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Banff Jasper Relay returns next week

Peter Shokeir | editor@fitzhugh.ca

The Banff Jasper Relay is pounding pavement once again with the 260-kilometre relay going along the scenic mountain route from Banff to Jasper on June 4.

Race director Chelsea Medcalfe, who has run the relay before, described the event as “the most beautiful relay in the world.”

“It really is a privilege to be able to run in these national parks and it’s a lot of fun,” she said.

“It’s a team event, so you’re there cheering on your teammates, supporting your teammates the entire race. They’re there supporting you during your leg as well.”

The relay is run on the shoulder of the highways facing traffic and completed in 15 stages, each one ranging between 13 and 21 kilometres.

“It’s teams of 15, so people register as a team as a whole at 15, and then they decide within their own teams who runs what leg based on their level of difficulty and elevation and all of that,” Medcalfe said.

From 1980 to 2000, the relay originally went from Jasper to Banff and was discontinued due to safety concerns with running at nighttime.

The race was resurrected in 2005 as the Banff Jasper Relay that was only run during the daytime and thus split into two separate phases.

“That way, they can be run simultaneously and have everybody run during daylight hours and finish in Jasper,” Medcalfe said.

The South Phase, which includes stages one to six, begins at Castle Mountain Junction just north of Banff and ends at Saskatchewan River Crossing.

The North Phase covers the remaining stages, starting at Saskatchewan River Crossing and ending in Jasper.

This year, 26 teams—roughly 400 people—have signed up, which is less than the maximum 60 teams allowed by Parks Canada.

Medcalfe said this low turnout is primarily due to many people still catching up on travelling and getting back to normal after two years of COVID lockdowns.

As the weather has also been cooler than usual so far this year, organizers will monitor conditions and make any changes as needed.

The race goes all day June 4 and concludes with a post-race dinner celebration in Jasper.

Proceeds go to supporting the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada.

Although the relay was held virtually last year, it had 300 runners and raised over $20,000.

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