Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by John Tonin

AND THEY’RE OFF – Runners competing in the 42.2 kilometre full-marathon and the relay depart from the Yukon River Trail Marathon and Relay start line at Rotary Peace Park on Sunday.

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Photo by John Tonin

ALMOST DONE THE FIRST HALF – Ralph Richardson from Stittsville, Ont., gets back onto the trail after passing by Chadburn Lake on Sunday.

Marathon runners beat the heat in 42.2km race

The clouds hid the sun early in the day on Sunday before the 8:30 a.m. start of the Yukon River Trail Marathon and Relay.

By John Tonin on August 5, 2019

The clouds hid the sun early in the day on Sunday before the 8:30 a.m. start of the Yukon River Trail Marathon and Relay.

Runners in both the full 42.2-kilometre marathon and the relay teams gathered at the start in Rotary Peace Park, ready to embark on their journey. Leading up to the beginning, the athletes could be seen jogging lightly and stretching on the grass.

At 8:30 a.m. sharp the start signal was given and the runners were off down the Millennium Trail. Those volunteers and family and friends would not see the runners again for another couple of hours.

Runners in the full marathon followed the Millennium Trail to the footbridge into and through the campground. They then headed toward the float plane dock on Schwatka Lake.

They headed through to Canyon City where they had to use caution because of the steep drop-offs in that section.

They continued to Chadburn Lake and then over to Chadden Lake. They continued along rolling hills before reaching a large hill with a lookout above the lake and then made their way back to the Miles Canyon Suspension Bridge.

The runners then began to work their way back, following the east shore of Schwatka Lake. In the final stretch, the athletes had to take on Heart Break Hill and then enjoy the hard descent down to Chadburn Lake Road.

Once they made it back onto the Millennium Trail they worked their way back to Rotary Peace Park. The marathon finished where it started.

If the sun was hidden by some clouds earlier in the morning that was not the case as the minutes ticked toward noon.

The sun was beating down on the runners. It was hot … to say the least.

At the finish line, a crowd began to gather as people waited in anticipation for the first runners to arrive back. Then the trickle began as runners, in all the different classes gave it their last efforts as they pushed through to the finish line.

Krestena Sullivan, from Kitchener, Ont., was the third-fastest marathon runner overall. She was competing in the Masters (40-49) category. Her time was four hours, seven minutes and 52 seconds, which means she ran 10.21 km/hour.

At the time of speaking with Sullivan, it was still unofficial as to whether she was the overall female winner.

“It’s awesome, as long as my sister is the second woman then I’ll be happy,” said Sullivan.

Sullivan’s sister Maura now lives in Whitehorse and the two have run the Trail Marathon as a team before. Sullivan said there isn’t much of a sibling rivalry.

“We ran together just until we went into the trails,” said Sullivan. “We were still close to each other but you can’t see each other very well. We love running together. I’m older so I’ve always felt I’ve been a tiny bit better than her.”

While talking with Sullivan her sister ran past toward the finish.

“She is looking better than me coming in,” said Sullivan.

She touched on the trails in Whitehorse and compared it to running in Ontario.

“The volunteers were amazing and there was water often,” said Sullivan. “This is my first marathon so the last 10km were hard.

“I’ve only run on pavement until two weeks ago. We ran the final legs about two weeks ago it is very different. My longest run was 37km and it was on flat cement. It obviously doesn’t take this long on flat cement.”

Sullivan thought it was a good thing she wasn’t all too familiar with the course.

“In some ways it’s easier because you don’t know how much farther,” said Sullivan.

“But it makes some things harder. It was like when is that Heart Break hill it should be coming soon.”

Maura Sullivan was the second overall woman finishing in four hours, 13 minutes and two seconds. Christina Harper, from Whitehorse, rounded out the female overall standings reaching Rotary in four hours, 52 minutes and 23 seconds.

Bryan Sehmel, from Fairbanks, was the sixth overall marathon finisher and the first international runner in the 42.2km distance to finish.

“It was good to be past that last hill,” said Sehmel. “The bad thing is you can see everybody way up there and you’re like ‘oh great I have to get there.’”

Sehmel said he let out a nice roar when he reached the top of the hill.

He had never run the race before but said he plans on becoming a regular.

“I never ran it before which was probably good,” said Sehmel. “I looked at the map and thought this is going to be a pain. It was a great race and it was really well done. There were only two spots where I didn’t know where to go.” Sehmel said he was happy with his four hour, 29 minute, and 18 second time.

“I would have liked a faster time until I went onto the course and realized I’m fine with that time,” said Sehmel. “What’s interesting is once you get onto the pavement that’s when your legs really starting cramping up.

“The only way you can really get through them (cramps) is to keep going.”

Local runner Roger Hosking ran sub-four hours to be named the overall winner of the full marathon. Second place went to Gordon Townson who finished in four hours, two minutes and 49 seconds. Duncan Hillhouse from Dawson City was third.

The half marathon was 21 kilometres and the runners left at 10:30 a.m. from Rotary Peace Park.

First to return was Lindsay Carson from Burnaby, B.C., in one hour, 30 minutes and 57 seconds. Sara Battaglia was the second woman to return with a time just over two hours. Erin Henderson was third.

It was a local sweep in the men’s overall standings in the half-marathon. Geoff Dunbrack ran to the top spot in 1:32:02. Magnus Kaltenborn came in a minute after and Jonathan Zaugg nabbed the final podium position.

The relay teams which had four members per squad divided the 42.2km course amongst the runners. Team 5, a mixed quartet, posted the fastest time in 3:53:55. The Freeman Family reached the end 25 minutes later to grab second and Generational Divide was third less than a minute behind the Freeman Family.

The first female team back was The Painter Sisters. Suck It Up Princess followed and Rehab Racers were third.

If running isn’t your preferred mode of travel there was also a half-marathon walker category.

Brianna Heal, from Whitehorse, won the Open category in 4:40:32.

The Masters class was won by Becky Jensen from Skagway in 3:41:47. Local walkers Kim Porter and Shari Heal were second and third.

All the way from Sharon, Massachusetts was Heather Gillis who walked her way to the Masters Plus (50-59) title in 3:39:08. Lisa Ottenbreit, hailing from Pitt Meadows, B.C. was second and local Grace Snider was third.

Hundreds of runners took the trails on Sunday and Rotary Park was filled with fans who cheered their hearts out when they saw their runner come under the bridge into Riverdale and approach the finish line.

Next year’s race is tentatively set for Aug. 2.

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