ORLAND — As anyone who has trudged through deep snow this winter can attest, it’s a good physical workout.
Having several feet of snow on the ground is a boon for participants in competitive snowshoe running. Jennifer VanDongen of Bar Harbor, an accomplished trail and road runner, is hooked on the sport. She was the female winner at the 13th annual Wildlands Snowshoe Race on Saturday, Feb. 14. She was third overall, finishing the 4.9-mile course with a time of 55:04.
Robin Clarke of Ellsworth was seventh. Bar Harbor runners Lori Alley and Linda Parker finished in ninth and 13th place, respectively.
“It’s fun. It’s good to be off the roads in the winter, VanDongen said. “I love trail running, and someone told me, ‘Hey, you can snowshoe run!’ It’s a way to get out in the park in the winter.” Running in the woods, where most courses are held, is also a little warmer because the trees help block the wind.
An accomplished marathoner, VanDongen said the energy required to snowshoe a 10k race is roughly equivalent to running a full marathon.
“At some of the races last year, there wasn’t enough snow, so we had to run it in spikes,” VanDongen said. Organizers have not had to worry this winter; in fact, one person goes out ahead of the race, walking, to break trail. “That breaks the snow up and packs it down a little bit,” she said. “It helps you find the trail, too!”
Racing snowshoes are narrower and shorter than the standard version, she said, making it easier to avoid knocking the shoes against each other.
The state championship races, 5k for junior divisions and 10k for adults, were held at the Rangeley Lakes Trails Center earlier this month. They also host the Rangeley Moose Dash 5k race on Sunday, March 22.
Closer to home, the Bangor YMCA plans a race Saturday, Feb. 28, at Camp Jordan in Ellsworth. The Wilderness Center Snowshoe Race is sanctioned by the US Snowshoe Association (USSSA).
The event features a 1k kids run to begin at 10:30 a.m., a 5k for ages 14 and up for all skill levels, and a competitive 10k for competitive racers. The 5k and 10k races begin at 11 a.m.
Entry fees are $5-25 depending on the race, which includes a swag bag of goodies, a finishers’ medal, a well-marked and supported course and post-race refreshments. Contact the Bangor YMCA for more information.