If you are a frequent reader of the sports pages, you may recall a previous article featuring the incredible Jon Sheppard after he finished the “Canadian Death Race” this past September. It was a 120km run through the Canadian wilderness that called for 21 hours, 22 minutes and 21 seconds to accomplish. On the night of January 18th, in Vernon, B.C, Sheppard added to his stunning running resume after winning the “Dirty Feet Snowshoe Run”. Yes, you read correctly: snowshoe running. A relatively unknown, niche sport that involves running in snowshoes – far more strenuous than regular running.
“There were 74 people signed up for the 5K, and 21 signed up for the 10K. The actual distance of the race was about 8.5 kilometres, I ran it in a time of 1:12:55,” Stated Sheppard. “There is a different feel to running at night with a headlamp on due to the shadows cast, but you get familiar with it over time, so that helped me in being comfortable out on the trails. Experience in running on snowshoes and in deep snow also came in handy as not too many people run in deep snow, which gave me a small advantage.”
Snowshoeing has been around for centuries – first used by Indigenous tribes as a way to survive and navigate through the deep, snowy conditions. The oldest shoe in the world was discovered in a mountain range of northern Italy, which dates back to between 3800 and 3700 B.C. Obviously, handcrafting and innovation has come a long way since then. You can now find particular types of snowshoes on the market designed for running: a more practical offering than the original prototype.
“When you are snowshoe running, it is fairly similar to running on trails, but with a slightly wider running gait. It is more taxing on the body because the snow collects on your snowshoes, making them heavier than just regular shoes. Running through the deep snow takes its toll as well,” Sheppard explained.
Organized racing has been around since the 1970s and is continuing to grow. It is now a recognized sport by the International Olympic Committee and is governed by the World Snowshoe Federation, which was founded in 2010. Snowshoe running is also part of the Special Olympics and the Arctic Winter Games.
“The culture of snowshoe running is very similar to regular trail running, which is more laid back than road running. Lots of high-fives and everybody cheering for each other. Generally, it involves less competition than road running, less spandex, and increased love of the outdoors,” Sheppard said.
If you are interested in a great workout and the experience of a niche activity, you can find a pair of snowshoes at most sports stores. If you are not willing to fully commit to buying a pair, Runners Sole, a sports store in Kamloops, rents them out to curious individuals. Dirty Feet, a company out of Kamloops that puts on various endurance events throughout the region, will host several more snowshoe racing competitions, the most recent one coming this February 2nd, at Stake Lake – only a 20-minute drive from Kamloops. Check out their website for details.