Breathtaking Larch Hills Traverse sets scene for Shuswap trail run

Lewiston Ultra runners will push themselves over gruelling 60-kilometre course

Runners will be pushing themselves to the brink over a gruelling 60-kilometre route over the Larch Hills, from Salmon Arm to Sicamous, to benefit research into curing to a rare disease.

For the second year in a row, hundreds of runners will be competing in Lewiston Ultra, an event which crossed the Larch Hills for the first time in 2018. This year, runners will start on Salmon Arm’s South Canoe trails and finish at Hyde Mountain Golf Course in Sicamous.

Race co-ordinator Kara Leinweber said she was surprised to find there had never been an ultra-running event on the traverse. An avid long-distance trail runner herself, Leinweber and a friend took on a 38-km section of the traverse and found a diverse and challenging trail.

“It was September and it was drop-dead gorgeous,” Leinweber said.

“One part would be full of hug cedars, the next part was all full of different types of mushrooms. It was incredible.”

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The ultra-race draws its name from Lewiston Olstad, who tragically succumbed to Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) before his first birthday in 2016. Lewiston’s parents Ronnie and Jessica, who are family friends of Leinweber, started the Love for Lewiston Foundation to raise awareness and benefit efforts to cure SMA.

Being active in the Alberta long-distance running community, Leinweber promoted the fledgling event in 2018 and had over 300 runners signed up within three months of announcing it, as well as a host of sponsors on board.

Having bought property in Sicamous in 2015, Leinweber was acquainted with the Shuswap well before she got the race up and running, but was still surprised by how many helping hands assisted with making its first year a success.

More help is needed this year. Leinweber said volunteer registration began two weeks ago, but a further 20 volunteers are still required. She said volunteers will be fed and are also invited to join in the post-race celebration which will feature live music from Devon Coyote.

Along with race-day volunteers, help will be needed for a Shuswap Trail Alliance cleanup on the traverse on Sept. 15, which will ensure the course is ready for the runners.

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The race also benefits local groups who assist with bringing it to life, including the Shuswap Search and Rescue, the Shuswap Trail Alliance and the Larch Hills Nordic Centre. Splatsin First Nation support part of the course crossing their land and will be sending drummers and dancers to see runners off at the start line.

Runners are coming from Alberta, the Lower Mainland and the Okangan, and a sizable local contingent which Leinweber estimated at 30 per cent of all entrants will also be in this year’s race.


@SalmonArm
jim.elliot@saobserver.net

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