So, you want to do a snowshoe race?
A first-timers guide to everything you need to know to complete your first snowshoe race
By Derrick Spafford
What is a snowshoe race?
Snowshoe running is a great way to continue to enjoy running on the trails all winter. Snowshoe races are rapidly gaining in popularity, with a large number of races and series taking place across Canada. Distances range from as short as 5 km to as long as ultramarathons. Just like other races, there are competitive snowshoe racers who compete hard for top honours, but also recreational competitors who jog/walk the course with the primary goal of completing the race and enjoying the beautiful scenery.
How do I train for my first snowshoe race?
Training for snowshoe racing is very similar to training for a running race. Practising snowshoe running regularly in the weeks leading up to your race will help you get more comfortable with the activity. It’s also a good idea to include some faster paced workouts such as intervals, tempo runs and hill repeats; as well as long runs on snowshoes when preparing for a snowshoe race.
If you don’t have snow, or if you’re planning to run an early season race, including one or two elliptical &/or stairmaster workouts per week would be helpful as these activities will target the same muscles you’ll be using when snowshoe running.
What gear and clothing do I need?
Most of the same gear that you use for running will also work well for snowshoe running. There will be snow flying up your back from the snowshoes while you run so jackets and pants that are a nylon type material will help to keep you dry. Be careful not to over dress though because after a few short minutes, you will be working hard and it’s very easy to overheat.
Trail running shoes are ideal to wear with your snowshoes. A Goretex trail shoe gives that much more protection and helps to keep your feet dry. There are many great trail shoes that also have built in gaiters for added snow protection. Gaiters can be added however if you don’t have access to these. Regular running shoes will also work. In addition, be sure to wear a good winter sock. Merino wool socks are great because even when they get wet, they will still offer a good amount of warmth.
Watch our review of Dion Snowshoes' 121 Model:
How much does it cost to participate in a snowshoe race?
The cost of entering snowshoe races is very comparable to that of any road or trail running race, and sometimes less due to their no frills nature. You can usually count on paying anywhere between $25-50 per event. Many events also offer really cool race souvenirs for runners as well.
If you don’t own your own pair of running snowshoes but wish to try the sport, some races will lend out snowshoes for you on race day free of charge. Find a race in your area.
What skills do I need to have to complete a snowshoe race?
If you can run, you can snowshoe run. Running snowshoes are lightweight, narrow and designed specifically for running, so you may be surprised that you are actually wearing snowshoes with how comfortable and efficient they are. The more time you spend on snowshoes, the more comfortable you will be with them.
Trail and snow conditions will affect your pace and how quickly you can run on snowshoes. The most important thing to remember when snowshoes running is to take a shorter and more efficient stride with a quick turnover. The biggest challenge that people sometimes have is over-striding and fighting the snow. Keep your body as relaxed as possible and you’ll find it easier, and you’ll enjoy the trails that much more.
Derrick Spafford is a competitive trail, mountain, ultra and snowshoe runner. Derrick is the owner of Spafford Health and Adventure which offers run coaching, event management, and Canadian sales of specialty running gear including Dion Running Snowshoes. He is also the Series Co-ordinator for the Dion Eastern Ontario Snowshoe Running Series. For more information on Derrick and Spafford Health and Adventure, please visit www.HealthandAdventure.com.
Photo: Sean Scally