Under the Radar Races: Trail du Loup

AJW profiles the Trail du Loup in the Central Ardennes region of Belgium as part of a series celebrating under the radar races.

By on March 8, 2024 | Comments

AJW's Taproom[Author’s Note: This article is the third in an 11-part series in AJW’s Taproom celebrating under the radar races.]

Since its first edition three years ago, the Trail du Loup in Rendeux, Belgium, has become a staple of the spring trail running season in the country’s Central Ardennes region. Taking place every year in mid-March a few weeks before the Spring Classics cycling races, which are the most popular sporting events in Belgium, the Trail du Loup is decidedly more lowkey, and that is by design.

Consisting of three distances, six kilometers, 11 kilometers, and 22 kilometers, the Trail du Loup course winds its way through the famous forests of the Ardennes on a combination of paved roads, dirt bridle paths, and narrow singletrack trails. With expansive views of the Ardennes on some of the higher ridges, Trail du Loup is known as one of the most scenic trail runs in Belgium.

Trail du Loup muddy trails

Run on a variety of surfaces, the Trail du Loup is a welcoming event for anyone. All photos courtesy of Peter Meert/Trail Rendeux.

Over the past week I caught up with race director Peter Meert and asked him what it is that makes his event so special.

“Our race organization is based on just 14 volunteers who have been working on this event for months. Furthermore, we try to organize a race with as little environmental impact as possible. We place the race signage out on the course on foot and by bike, in order to affect the natural environment as little as possible. In addition, we limit the number of participants at each distance to limit the environmental impact of the race.”

Meert notes that organizing an event like Trail du Loup is not without its challenges. Some of the bureaucratic obstacles that many event directors face can be particularly acute in the Ardennes.

“Securing all of the permits and permissions from the government and forest managers is a challenge every year. Fortunately, because we have been organizing running races for so long, we have nurtured many strong contacts over the years and have had the necessary experience to be sure everything is lined up properly by race day.”

In its short history, the Trail du Loup has garnered a reputation as a down-home, community-centered race. I asked Meert how he and his fellow organizers keep the event so well rooted.

“We achieve the community vibe of the race because we only organize this with our running friends who are all volunteers. All of our volunteers have extensive experience participating in other running races themselves, which helps put them in the place of the participants. We also intentionally keep the entry fee low to keep our race accessible and friendly.”

Trail du Loup runners

The Trail du Loup’s low key and welcoming atmosphere makes it a staple of spring racing in the Central Ardennes of Belgium. Also, doggo!

Finally, I asked Meert what he is most looking forward to on the day of the race, and his response was characteristic of the feeling of the entire event.

“Each year I look most forward to seeing the smiling, fulfilled runners cross the finish line and, of course, enjoying a delicious local Belgian beer afterward.”

The 2024 Trail du Loup takes place on Sunday, March 17, and I suspect it will continue to showcase the friendly vibe that has become the trademark of this special event.

Bottoms up!

Trail du Loup runners in the rain

The Trail du Loup can experience typical spring Belgian weather.

AJW’s Beer of the Week

Great Marsh Brewing Company logoThis week’s Beer of the Week comes from Great Marsh Brewing Company in Essex, Massachusetts. Belgian Tripel is a strong, Trappist style ale brewed in the classic Belgian tradition. Weighing in at 8.1% ABV, this tripel has a nice blend of spiciness and sweetness and is a good reminder of the wonderful Belgian brewing tradition.

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Andy Jones-Wilkins

Andy Jones-Wilkins is an educator by day and has been the author of AJW’s Taproom at iRunFar for over 11 years. A veteran of over 190 ultramarathons, including 38 100-mile races, Andy has run some of the most well-known ultras in the United States. Of particular note are his 10 finishes at the Western States 100, which included 7 times finishing in the top 10. Andy lives with his wife, Shelly, and Josey, the dog, and is the proud parent of three sons, Carson, Logan, and Tully.