Recounting the Louis Riel Relay
- Joel Pedersen | July 25, 2018
The Louis Riel Relay has a long tradition of being a challenging adventure race, it started in Saskatoon back in the 1980’s, and stopped due to location challenges. The race just completed its third year, back to the historical location of Batoche. This year my friend Felix asked me to join his team to finish the last leg of the race, which is the run. I don’t usually run sprint distances, more of the longer type runs. Always up for a new challenge, and grateful for inviting me to be part of the team I said yes.
For anyone who has not visited the rich historical area of Batoche, you will find an interactive Parks Canada Pavilion, part of the actual village that is still functional. The battlegrounds of the battle of Batoche, and a true appreciation for what it must have been like to live in a Metis community.
A privilege to be able to be part of an adventure race that remembers and honours the man Louis Riel. The course starts near the original church, where the mountain bikers set off on challenging gravel and field trails, they meet the horseback riders who gallops across the field portion. The baton is passed to the pack runner who has a 30lb pack, they run down to the banks of the South Saskatchewan River, where they meet the teams canoe. Two paddlers and the pack runner go up river against the current, through the ever-present rocks that have now made this part of the river into rapids.
Once they have reached the landing location the pack runner negotiates the steep climb up the bank that joins into some trails. The pack runner makes their way up to, and around the cemetery to the archery range. The archer then shoots three targets if they miss a time penalty is placed on the team. With this completed the last part of the race is a 3.8km sprint, challenging figure eight route that is constantly changing, not your average sprint type of ground.
Its path starts off towards the cemetery and down the trail that cuts into the bush, up a steep bank towards the old east village through the battlegrounds of Batoche. Along the cut trail back towards the buildings of the village, crossing over again near the cemetery to the last part of the loop. Along the river bank as the trail winds up onto the plateau, around the zareba area then past the visitor’s centre, finally towards the old church and the finish line. The detail of the route was awesome, lots of park staff and volunteers, for the competitor’s both team and individual it was a challenge for all.
Race day started off as a typical July prairie day, sunny and hot for the earlier non-competitive races, as we started our race the sky’s started to get dark. With a slight delay due to a thunderstorm that rolled in, the grasslands and bush along the riverbank was wet the air crisp the race continued. I imagined what it might have been like as a dispatch runner trying to relay information from different positions around Batoche.
Our team had a lead coming into the transition from the archery challenge. As I started my run portion I knew the team following, my friend Norman Mackenzie’s team was strong with his daughter Taryn running, and his son Christian with the bow.
My plan was to run quickly on the flats and pace on the hills. I found out after the first 500meters the effect of sprint running on the lungs and the legs. I decided not to look back, as the trail through the bush had roots and dips that one could easily trip, not like a road or track race, and I didn’t want my focus to be pulled away if other runners were catching up.
As I took in the scenic river valley trail and historic location, I realized that it had been almost four years since my family and I had run together to Batoche from Saskatoon in an Honour run.
My pace felt quick, I was breathing heavy and labored, my legs felt heavy the way they do after a marathon or triathlon; the sun was starting to get hot again as the sky were now clear. My mind was now starting to question if I should keep the pace, I felt like I should slow down or catch my breath. I gave a prayer for strength and honour run for my family, a light wind started which cooled me down and felt like an added push.
Soon I could see the church and the finish line, I finally looked back and to my surprise no one in sight. I kept my pace right up to the last few meters and crossed the finish line for team Stanley Mission’s third year in a row first place. Megwich to: George Roberts-mountain bike; Wilfred Mckenzie-pack run; Lionel and his son Lionel Jr Mckenzie-canoe; Charmaine Fluery-archery; Horse Rider-Ranger Rick; Felix Merasty-coach.
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