The best winter running races in Canada
Six events from the West Coast to the Maritimes
The mercury is not just in retrograde, it’s plummeting downward with no relief for the next few months. But that doesn’t mean the running train stops at the next station and doesn’t budge. It just means a new crop of fun events that make the winter way more fun. Think finishing a 10K in the summer is fun and fulfilling? Try it in the winter. It might even be better!
Here are a few great snowy races between Jan. 1 and March 1. And no, Vegas in winter does not count.
This is one of the best organized and most enjoyable events on the winter running calendar. Held by the crack team at VR Pro, the Chilly has been a vital part of the Southern Ontario running scene for almost a quarter-century. It’s also about six weeks before the Boston Marathon, so attracts some pretty big names looking for a race workout. There are three options for this Burlington race: a 5K, 10K and half-marathon. Count on a fantastic race atmosphere and as always some delicious Stagg chilli and beer available at many post-race locations. This year, the race, which is held on March 1, 2020, will also offer a virtual race option for the first time. An option which includes a free T-shirt with registration and more.
The Chilly has always been a popular race with Get Out There's video reporter team. Here is our most recent review from 2018.
The always-epic Freeze Your Gizzard run is one of the most popular and coldest races in the Maritimes. Although when you think PEI, you think flat, but not this race. Here, runners must contend with seriously cool temperatures, snow and ice but also the hills around the town of Montague. Looking to kickstart training for a spring marathon? Cannot think of a better way. As the event takes place on Feb. 29, a unique day for sure, expect some fun along the way. Race options include a 5k, 10k and half-marathon.
The Winterman event is held every year during the fun Winterlude festivities. It’s a fantastic time to be in Ottawa, despite the chilly climes. The race is held at the iconic Canadian War Museum with options including a marathon, marathon relay, half marathon, 10K, 5K and 3K. All finishers will get a medal, a cool shirt, a performance certificate and their official time. The marathon is also a certified qualifier for the Boston Marathon. And if an Ottawa winter doesn’t make you move your caboose at PB speed, nothing will!
Check out our review of the Winterman circa 2013 below.
Polar Paws Trail Race, Feb. 29
Held last year for the first time, the Polar Paws Trail Race offers a winter trailing running event that winds through the beautiful trails of Durham Regional Forest just northeast of Toronto. Race options include a 5k, 10k or 25k. The event team from Crazy Adventures has a wealth of experience and enthusiasm, so expect a well-organized and fun event. And they love animals! This year, the event will support the work of the Etobicoke Humane Society (EHS). As the trails can get very icy and snowy, make sure to have appropriate clothing including shoes with serious traction.
This Burlington event is named after a famous Scottish poet. But, until someone invents a Gore-tex running kilt, we suggest sticking to the tried and true northern winter running gear for this race held in some of the chillier days of winter. The Robbie Burns is a fun and social 8K race through city streets with the start and finish at the Burlington Performing Arts Centre and a long stretch towards the finish along Lakeshore. Piping hot oatmeal from Jonny Blonde food truck and catering at the finish is always a huge hit. Also very Scottish. Registration is $45-$65 depending on timing, so sign up early.
The Icebreaker is Richmond, British Columbia’s first road race of the year, the first race in the Lifestages Lower Mainland Road Runners Series and the second race of the BC Athletics BC Super Series. The race features a flat and fast certified course through the scenic and historic Steveston Village — incredible views, fantastic vibe. The chip-timed race is an out-and-back right along the beautiful waterfront. There’s a post-race party at the community centre with free massages amongst other offerings.
The perfect antidote for a fun New Year’s Eve is to force on those running shoes and head down to Toronto’s Beaches neighbourhood for a brisk cobweb-clearing race. The 40th annual Hair of the Dog, which offers a 9k and 3k option, starts at the historic Balmy Beach Club on Lake Ontario and ends with a post-race hot lunch.