It’s winter in Canada, which means that across the country runners must don cleats, moisture-wicking base layers, breathable face masks, gloves and other gear, just to get their miles. Unless they’re lucky enough to be running in Victoria, B.C.
The capital of British Columbia only sees snow a few days a year, and temperatures in this Vancouver Island city are often well above freezing — even in the depths of winter. Add in the fact that this active community boasts an ever-growing network of car-free paths and trails, and you’ll start to understand why Victoria is a runner’s paradise.
Choose your route
- For the marathoner: Three former railways (the Galloping Goose, the Lochside Trail and the E&N Rail Trail) offer distance runners over 100 kilometres of flat track with very few stoplights or cars. Trails are paved or fine-packed gravel, and no motorized transport is allowed — though you’ll have to keep an eye out for fast-moving e-bikes and the occasional horse (if you’re lucky). Access all three near the Johnson Street Bridge in downtown Victoria, or at various points around the city.
- For the trail runner: If you want more hills, the 5.1 km loop around Thetis Lake is a great choice. Views of the lake, healthy Douglas Fir forest, and an up-and-down path that’s challenging without being too narrow. A number of the local mountains also attract trail runners, if you’re OK with a long climb followed by a long descent, and more uneven terrain under foot.
- For the explorer: If you’d prefer to prioritize the view over your PR, head to Dallas Road. You may encounter a few slow-walkers, cyclists, cars, off-leash dogs and parasailers, but the views across the Juan de Fuca straight to Washington’s Olympic Mountains are well worth the stops and starts. The Songhees Walkway is another pretty path along the ocean, and it passes right next to Canada’s oldest brewpub if you need a pitstop.
If you forget your water bottle, need Victoria-specific running gear or just want to check out the local running scene, try Frontrunners, founded, owned and operated on Vancouver Island. Also local? 2:18 Run, owned an operated by Victoria Marathon’s 1986 winner, Phil Nicholls. Robinson’s Outdoor Store isn’t running-specific, but it is locally owned with carefully selected clothing and knowledgable staff; Victoria also has two The Running Room locations.
When you’re muscles are sore and it’s time to recover, what better way to soothe weary legs than a hot-cold contrast bath… in the middle of the ocean!
Hot Tub Boat Victoria offers private rentals of their fleet of wood-stove-fired hot tub boats. Slowly cruise the Upper Harbour and Gorge Waterway soaking in the scenery and soaking sore muscles. When it’s time for a refresh, hop overboard for a brisk dip in the ocean.
Every trip uses fresh, clean hot water, and the stove is pre-stocked with compressed wood and kindling. Use their change room at the bottom of Swift Street right next to Chinatown, and pre-order a charcuterie board to replenish your protein post-workout. Boats can hold up to six people, and you’re sure to have an unforgettable experience!
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