The MEC running series offers some of the best value for money out there for foot racing events. They are cheap, frequent, and held in multiple cities near to where there are MEC stores. This year I participated in the first trail race of the year for the Toronto store, held at the Heart Lake Conservation Area in Brampton on April 30th.
Heart Lake Conservation Area is located in the north end of Brampton. There is easy access via the highway from the GTHA, ample parking and indoor washrooms on-site. The race area was clearly laid out with signs and simple amenities like garbage bins and shelter from the sun/rain were taken care of. The conservation area itself is a beautiful departure from the city and the trails are a combination of gravel and less formal paths. The route chosen was very hilly with some substantially steep climbs and descents. Due to the ground being saturated this early in the year plus the frequent spring rain, the course was very muddy and wet. The course itself had some narrow and technical components which made it exciting and challenging to negotiate. It was cold and windy on this particular day but the course route offered plenty of shelter from the wind.
There were 3 distances offered: a 5k, 7.5k and 15k. The 5k was an abbreviated version of the 7.5k route, and the 15 was 2 laps of the 7.5k route. All distances were a loop from the south end of the conservation area, around the lake and back. The course was very well marked with a combination of MEC signs, spray-painted arrows in the dirt, and fluorescent tape roping off branches in the route. There were ample volunteers to direct participants and ensure people in the 5k race chose the right route.
Swag and Extras
For the extremely minimal $15 entry fee one wouldn’t expect much to be provided – I honestly didn’t even expect a race bib. But for this low price you get a race bib with timing chip, a well-marked course, professional start/finish line archway, photography (general photos posted on their website), water stations with water and sport drink, unlimited post-race snacks (Clif bars, Kind bars, bananas), professional timing and results. There were also medals for the top 3 finishers, male and female, in each event as well as some random $10 gift cards distributed as well as a contest and prizes. Some of MEC’s suppliers were also there with booths set up and some contests/swag as well. Lastly, the race bib can be used in-store for a 15% discount. There is way more provided in the MEC races than could ever be paid for by the $15 entry.
The MEC race series offers an incredible value for money. For the $15 it costs to register and race, it’s hard to say no. The trail race series is an exciting way to has a professionally-run trail race that’s not too far from home. I’d recommend this race and others in the series to anyone who is interested. For the price you can’t go wrong, and it’s one of the least expensive weekend activities you can find these days.