Views from the Beaver Flat 50

Beaver Flat 50 to host international mountain and trail running championships

One of the things Jeff Dudar loves most about Saskatchewan hosting the upcoming 2023 NACAC Mountain and Trail Running Championships is how weird it is.

The championships will be held in conjunction with the Beaver Flat 50 race, which happens each September at Saskatchewan Landing Provincial Park. It will be the first time the international event has been held in Saskatchewan.

Dudar, who co-organizes Beaver Flat 50 with his brother, Warren, said they are looking forward to seeing the reactions of athletes travelling from outside of Canada who will likely spend much of the drive from the Saskatoon airport to Saskatchewan Landing wondering where all the hills are.

“Surprising them with the geography and the local environment in the river valley will be incredible,” Dudar says.

As in previous years, open registration for the Beaver Flat 50 is capped at 500 runners and this year’s run sold out in a record 13 hours. If you weren’t able to sign up, check out Beaver Flat’s official transfer hub on Facebook (where participants may sell their bibs) or consider volunteering at the Sept. 16 event.

This week, Jeff Dudar speaks with the Brainsport Times about how the Beaver Flat 50 snagged the championship race and what participants can expect this fall.

Views from the Beaver Flat 50
Views from the Beaver Flat 50

Brainsport Times: How did Beaver Flat 50 come to be hosting the 2023 NACAC Mountain and Trail Running Championships? Was that something you and your brother sought out?

Jeff Dudar: No, not in particular. After last year’s race, Jared Welsh (a program coordinator for Saskatchewan Athletics) contacted us and had an initial conversation saying there was a request for bids from Athletics Canada with respect to being the host race for the championships and asked if we would be interested in putting a bid in. My brother and I decided it would be an awesome opportunity so we worked with him to prepare all the materials for the bid and then made the submission and we heard in January that we were successful.

BT: What was it like getting that news?

JD: It was amazing, it’s incredible. I knew we had a good package that we submitted. And I know the race is really cool and awesome. But I knew there were so many other actual mountain races out there that likely would have made a submission. So it was kind of shocking. We were also really proud of the race and the park and everyone that helped with the submission.

And also there’s this element that it’s kind of weird that Saskatchewan is hosting a mountain and trail running championship. We love that element of it, that weird element of it.

Views from the Beaver Flat 50
Views from the Beaver Flat 50

BT: Despite that weirdness, what makes the Beaver Flat 50 perfect for this event?

JD: It’s perfect because the race is in the range of 2,200 to 2,300 meters of elevation gain and loss, which puts it — at a 50km distance — right on that sweet spot with respect to many of the mountain runs that are held in Canada or the U.S. And there’s a different degree of difficulty with respect to this race because it’s so exposed and because the hills are pretty short and punchy.

BT: For regulars of Beaver Flats, what will look different this fall?

JD: There will be more porta potties, which will be welcomed, I’m sure.

There’s going to be a bit more advertisement and sponsorship. There’ll be more of a presence from Sask. Athletics and Athletics Canada. It’s not going to add a tremendous amount of volume to the area. There will probably be about 100 additional people on top of the 400 to 500 runners that are in attendance already.

Part of the design of the race and the event is to make it a fun atmosphere, very community minded, community oriented, and not a huge corporate event. And so we will stay true to that vision of the race, even with the championships. There will be more vendors and more sponsorship, more visuals and branding around. But, by and large, it should feel kind of like the regular old Beaver Flat 50, but with some more people in tracksuits and from a variety of different countries, which is pretty cool.

Generally there’s people from four or five or six different provinces and a few from the U.S. and, occasionally, from outside of North America, but largely the majority of competitors are from Saskatchewan and Western Canada. Having people travel for the event is not new to the race, but having the ability to showcase Saskatchewan and the race on an international level will be something that is new for us in this capacity.

Views from the Beaver Flat 50
Views from the Beaver Flat 50

BT: Have you considered opening up the size of the open field given intense interest?

JD: We’ve tossed around the idea of opening up more spots in future years, but this is a very nice size for what our vision is for the event and, if we got bigger than that, we just have to start doubling down on volunteers and tents and we think it would get to be something bigger to manage and that’s something that we’re not terribly interested in. Plus the park, from an environmental impact standpoint, likes to keep it at about that number of runners. It’s unfortunate that we have a lot of people that are interested and we have to turn them away, but — for the sake of everything — we have to do that.

This interview has been edited and condensed.