And what a race it was.
While swollen knees and cramped quadriceps elicit yelps of pain this week from runners in the Klondike Trail of ’98 International Road Relay, stories from the event will linger for months to come.
Like so many extreme team events held here, the road relay draws out the best sides of Yukoners and Alaskans, mixing our tough Northern character with out thirst for camaraderie and a good time.
Watching runners chug up hills on the South Klondike Highway in the early morning light, their boisterous support teams cheering beside RVs plastered with grease paint and tasteless slogans — all of it against a backdrop of blood-red and mandarin-orange-coloured mountains and misty clouds — can warm even the most permafrosted Yukon heart.
The Klondike road relay simply could not be such a special event anywhere else in Canada.
But many who have moved to the Yukon from southern Canada have come to expect large sporting events like this weekend’s relay to contain an element of philanthropy.
Most Canadians who run recreationally have raised more money for cancer, AIDS, cystic fibrosis and other worthy research causes through punishing their knees and ankles in charitable races than they ever could hope to do by knocking on doors during funding campaigns.
But, for some reason, the Kluane to Chilkat International Bike Relay, the Sportslodge Yukon River Trail Marathon, the 24 Hours of Light mountain bike festival and this weekend’s Klondike road relay don’t make charity their main goal.
Some might argue tacking a charitable cause to events with such energy and originality could stifle them.
But look closely at most of these races and you realize that they already exist thanks to sponsorship from large corporations.
If corporations can’t suckle the life out of the Klondike road relay, philanthropy surely won’t.
Sure, there are plenty of running events in the territory that use a jog as a way to raise some money for good causes — the upcoming Terry Fox Run and the Run for the Cure are perhaps the biggest.
But just imagine how much money we could raise for cancer research, for a new MRI machine at Whitehorse General Hospital, or for a dream trip for a child suffering from a chronic disease, from massive events like this weekend’s relay.
What we have on our hands is a happy sort of problem — an incredible roster of popular events just waiting to raise money for worthy causes.
It is a problem that is long overdue for tackling. (TQ)