Grapes of Wrath Niagara Canada Review



One of the most scenic areas of Southern Ontario is the Niagara wine region. Rolling hills, miles and miles of vineyards make this a spectacular backdrop for an obstacle race, and a great way to spend a summer Saturday morning. 

Set on the beautiful estate winery ground of the 13th Street Winery, we passed rows of grapevines and harvesting equipment, before we could see evidence of the race itself. The winery owners kindly donate the use of their grounds for this 5k obstacle race every year. The event is presented by the Canadian Cancer Society, and proceeds go to the Canadian Cancer Society Wheels of Hope Transportation Program, which provides patients in need of cancer treatment with a ride to the facility where their particular treatment is offered. For 2013 they raised over $165,000! This is a great charity, and there is a lot of participation by cancer survivors and their family and friends. 


Being a small once a year event has it’s challenges. Many of these events do not have the quality on the course, or the organization experience, to pull of a truly great event. The Spartans, Tough Mudders, and similar large organizations are able to spread the cost of designing difficult yet challenging course across many race events. This typically shows in the offerings for the smaller events, simply based on economics and economies of scale. I was pleasantly surprised with the organization and the race course itself. 

From the heat-based finish gates, to the pre and post race activities, to the structure and quality of the obstacles, Grapes of Wrath was an excellent obstacle race. The 5k course was fairly level, with some hilly trail parts in the middle, and a lot of running in among the grape vines.  I personally like some hard hills, but on the other hand, it makes for a faster time around the course. And the trails that lead into a valley section were fun. 

Obstacles included a variation on the wall obstacles, where gigantic bales of hay were stacked, and required the runner to climb/jump up and over them. One of the first obstacles included a surprise – a box tunnel which looked to be a mud crawl was made more interesting by the inclusion of underwater ditches. The first ditch where the muddy ground disappeared under my hands left me sputtering mud, but laughing at the trick. Other obstacles included a long slopped net crawl, obligatory (but fun) slip and slide, fire jump, and uphill tube crawls. 

Grapes of WrathThe final obstacles, just before the finish/start, were probably the best. A 20′ log wall to go up and over, peat/mud pond to wade through, and finally a mud hill that required crawling on the down slope.

I would also note that the camera crew from Clee Images, led by owner/photographer Carrie Lee, were particular enthusiastic in this race. They ran the course themselves before it went live, and really seemed to enjoy themselves. The crew worked hard to get some great shots, and joked with the racers. Carrie worked hard to get the pics processed and posted in record time, with a lot of interesting artistic processing done for some of the cooler pictures. 

To sum it up, well done to the organizers and volunteers, and the hosting vineyard, 13th Street Winery. I look forward to running it next year! 




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Paul Kavanagh
Single dad, Canadian, consultant, and ultra/survival racer. Great sport, amazing people, and I am loving the challenges.


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