It’s hard to admit what’s painfully true: the summer is more than halfway over and the race season is beckoning—it’s time to start seriously considering what you’re going to race in the fall. The good news is, as the temperature gets cooler and thoughts turn toward pullovers and tights, there are hundreds of great races here at home: Canadian races are some of the best in the world! So, with that in mind, here are ten great events that you can train for right now and will focus your end-of-summer running toward a personal best in the fall.
A marathon and half marathon in Wellington, Ontario, celebrating its nineteenth birthday, this is a race for runners, by runners, and its small town vibe and good natured cheering section makes it a beloved event for those in the know. The event kicks off October 2nd, and the memories last a lifetime.
Alongside the water and reached by ferry via Nova Scotia, this race—celebrating its eighteenth birthday—has events in all distances and is a Boston-qualifier, but I’ll race not to achieve a personal best, but to have a personal best experience: a perfect opportunity to celebrate one of the most beautiful places in the world.
Touted as “the most beautiful nature trail in the world,” this point-to-point course in Saint-Jerome, Quebec, is run in the shadow of the Laurentians, with all the gorgeous scenery and wildlife of southern Quebec. Through the park and amidst the brilliant fall colours, this event—which features solely a marathon and half marathon—sells out quickly. The marathon is October 2 and kicks off at 8 a.m.
Sticking with Quebec and headlined by a second-generation race director, this event makes its triumphant return at the end of September, with every detail ironed out for maximum racing pleasure. There’s a kid’s run and events in every distance, plus a marathon finish line in Olympic Park. Also, what could be more romantic than Montreal in the fall?
An Ontarian tradition with distances between 2K and 21.1K, this scenic, welcoming course cuts through beautiful neighbourhoods and serene landscapes while racers pound out fast times. Alongside the Bronte Harbour, I’ve done this race probably five times and look forward to racing it again this year. With a start date of October 2, it’s a perfect training run for later Ontario marathon events in the fall.
Along the shores of Lake Simcoe, an hour outside of Toronto, the Georgina Marathon—September 11—has come out of nowhere to be a race of choice of many competitive runners in the GTA. This race, pictured up top, is expertly organized, deftly managed and early in the season. The Georgina Marathon is a classic example of the thirst of runners in Canada: there’s always room for one more great race.
In the backyard of the Running Room, this race—a favourite of the Stantons—is known as “the friendly marathon,” and its fast, flat course is sure to become your favourite, too. In its thirty-first year, this event is coming up soon on August 21, so anyone looking for a reason to explore Alberta and kickstart their season, the Edmonton Marathon, which also has a half marathon and 10K, is an exceptional choice.
The November 5 start date makes this event, run along the waterfront and touted as Canada’s number one Boston-qualifier, a beloved tradition in Ontario. There’s stuff for the kids and all sorts of combination races of multiple events for keen participants, but this race—which has generated millions of charity dollars—always attracts lots of familiar faces. One of the most-loved fall races in the world.
Run by iRun columnist Diane Chesla and Henri Ragetlie, two of the kindest people in the running world, this event is like nothing else in the world: it crosses the border in Buffalo and races along the Peace Bridge into Canada. For the scenic views and once in a lifetime experience, the Niagara Falls International Marathon, which first ran in 1974, is a must for any serious Canadian runner. This is a one-of-one singular experience.
The Quebec City Marathon is scenic and iconic and totally reinvigorated for its big post-pandemic return. There’s a 2K for the kids and distances between 5K and the marathon, and the run is like a trip to Europe without leaving the country. For a truly epic running destination, Quebec City, beginning on September 30, can’t be beat.
What can we say about Canada’s Boston, except this is the best run, most popular race in the country, and home to most of the Canadian running records? It’s flat and fast and always has great crowd support and this year, with a new title sponsor, the event gets all sorts of buzzy digital updates and new green initiatives. You have to run Toronto. It’s a right of Canadian passage. See you there.