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Running a real race

Welcome to STORMY, otherwise known as a gruelling 67-km sufferfest of epic endurance proportions - and one of the most hard-core trail running races to be found anywhere in North America.

Welcome to STORMY, otherwise known as a gruelling 67-km sufferfest of epic endurance proportions - and one of the most hard-core trail running races to be found anywhere in North America.

According to race director Paul Cubbon, more than 80 "crazy people" have signed up to compete in the event, which encompasses the same route as the annual Test of Metal mountain biking madness race - hence the name, Squamish Test of Running Metal - Yeah!

"If the guys and gals can bike it, we can run it," he said.

The race is known as an "Ultra" trail running event, due to its length which is more than the standard 42-km marathon distance. Now in its fourth year, the race has experienced the type of growth and popularity that has skyrocketed the Test of Metal's reputation as one of the top mountain biking races in North America, if not the world.

"Our aim is to make it the biggest Ultra trail race in B.C.," said Cubbon. "We need about 200 runners and that's what we're aiming for."

The Kneeknacker in Vancouver, currently in its 16th year, holds that distinction, attracting almost 180 runners annually.

STORMY organizers are well on their way however, with a loyal following and an increase in the number of first-time competitors each year.

"We get people coming back year after year because they like the race and the whole weekend up here," said Cubbon. "And every year, more than half of the runners are first time racers. It's often their first off-road race, and as a result, the event is always growing in size."

Last year, a total of 63 runners finished the demanding race, with North Vancouver's Gordon Corby taking the top position on the podium in a time of 5:12, and the top finisher in the men's 40-49 category.

Local runners Jody Parry, Sean McCreanor and Scott Paxton all posted excellent results last year, and will be competing again in 2004.

Paxton is a rarity in the endurance sports world, and one of Squamish's best endurance athletes. Paxton will be pulling off the one-two punch again this year, competing in both the Test of Metal and STORMY in the same year.

"It's his third consecutive year of double madness," said Cubbon.

STORMY is part of the Iron Lung Trail Series, Canada's largest trail running series, comprised of nine races held between February and October in British Columbia. From the Grouse Mountain Snowshoe Classic through to the Iron Lung Finale, the nine events that make up this series represent the best that trail running in B.C. has to offer - challenging courses, spectacular vistas, friendly faces, and an incredible community of runners with a shared passion for trails. STORMY is the longest race in the circuit, and the seventh stop in the series.

The race starts bright and early at 6 a.m., which is typical for 'Ultra' runs of this size and scope. Runners will be challenged by the technical demands of the course, by both elevation gain and the hopping and jumping over roots, rocks and puddles in the forested sections of the course. If that isn't enough, there's always the dreaded and psychologically tough bonk hill to look forward to.

"The trails are more fun than the road and this course is very runnable. There are great views and wonderful hospitality and helpfulness from all of the Squamish volunteers," said Cubbon. "It's really a great race."

STORMY is also part of the British Columbia Ultra Trailrunning series (BCUTS), which features seven ultramarathon trail races held in B.C. between March and September.

Although the race is physically demanding and requires a certain level of fitness to compete in, race organizers encourage anyone to experience STORMY to see what the buzz is all about.

"It's about letting your crazy side come out, but anybody who is reasonably fit and determined could come out and surprise themselves," Cubbon said.

"Some people have come up to me after the race and have said it's the best thing they've ever done in their life."

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