August 6, 2022 marked the inaugural edition of the Rainbow Trail Run from Gotta Run Racing and I was so excited to be a part of it (even though it was a week after my goal race, Talley in the Valley 24hr, and my legs were not as enthused).
Full disclosure: as a member of Team Running Free, I won a free entry into the race, however all the opinions provided in this report are my own, and free of any censorship.
It was a hot and humid heading out to Earl Rowe Provincial Park in Alliston Ontario, but it was a mostly scenic drive from Toronto, and only took about an hour. Parking and entrance to the conservation was included in the cost of the race, and runners were encouraged to bring friends and family. Additional vehicles were also permitted however, they were subject to the entrance fees.
The race is run on a 12km trail loop circling the lake known as the Rainbow Trail. The rainbow comes from the abundance of rainbow trout that can be found in the lake, and it is an avid fishing spot. The park also hosts a campground, boat rentals, site store, and allows for swimming, biking, fishing and more.
The course was pretty well marked with both flags and signs to make sure people didn’t get lost. Since the race covers one of the main trails, it’s pretty hard to get lost, since there is usually only one way to go. But this is me we are talking about so I did manage to take a couple (short) wrong turns. One was at a road crossing (because I was busy chatting) and right at the finish (following the sounds of cheering would have worked if I had better hearing).
The course is very runnable with a mix of terrain from dirt to grass to California carpet. It was not highly technical but there were quite a few tree roots in some sections, so I was happy to have my pink glasses on hand to help me see in the shade. The double track course made it easy to chat with people on the run, and leave room for passing when needed. There was one rather large climb on the loop that goes to a lookout point. I only did one lap but I am sure that climb starts to feel like mount Everest after 6 or 7 or 2 laps. You also get the chance to pass over a few bridges during the course of the race, which allows for nice views of the water.
The first thing I like about this race is the 12km loop. Looped courses are a good opportunity for people wanting to try longer distances because you have access to your gear/crew every loop. I think 12 km is a good distance as well because it’s still big enough that it doesn’t feel like you are just going in circles. I was a little surprised at how empty the course was, after about 3km I did not see that many runners. This is nice if you just want to cruise and go your own pace, but can be a little lonely if you prefer a more social atmosphere. I suspect that this will change as the race gets busier and better known. I know a few runners who said they had not heard about it but would be interested in signing up next year.
As a midsummer race, sun and bugs are to be expected, but in the heat wave, it felt very sunny. The good news is, the race directors Jodi and Norm thought of that, and partnered with Kinesys Performance Suncreen to ensure everyone got a travel bottle of sunscreen in their race kit.
Speaking of race kits, I really liked this one. First off, brilliant idea to go with the rainbow theme, because who doesn’t love rainbows??? As more of a veteran runner, there is a limit to how many race shirts I can use, especially non-technical ones, so I love it when I other things. This kit was in a rainbow themed backpack bag, with rainbow socks, sunscreen, and wait for it….a Gotta Run Racing soft hydration flask! I love the idea of cupless races, but even I found myself in a pickle because during the pandemic some races paused the initiative, and there was a race where all I had was my hydration bladder and I really wanted…no needed some cold coke.
The Start/Finish area was in a big open space with lots of room to set up personal chairs, tents, or aid stations for those running the longer distances. Runners could choose from 12km (1 loop) all the way up to a 100 miler (14 loops), however the 100 mile solo and relay were postponed this year as not enough people signed up.
The start/finish also had booth for kit pick up and a booth from the community charity partner Procyon Wildlife Centre. I really liked having someone from the charity on hand to share their vision and mission. The friendly staff/volunteers had lots of useful information and even colouring pages to keep bored future runners occupied.
And no, I did not forget the important part- food! There was a large BBQ station set up, grilling food for hungry finishers including mango chicken dogs and beyond beef sausages. Big thanks to the volunteers working the grill in the sweltering heat.
There were also two aid stations, one at the start /finish and one at the halfway point. They were loaded up with the usual trail fare, water, scratch, coke, salty snacks, watermelon, and thankfully lots of ice! When I came upon the halfway aid station, the volunteers were very friendly, laughing and chatting and offering goodies. While I was there, one of the longer distance runners came by and they already knew him by name and were cheering for him! If you have ever done an ultra, you will know how uplifting the smallest things can be, so that made me smile.
Results were chip timed and there were awards given for male/female 1/2/3 place finishers. As it turned out, the runner I had personally chosen for best dressed/embodiment of the rainbow theme also came in first place female for the 12km loop. But if you are not an elite, don’t worry because all finishers received a bright and bold medal that features a spinning midsection. I was informed they also have stylish rainbow belt buckles ready for next year’s 100 mile finishers.
One of the things that I really appreciated about this race was just how approachable it was for newer runners or newer trail runners. The longer people run, the more they forget what it is like to be at your first race. Aid station? Is that, like, band-aids or something?
With many different distances to choose from there was something for everyone, novice to veteran. A week before the race, runners got a detailed pre-race email outlining what to expect. Sometimes those emails go to spam, or maybe are not clear, so there was also a pre-race video available to watch on youtube. Still unsure what to expect? You could check out the 60 min virtual Rainbow Trail Run video while on the treadmill (or your couch!). I assume the video was a leftover from last year’s virtual edition, but hey, I ran a bunch of virtual races and none of them provided a video…
As I mentioned above, if you forgot a cup or sunscreen, or socks (it happens) it was all there for you in your kit. And during the event both race directors and volunteers were on hand, working hard to make sure everyone stayed safe and had a great time.
Considering this is only year one, I have to say I was really impressed by this race and would definitely recommend it, especially for the shorter distances.
An opportunity I noted for longer distances would be to have more food choices at the aid stations (although more may have come later in the day). I also noticed the start/finish didn’t have quite the same atmosphere as some other ultras like Sulphur Springs or Talley in the Valley, but it’s not a fair comparison as those are well established races, and this is year one.
Pablo Neruda asked “where does the rainbow end, in your soul or on the horizon?” After some thought, I still don’t have an answer to that question. But at least now I have lots of sweet rainbow swag! Once again I would like to thank the race directors and the volunteers that made this event possible, I can’t wait until next year.
About the Author: I am a certified ultrarunning coach and endurance sports nutrition coach, nature and animal enthusiast and mother of four. I can usually be found out on a trail somewhere, getting lost and running at my Stevie Nicks pace #goingmyownway. If you have any questions about the race or my race report feel free to reach out to me on Instagram @livingwithsole