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Happy Trails Racing launches spacey new virtual event

Popular Ontario-based trail running event team Happy Trails Racing has launched a new virtual event scheduled to get underway next month and it will have you seeing stars. 

Space Out Virtual Race, inspired by limitless outer space, ask participants to tackle a serious (and fun, natch) challenge for the month of November. The idea, according to race director Jeff Rowthorn (pictured above), was inspired by one of his children who pointed out to him that the International Space Station was just 408km away. 

“One of my first thoughts was that I know a few runners who could probably run that far,” Rowthorn says. “From there I started to research other objects or places in space that people could potentially run to.  Instead of making a race in which participants run a distance all at once, I thought it would be fun to set a loftier goal that runners could try to achieve in one month. We came up with distances that we felt could challenge all runners from novices to professionals.”

The difference challenges, of which there are four, are presented as missions. Mission 100, for example, asks participants to run 100 km in a month, just over three km or two miles per day while the toughest is Mission 690 — The Exosphere Expedition. Participants in this challenge will be logging an average of 23 km per day for a total of 690 km for the month. There is also a Mission 215 and a Mission 408. 

Happy Trails has a number of popular virtual events earlier this year, also challenges organized in May, June and July. The Space Out event is the first with a bona fide race kit available for purchase. 

“Let’s just say that the race medals and belt buckles that participants can earn are out of this world,” Rowthorn says. 

An added bonus to organizing interesting virtual events is that it opens up an entirely new community. Happy Trails has had runners from all over the world participating, including in far-flung locales such as Australia and India. Participants often gather online on the Happy Trails Facebook group creating a sense of community while offering encouragement and tips along the way. 

“The online community of runners and walkers was nothing short of amazing in our prior virtual challenges,” he says. “Our social media pages, and particularly our Facebook group that we created for these other events, were filled with positivity and encouragement towards one another. In addition to these outlets, we will also have a gallery for participants to add photos and we will be having some additional contests along the way, such as a “make your own race bib” contest in which we will be giving away four pairs of shoes from Merrell Canada.”

In the end, for Rowthorn and Happy Trails, it’s about supporting their fellow runners when we need it the most. 

“We hope that this challenge will provide some much needed motivation to remain active and will push people to step outside of their comfort zones and set a goal that they can work towards, and achieve, with hard work and perseverance,” he says. 

With the COVID-19 pandemic persisting in Southern Ontario where many of the Happy Trails events are held, there could be even more virtual challenges on the way to help get trail runners through the winter. 

“I definitely have some ideas that I am working on for the upcoming winter months when motivation to run is typically low,” he says. “If we can help keep runners and walkers active by providing new opportunities during these unprecedented times, we will.” 

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