“We’ve seen lots of kids come out with their parents, and lots of athletes who just want a different kind of challenge,” said Chantal Lalonde, Coureurs de Bois Challenge president and one of the project founders.
Set up within the Lavigne Nature Park off of Marcil Street near the Village of Bourget, the Coureurs de Bois Challenge marks its sixth year of operation and its second year of providing individuals and families with outdoor recreation and fun during the pandemic. The course setup has been modified to meet COVID-19 health safety protocols, but Lalonde noted there is lots of fun for anyone who wants to spend a morning or an afternoon enjoying nature and doing some healthy, walking or running.
This year, as it was last year, the annual Challenge is “virtual” event. Instead of a single weekend gathering of individuals and groups ready to test their mettle running along the paths and dealing with various physical obstacles, the formal Challenge runs all through the month of September, with individuals and groups able to take the course any day of the week, any hour of the day they want, and also at the pace they want.
“So there’s no big gatherings,” Lalonde said, “but we still have the three-kilometre and five-kilometre courses to follow.”
Many of the “big obstacles” are absent from the Challenge course while the pandemic continues. So no climbing walls from four-foot-high to eight-foot to scale.
“But we still have some new challenges along the course that are more like exercises, doing jumping jacks and such,” said Lalonde, with a grin. “And there are all the natural obstacles, like a bit of mud here and there along the trails.”
Last year’s virtual Coureurs de Bois Challenge had at least 1400 participants, both individuals and groups, make their way along the trails during September.
“The word is getting out,” said Lalonde, adding that besides people from around the Clarence-Rockland area enjoying the Challenge, there are participants driving in from the Orléans-Ottawa region and from as far away as Montréal to enjoy a weekend of running around the woods for fun and fitness.
“We’re expecting to see a few hundred or more people coming out on the weekends,” said Lalonde, adding that a special kiosk will be on-site during the September weekends for those who want to buy souvenir Coureurs de Bois Challenge medals. “Some people like to collect these sort of things for every event that they do.”
Lalonde has just one piece of advice to offer for everyone taking part in the Challenge.
“Be prepared to go through the woods, have a good set of running shoes, and be ready to run through or jump into the mud,” she said. “Just enjoy the day, being outside in a natural setting. At these times we all just need to get outdoors.”