I am standing on the beach of Five Islands Provincial Park on Nova Scotia’s Minas Basin. It’s six in the morning. The world’s largest tides expose an ocean floor of rock, barnacles, clams, crabs, and mud — lots and lots of mud. A skyline of red sand cliffs looms behind us, delaying the sun’s presence. The pace of the receding tide is staggering. I feel a blend of crazed excitement and curiosity.
“Am I really going to put me and my feet through this?” I ask myself. The sun notches above the crimson sandstone wall behind me and splashes the shoreline with light. It all becomes clear. “Hell, yes I am.”
Yeah, I am going to barrel across 10 kms of sharp reef, rock and shell, trudge through shin deep puddles of thick red muck, lose my shoes, and curse my own name. And yeah, I am going to get really, really dirty. I love Not Since Moses!
For four years now, runners have trooped to this shore to get a crack at one of the most awe inspiring and bizarre running experiences out there: Not Since Moses (NSM). The Bay of Fundy provides the backdrop for this unique race along the stunning coastline from Economy to Parrsboro. The tidal flats that stretch out from these maroon beaches are the most expansive on our little blue planet. The flats, paired with the pull of the tide, allow just enough space and time for the runners (and walkers) of the world to get down and dirty over a five or 10km course.
“It’s the only race you will ever see people stop to take pictures along the way — this is by far my favorite part of the province,” says Trail Shop owner and co-race director Joachim Stroink. Together, Joachim and NSM race director Dick Lemon are exposing people to the underappreciated gem of Five Islands and Economy.
This stretch of shoreline gets passed over by a lot of tourists. It’s about an hour West of Truro and on the way to nowhere. However, the stops along the way are worth the drive. The Province’s most popular through hike, Cape Chignecto, offers a huge slice of adventure. The fossil littered beaches in Joggins are reason enough to pile the family into the station wagon and go. Not to mention Five Islands Provincial Park, an array of waterfalls, hikes, and beaches.
In this its fourth year, NSM brought over 1,100 runners, from almost every province in Canada, US states including Alabama, Massachusetts, and Missouri, and a handful of European countries including the UK and Austria. Who knew Moses would be still be making headlines, since he parted the seas all those years ago!
In its first year, 200 people that showed up. The second year, about 300. The third year, the race had to be held twice, once Saturday and again Sunday, to accommodate the growing number of participants, over 300 each day.
For the first three years the race was designed so runners finished on one of the five islands offshore, the namesakes of the village. Upon arriving after five or 10km’s of mud drudging, runners would then wait for the tides to roll back in. Thanks to every boat in the Five Island community everyone was shuttled safely back to the mainland. This race couldn’t have happened without the support of these generous community members.
On the island, runners would hang out on the rocky beach and soak in one of the most unique landscapes in Canada. If they weren’t too tuckered from the run, they could climb several hundred stairs to roam around the 17 acres atop Long Island. This year, with over 1,000 runners, shuttling back and forth from Long Island would have proven too risky, so the race was stretched out along the coast, starting from the beach in Five Island Provincial Park.
Race director Dick Lemon reflects on the latest route for NSM: “Runners who did the island course before this new one were kind in their comments. Being mainly Nova Scotian, they are kind no matter what. The new course is way more beautiful to me, a better course, and one of the top courses in the world for its interest, oddness, and beauty. The cliffs which greet runners as they turn the rocky corner of the Old Wife rock formation are jaw dropping, and they cannot be seen except by boat or by the NSM runners. I knew almost from the first run I took that I had to share this ecstasy with other runners.”
Running on the wet, moonlike surface of the rocky ocean floor releases the kid in you. So it makes perfect sense that The Basket Run, the 250m or 500m kids’ run, has grown rapidly too. It had almost 200 young speed demons get dirty early race day morning.
Rob Chambers, founding member of the Halifax Trail Running Club, watched his four year old daughter Elliot participate in her first Basket Run. “I have always tried to expose Elliot to exciting outdoor opportunities,” he says. “I could think of nothing better than running in the mud on the ocean floor! The excitement in the kids as we set things up was awesome. We couldn’t say ‘Go!’ soon enough! After the race we washed up, took some photos, and headed back home. After ice cream, Elliot fell asleep faster than you can say “Mud Fight!” I looked in my review mirror at my sleeping little girl, covered in ice cream and mud–with her medal proudly hanging from her neck.”
Not Since Moses is part of the explosion of trail running as a sport in this province. Runners are looking for something different from the honking of traffic and the familiar bend in the road. Running in the woods, or on the ocean floor, brings you back to a time in your life when we ran simply to run! To go fast, to jump over stick and stone and root, with no other goal in mind besides having fun.
All the funds for this race are poured directly back into the community. A fund has been created where people can apply for small business start up loans, and for students to apply for grants and travel opportunities. Local fire departments and Fundy Tourism have also benefitted from the generosity of Dick Lemon and the hordes he brings back every year.
The red shores of Five Islands and the monstrous tides of the Bay of Fundy are begging you to sink your toes into the mud and have some fun. See you next year!
Look for Not Since Moses registration for 2011 to open up in early spring 2011 on www.notsincemoses.com.
Brian Conoley is store manager (Wolfville) and Random Adventure Developer for The Trail Shop.