Following a pause through the COVID pandemic and the 2022 windstorm that destroyed much of the course’s location, the Coureurs des Bois Challenge obstacle course is back, and organizers have pulled out all the stops for the bravest adventurers of Eastern Ontario.
First organized by Chantal Lalonde to raise funds for a local Girl Scouts troupe in 2016, the Coureurs des Bois race has taken on a whole new look for its fifth edition with new obstacles, challenges and entertainment for participants and audience members.
Newly appointed president Jean-François Belisle, formerly vice-president of the organizing committee since the race’s first edition, said he has been working with the committee and a core group of volunteers to make sure the race’s first year back is a fresh experience for everyone.
“It’s kind of like starting all over again for us,” said Belisle.
Throughout the pandemic, the team set up a series of exercises the race community could do on their own along the paths in Bourget’s Lavigne Nature Park, where the race is normally held. Though that was an appreciated substitute, Belisle knows the avid racers are looking forward to the real thing.
“People really enjoyed that,” said Belisle. “But, in talking with some of the racers, I know they really missed the actual obstacles. So, they’re looking forward to a real race with real obstacles.”
To welcome them back, the team of 15 or so volunteers has reorganized the course and are adding in some new challenges as they build the course over the next few weekends to get ready for the September 30 race day.
“We have three new obstacles this year,” Belisle said. “It’s going to be a surprise for the racers when they get there, but they’ll definitely notice a difference.”
Belisle said the team knows not to expect the same turnout as they did in 2019 as they rebuild the race’s visibility post-pandemic.
“Our mentality is we are starting from scratch, and we are hoping to get the same support we got from the first year.”
Over the last four races, the Coureurs des Bois Challenge has raised more than $70,000 for local causes that support physical activity and helping people experience the outdoors. Belisle hopes they can match the participation from 2016, which saw more than 1000 people take part.
The team has also organized more prizes for all participants, not just those registered in the Elite group like in past years. This year, local businesses have donated a range of gifts like stand-up paddle boards, kayaks and gift cards to be part of a draw, giving every racer a chance to come away with some goodies.
Along with local kiosks and live music on race day, local comic Jonathan Dion will be emceeing the event.
Registration is open for those looking to test their abilities, and organizers continue to accept donations and volunteers. Those interested in participating, supporting or volunteering can visit www.deficoureursdesbois.com for more information.