by Cindy Lapeña
Prince Edward Island is such a tiny province, most of the world probably hasn't even heard of it. When you look at a full map of Canada, you can barely see it--it's about the size of the head of a pin in those interactive "pin-your-province" survey questions, and even much tinier when you're looking at a map of the world. I found the map below showing PEI in relation to the other maritime provinces, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and Maine, which is about as big as all three Maritime Provinces and then some. With such a tiny footprint, cradled away in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, sheltered from nearly all types of weather anomalies, it doesn't look like there's even enough room to run on PEI. Surprise, surprise. I just found out that there are 3,171 running routes and 23 running courses on PEI. Who would've thought?
There's a nifty website called Map My Run that gives up this information and a whole lot more, so if you're looking for somewhere to run on PEI, that's the place to go. Alternatively, you can buy a road map of PEI, or just do what most people do—ask around when you’re lost.
I personally think that, if you really wanted to walk or run, you can do it just about anywhere, as long as there's a sidewalk, or a road, or a reasonably clear space. If I were to take up walking or running seriously, I might go to the default location where everyone likes to go: the Victoria Park Boardwalk in Charlottetown. Everyone also knows about the PEI Confederation Trail, which used to be the railroad track that ran across the island but which has been converted to a walking/running trail since the trains stopped running in 1968. Seriously, just walking down St. Peter's Road from my home to the Sherwood Business Park (a fancy name for where the nearest Tim Horton's and Lawton's Pharmacy are located) is a major walk for me. If you're a beginner, though, you'll be looking for those routes that are under 1K. Scoff not at me, serious runner! I can't run, at least, not since I had a broken ankle several years ago, and not in my wildest dreams since being traumatically rear-ended more recently. If I were, say, a few decades younger, I might still even consider it, but the most I can muster is a few minutes on a glider or a step machine while listening to Boomer make one of his fearless predictions. I loved to run when I was in elementary school--feel the wind in my face--until I tripped on an uneven cobblestone, flew a few meters into the air, and landed with a scraping stop on seven points: hands, knees, elbows, and face. That cost me a few minutes off school, a few days of limping painfully, and a porcelain crown for a front tooth. I've stuck to walking since.
So, back to routes for beginners. Of the 23 courses listed in Map My Run, 14 are under 1K, so that's really good news for those who think they might not be able to survive more than 1K. The longest run listed, so far, is 67.17 km, or a 65 km loop on Rte. 5 and Rte. 3, starting in Charlottetown and running east towards Perth and back. Of course, this site only contains routes and courses that have been mapped by runners, or run organizers.
If you really want to get around the island via trails and take in a good whiff of nature while enjoying the sights, which is really a good way to sublimate the pain and agony of running, the site to visit is Island Trails PEI. Of course, these are mainly walking trails, albeit excellent ones, and the words “nature trail” attached to the trail names might suggest climbing over rocks and up and down narrow paths, which is what you’ll get in the Winter River Trail. The idea, I suppose, is to avoid anything labeled a “woodland trail.” The Confederation Trail can be taken in stages or shorter runs, but its 435 will take you all across PEI from the western tip of Tignish to the eastern tip of Elmira. It’s a smooth trail that’s wide enough for snowmobilers in winter and cyclists are known to use it the rest of the year. Of the trail, 110 km are part of Canada’s International Appainlachian Trail, starting at the Confederation Bridge at Borden-Carlton and ending in Wood Island, where you can take a ferry to Nova Scotia to pick up where you left off. Parks Canada has numerous trails throughout the island, many of which are easy to walk because they are, literally, boardwalks, but who’s to stop anyone from running? Just watch out for those gaps between the boards. PEI also has 16 designated scenic heritage roads, old roads that are generally unpaved—which should make for a softer run on PEI’s red island earth—and, as the name suggests, scenic, which means lots of trees and small villages. Spring is not a good time to run on these roads, though, because they can get quite muddy and users are warned to watch for bumps, turns, and twists, as well as the occasional farm vehicle, a.k.a. tractor. Biking trails are more likely better-suited to running because bikes need a smoother surface than hikers, so look up those bike trails in the Island Trails PEI website as well.
If you really aren’t particular about distracting yourself while you run, it’s challenging enough to take in the roads; just keep to the side and remember, vehicles rule. That’s something you need to remember, particularly since not all roads have sidewalks built along them. There are no mountains on PEI, just lots of hills inland and beaches all around (running on a beach, I hear, is really good training) and if you’re not much into walking, any little hill will feel like a mountain after a few minutes of climbing. You’ll get a good variety of elevations if you run far enough (I won’t say long enough, because you could be a really slow runner and not get very far in a very long time, which is probably what I would be like if I even tried) and even the housing is picturesque, assuming you have any energy to even look around while you’re running.
Living up to its name of the smallest province in Canada, despite having the longest province name, PEI also has the smallest population—with only 146+ thousand people, of which 34+ thousand are in the capital city, and a total of about 64+ thousand in metropolitan Charlottetown, which is a little over 798 square kilometers and has a population density of about 81 people per square kilometer. All that means is, you’re not likely to bump to a whole lot of people while running, although you might see several vehicles within the city, a whole lot less past the central district. What there is a lot of, is fresh air, sunshine, cool breezes, and friendly people who’ll be happy to point you along, that is, when you do come across them. You can always run in place or slow down to a walk and chat for a second (hardly likely) or an hour (which is more likely on PEI) because the PEI Marathon has walking categories, after all!