monitoring my pace and heart rate is drowned out by the focus required to navigate a dynamic trail lined by rocks, trees, and downed logs.

The reality of living in the city is that I probably still put 10km on pavement for every kilometer that I manage out on the trails.  But that calling to get off the beaten path never really goes away.

When I describe what we do with Wander Adventure Company, I say that we try and create “Instagrammable Moments”.  And that’s the marketing side of me talking, but it isn’t all about “hikes for likes”.  That’s just how we convince people to come out and adventure with us.  Once we’re out there, nature does the rest.

Day in and day out we interact with the world and each other through a number of tools and apps that can either inspire us, or distract us.  Our phones and social media ought to be a lens through which we can see and preview the world.  Indeed, the digital space can be valuable tool that can inspire you to get out there and do something that scares you.  But it shouldn’t be the channel through which you experience that world. 

Use Instagram as your inspiration board.  Then create your own adventures, or join us on one of ours.  Because the only way really experience the world is to get out for the run.

Raf Lopez is the co-founder of Wander Adventure Co. and indominable spirit of YYC Run Crew.  His passion for travel and active living will break you free from the ordinary, into the the extraordinary.