The Banff Marathon, Half Marathon and 10K will offer one of the planet’s most incredible and beautiful running experiences, all in Canada’s first National Park. Starting in the picturesque village of Banff, participants will flow through a series of incredible natural, wildlife, and historical stages as they pass by the serene Vermilion Lakes and journey along the stunning Bow Valley Parkway. The return trek will travel alongside the Bow River and over Banff’s famous bridges finishing to cheering crowds in Banff’s downtown Central Park. Each stage is a different chapter of the Valley’s story and is represented by an icon that is relevant to the area and its significance – the “Bow Valley Experience”.
The journey finishes in famous and picturesque downtown Banff. JB Harkin – first commissioner of Canada’s National Parks, formed the national parks service in 1911. Harkin promoted conservation as well as enjoyment of the parks, encouraging visitors to experience their surroundings believing it was good for health and vitality.
Just west of here the parkway climbs, dips and winds through the "Hillsdale Slide". Geologists believe those hills and dales were created when the last great glacier melted from the Bow Valley. Hillsdale Meadow is one of the richest habitats and easiest travel routes for wildlife. For many early Banff residents, a picnic in the sunny meadows at Hillsdale was a summer tradition.
The Sawback Mountain Range stretches for approximately thirty-five kilometres from the Bow Valley to the headwaters of the Cascade River. The Bow Valley between Lake Louise and Banff is used by one of Banff National Park’s wolf packs. Often referred to as “Tireless Travellers”, wolves in the Rockies must wander widely, following the valley pathways through the mountains. A wolf may traverse ten times the typical range of wolves in the flatter, more productive terrain of eastern Canada. After eradication from the park in the 1950s, wolves returned for good in 1982 and have been living – and to some extent thriving in parts of the park ever since.
Fire has played a leading role for thousands of years in shaping national park landscapes through lightning and aboriginal-set fires. Like avalanches or floods, this natural process stimulates new plant growth and contributes to a mixture of habitats that supports a variety of animal species. During much of the 20th century, fires were seen as a dangerous element that destroyed wildlife and detracted from scenic beauty. To restore the important role of fire, Parks Canada now uses prescribed burns, which was first used in Banff National Park in 1983. This helps ensure the ecological sustainability of ecosystems.
Distance to finish: 11.8km
Mule Shoe Lake is a horseshoe-shaped pond that was once a large bend, or meander, in the Bow River. When the river found a shortcut, the meander was isolated. Seasonal flooding of old river channels like this creates still water and wet shoreline habitats that are not common in the mountains, thus adding diversity to the Bow Valley. Here you can sometimes find elk herds grazing.
Across the valley, Brewster Creek empties into the Bow River. All the sand and gravel deposited by the creek has forced the river to shift its course towards this viewpoint, creating a marshy wetland or "backswamp" where the Bow River once flowed. Off in the distance is Mount Bourgeau, rising to an elevation of 2930m. Here you can see Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep trails criss-crossing the mountainside. Easily confused with Mountain Goats, Bighorn Sheep have a beige-brown coat of fur, curled horns (on the males), and are generally found at lower elevations. Local birds in this area include Ospreys, Great Blue Herons, and Ravens.
The Banff Legacy Trail was built in honour of Banff National Park’s 125th Anniversary in 2010. What started in 1885 with the descovery of hot springs at the Cave & Basin has resulted in the largest protected system of national parks in the world today. The Legacy Trail is a testament to, and celebration of, the values of the national park, encouraging visitors and Bow Valley residents to explore the landscape in a new and environmentally friendly way. It stretches from the east gate near Canmore, and connects with the Bow Valley Parkway, providing a scenic route all the way to Lake Louise.
The Vermilion Lakes are a large wetland area of sedge and willow flats, rich woodlands and shallow water bodies connected by many small channels. Stands of mature white spruce blanket wet moist areas in low mountain valleys bordering the three lakes. At the third lake (furthest from the Town of Banff), see if you can smell the sulphur and see a small hot spring. The Lakes are a serene and tranquil area and as such there will be no race infrastructure in this area – the participant will be allowed to enjoy this special place alone as they near the end of their journey.
Sulphur Mountain was named in 1916 for the hot springs on its lower slopes, including an area now known as the Cave and Basin National Historic Site. Recently reopened in May 2013 after extensive renovations, this is the birthplace of Banff National Park and the entire Parks Canada System. One of the earliest pioneers to ascend the heights of Sulphur Mountain was park meteorologist and museum curator Norman Bethune Sanson. Sanson first climbed the mountain on snowshoes in 1896 in order to record weather observations for the Banff area. In 1903, a meteorological observatory building was completed atop Sanson Peak. This building still exists and visitors can look through a window to see its interior complete with rustic furnishings.
Banff's history is connected to the expansion of railways across Canada. In 1883 the first transcontinental railway passed through Banff, connecting to Laggan Station in Lake Louise, and eventually all the way to the west coast, helping bring British Columbia in to Canada. The railway station in Banff is a two-storey, Arts & Crafts style railway station, built in 1910. Originally built for the Canadian Pacific Railway, it was declared a heritage railway station by the federal government in 1991. Today, the railway station is used by the Rocky Mountaineer and Canadian Pacific Railway, as both a scenic visitor route and critical freight route across the country.
The journey finishes in famous and picturesque downtown Banff. JB Harkin - first commissioner of Canada's National Parks, formed the national parks service in 1911. Harkin promoted conservation as well as enjoyment of the parks, encouraging visitors to experience their surroundings believing it was good for health and vitality.