Mad Moose:

🕔Jul 16, 2009

The Mad Moose Marathon doesn’t even pretend to be a family-friendly, bring-the-kids and oh-c’mon-you-can-do-it kind of event. In fact, it comes with a disclaimer, a warning of sorts to the faint-of-heart and the heavy-footed, that if you find yourself groaning and gasping for breath somewhere in the hinterland beyond Prince George, you’re on your own: “This is a challenging and difficult course!! If you are not sufficiently trained or in condition—don’t kid yourself—pick another event.”

Its organizers make no apologies.
“One of the things that Richard and I wanted to do was keep it kind of low-key,” Shane Hoehn says. “We’re definitely a little bit cheeky on the website.”

The Mad Moose hit the ground running three years ago when Hoehn, owner of Prince George running shop Stride and Glide Sports, and his co-chair, Richard Stewart, identified a gap left in the Prince George race scene after the local Family YMCA Road Race stopped holding a marathon event. The first year, they decided to go ahead with the race just three weeks before the event, still managing to attract nearly 70 participants, eight of which ran the full marathon.

The next year, more than 100 racers attended, with 11 marathoners braving the backcountry running trails between UNBC and the Otway Nordic Centre. This year, the organizers hope to attract more than 150 participants to the Sept. 20 event.

Cantankerous cow
Starting at Otway ski area, the route begins with a six-kilometre loop through the Nordic centre before connecting with the Cranbrook Hill Greenway Trail, taking runners its 18-kilometre length to UNBC, before turning them around and heading back. Along the way, there is only the odd water stop and a bit of wildlife to keep the runners company. Which brings us to the race’s quirky name.

The Mad Moose honours a surly cow moose that used to hang around UNBC, notoriously chasing students indoors on their lunch break and generally creating havoc on the campus.

“This one was sort of psychotic,” Stewart remembers. “It was quite a miserable creature.”

Despite the fact that the cantankerous cow hasn’t been spotted in recent years, it’s no wonder that competitors are required to register at checkpoints along the trail, so that organizers know to go searching if someone hasn’t been accounted for.

“There’s eight or nine kilometres where you’re basically left to your own devices,” Stewart says. “It’s great because there’s always lots of mud and water to run through and you always get nice and dirty.
“I think the fact that we use that trail and connect that trail to the community is something that people think, ‘Hey, that’s pretty cool.’”

Prepared for emergencies
Local ski patrollers do first-aid bike patrols during the race and last year a quad was available for emergencies. (As a result, the race makes donations to Otway, Greenway Trail Society and the local ski patrol.) Despite the potential for serious injury in a remote area, it seems the only catastrophes have occurred to Stewart: The first year, the organizer got lost and ran two extra kilometres; the following year, he twisted his ankle.

“I think Richard has probably provided the most comic relief,” Hoehn laughs about how his co-chair managed to lose his way on the very same stretch of trail he had marked. “I was a little unsure how he managed that.”

Despite his mishaps, the self-proclaimed “marathon maniac” hasn’t been deterred from running. Stewart ran his first marathon in 1988 and has barely slowed down since. He recently ran five marathons in five weeks—including two on the same weekend—and ran his 50th marathon this June in Smithers. In this, his 56th year, he hopes to complete his 56th marathon, along with plans for three marathons in three days this November.

“There are some really good athletic people available in Prince George,” Stewart says.

With the race continuing to grow each year, it’s obvious that the organizing team’s warnings haven’t managed to deter all potential participants. Perhaps their honesty has helped attract the most adventurous marathoners, at very least keeping the race small and somewhat elite.

“That was one of the things we wanted to do was not only make it fun for the participants, but fun for us, too,” Hoehn says. “If we weren’t completely politically correct at all times, that was OK.”
For more information, go to or call Richard Stewart: 250-640-0457