On the Hunt



With more than 160 km of trails and multi-use paths, Edmonton’s river valley is a runner’s paradise. 

“You can’t beat it,” says Sam Hunt. 

He recently placed fifth in the half-marathon at the Servus Edmonton Marathon. He was also the top Canadian at the 2023 London Marathon, with a time of two hours, 37 minutes and 38 seconds.

Hunt credits his dad and the Edmonton Marathon for kickstarting his journey as a long-distance athlete in 2012. A decade later, the river valley and local running groups are helping him excel. 

Hunt recently talked about his achievements, his love of running and Edmonton. 

Q: When did you get interested in running?

A: One of my earliest memories is my dad running the Edmonton Marathon in 1995. I was about four years old at the time. I just remember thinking: ‘Wow, my dad, my hero did this really incredible thing.’ It's just always kind of been this thing in my mind —it would be really cool to do that one day. So about 11 years ago, I signed up for a 10K clinic at The Running Room and then I was connected with this group of runners called the Terwillegar Coffee Crew. They really fostered my love for running.


Three people with their backs to the camera run toward an overhead sign that says Edmonton Marathon.
A group of runners at the Edmonton Marathon in August 2023.


Q: How did the Terwillegar Coffee Crew help you? 

A: Back in the day, I would’ve run with them two to three times a week. Anywhere from a nice six kilometres to 30K on Sundays. It was just this like-minded group of people that loved running and hanging out together. Most of them do it recreationally, so, they're not like a speedy group—and I say that with all due respect. They're really more about the enjoyment of it and being part of that group really got me to enjoy it as well. 

When I moved [to another neighbourhood], I started running with another group—Fast Trax. They were a faster group, so that fosters your ability to run faster. 

Q: What was your first marathon like? 

A: That was the Edmonton Marathon in 2013 on the old course that started and ended at Northlands. It was fun. I ended up crashing at about 30K because I didn’t really focus on mid-race nutrition in my training. I only started thinking about it a week before the race and all my friends were like: ‘You waited too long, you’re screwed.’ And they were right. I ended up finishing in three hours, 15 minutes and 27 seconds. It was a good debut. And my dad was there to watch. That was great. But I felt like I could probably do a bit better. 


A runner rounds the corner on a street as he races in the Edmonton Marathon, followed by two people on bicycles.
Sam Hunt runs through Parkview as he races in the half-marathon of the Servus Edmonton Marathon on August 20, 2023.


Q: When did you notice that you were really starting to progress with your running?

A: Probably from the Edmonton Marathon. I was only about 10 minutes below the qualifying standard for the Boston Marathon and I was kind of naive and thought: ‘Ten minutes? That’s not far off.’ So my next race was in Vancouver in May of 2014 and I was able to do it in three hours and 18 seconds, so I qualified for Boston. There, I finished in three hours, 13 minutes and 57 seconds. It’s a tougher course and I was a bit injured, I had stress fractures in my shin. So I trained and raced against doctor’s orders. That gave me a taste of world major marathon racing and I’ve gone on to do four—including New York and London. Berlin will be my fifth.

Q: How does the Edmonton Marathon compare to other cities?


A: I really like running fast and flat courses, so Edmonton stacks up nicely.


The elevation here is a little higher than a lot of major cities that are closer to sea level. When the course goes into the Crestwood area, it’s very green and beautiful. It’s a nice course. 

Q: What do you like about running? 

A: It’s something I’m good at. I was never an elite athlete at anything else. I played the lowest division hockey when I was a kid. Running just seems to come naturally to me.


Groups of people walk along a paved path next to a road on their left and some trees and the North Saskatchewan River on their right.
River Valley Road is a popular destination for runners, walkers and cyclists.


Q: Where do you like to run? 

A: The river valley. I used to live in Rossdale and it was an absolutely perfect place to live if you want to be a runner. River Valley Road’s shared-use path is great. Mill Creek Ravine is very nice.  

Q: Do you have any memories of your dad running the Edmonton Marathon in 1995?

A: Yeah, vaguely.  I was a big Batman fan at the time, so I was dressed as Batman. My dad was coming up to the finish line and we’re there and he sees me and he wanted me to cross the finish line with him. But being Batman, you know, I was in the middle of fighting crime, so I couldn’t be bothered to do that. I had to wait a few years to cross the finish line on my own.