There are marathons, and then there are behemoth-sized races – also known as ultramarathons.
Around 250 participants came together this weekend for the third annual Ultra Trail Stokely Creek, a world class trail running spectacular that features epic views, intense conditions, and a seemingly endless string of hills and climbs.
Runners had the option of racing along the Stokely trail system in one of six events: the 5 km, 17 km, 34 km, 56 km, 85 km, or the 170 km.
Jonathan Mogg, a local real estate broker, took on the 170 km run - and it was no joke.
"It was the hardest thing I've ever done by far, that's for sure," he says.
Mogg was one of twelve brave racers who put their limits to the test at 10 a.m. on Friday as they began the daunting 170 km trek; a two-day, 100-mile endurance run they would be required to finish before 6 p.m. on the following Saturday.
The run is four times longer than the standard marathon.
Five participants completed the race before the 32-hour cut off, including first-place finisher Scott Devenport, while six others had to stop before they reached the finish line.
Mogg made it to the end but missed the cutoff time, ultimately crossing the finish line around the 35-hour mark.
“The hardest part is running through the night," he says. "You’ve now been up for a full day, your body tells you to go to sleep, but you don’t really have that option.”
Despite not finishing within the race’s allotted time, Mogg was still thrilled with his efforts.
“I just wanted to get it done,” he says. “I set the goal, so I was making sure that no matter what happened I was completing that goal. There truly are no limits, you just need to have the right mental state to realize that.”
Ultra Trail Stokely Creek is Ontario’s only qualifying event for the international stage of ultra running. The race gives participants index points for the Ultra-Trail du Mount-Blanc series – one of the world’s best known endurance running events held annually in France.
“It’s essentially the world series of trail running,’ Mogg says. “The standards are high for what you need to do in order to qualify, like the strict cut off time.”
Event organizer Nick Brash has been running Ultra Trail Stokely Creek since 2019 and managed to turn the Stokely trail system into a thriving, international qualifier in relatively short order.
Mogg says Brash’s passion for the area and dedication to the race is a driving force behind the success they’ve had since introducing the run three years ago.
“You can tell how much he puts into it, the love is there,” he says. “We have the best running community here. But it’s not just the runners, it’s people who want to come out to support and cheer on the runners. This is the coolest thing we do in Ontario.”