The forest is illuminated by thousands of twinkling lights as orienteers navigate the course in Lappeenranta, in Finland’s southwest.
Team Yukon is somewhere in the chaos, working hard to improve their placing during the night race.
Finland’s Jukola relay is one of the largest orienteering events in the world, with a mass start kicking off around 11:30 p.m.
Pia Blake ran the first leg for the Yukon.
“The start was amazing, yet terrifying,” she said. “By luck, Yukon’s team was seeded near the front of the pack, meaning once the gun fired I (had) over 1,400 people running me down. Amazing because they pushed me to run harder, terrifying because I feared being run over.”
The darkness and the density of athletes made the race unlike anything the Yukon orienteers had tackled before.
“Contrary to most races, I did not need to orienteer much as there were so many people pushing me in the right direction,” said Pia.
Leif Blake ran the second leg.
“I spent most of my time stuck behind seemingly infinitely long trains of orienteers looking for the brief moments where moving up the ranks was possible,” he said.
“Occasionally the train would peter out and a moment of tranquil confusion would settle upon us as people milled about looking for a control.”
Leif Blake was able to move his team up 545 places during his leg from 1,219 to 674.
“The dark made it all the more fun,” said Pia. “Being able to only see the small patch of forest in front of you made for some very different orienteering.”
Caelan McLean ran the seventh and final leg for the team, which was also the longest at 16.6 kilometres.
“I ran well,” said McLean. “After the first hour and a half I was definitely starting to feel it.”
McLean succeeded in moving his team up about 20 places and the Yukon team of the Blake siblings, Forest Pearson, Jennifer MacKeigan, Ross Burnett, Svante Larsson and McLean finished 597th, which was almost in the top third.