A total of 1,800 racers participated in the Klondike Road Relay held from Sept. 8 to 9. The start line was in Skagway, Alaska, with runners taking off between 7 and 8 p.m. on Sept. 8.
The race, which marked its 40th anniversary, was originally created to bring visitors to the territory. The first race took place in 1983 with approximately 25 teams.
This year, teams from across the Yukon, Alaska and California participated. The 175-kilometre race features a maximum elevation of 1,000 metres as it crosses the traditional territories of the Chilkoot Tlingit people, the Carcross Tagish First Nation, the Kwanlin Dün First Nation and the Ta’an Kwäch’än Council.
Different categories were featured in the adult running category, including the men’s open, women’s open, mixed open, mixed masters, women’s masters, corporate, men’s and women’s solo.
Each team had a maximum time of 21.5 hours to finish the race.
There were also youth categories, including the youth boys, youth girls and youth mixed. These categories ran from Carcross to Whitehorse with a maximum finishing time of 10.5 hours.
Each team in the four-person and eight-person walking categories, which ran from Carcross to Whitehorse, had a maximum of 11.5 hours to finish their race.
Lynn cAnal, a running camp team from Juneau, Alaska, won the men’s open adult category from Skagway to Whitehorse and was the first team to cross the finish line at 11:12:06. It was the first time the team participated in the relay race.
Team member Clem Taylor-Roth said it was a fun experience.
“The early part was kind of stressful and then my leg was hurt so I did not feel good at all. But then as soon as I was done running, it was fun to just be able to follow people around and get out and cheer,” he said. “As soon as we were passing more people, it was amazing to see how many people that were on the road running.”
Back in Juneau, Taylor-Roth, who works as a team counsellor at Lynn cAnal Adventure, said he mostly ran trail, cross-country and track races, noting that the road relay was quite different.
“I have been waiting to do this for a really long time even back in college and high school and I’m happy I finally had the opportunity to do it,” he told the News.
Arne Ellefsen-Carnes, another member of Lynn cAnal from Juneau, said it was a tough race, especially trying to figure out how to eat, sleep and run at 3 a.m.
“That’s something you don’t normally think about,” he said. “We did the kids’ Klondike in seventh grade, so we wanted to do this for a long time and put out a team that could put up a challenge.”
“It was fun and we are just out here having a good time,” Ellefsen-Carnes said. “Some of us just met on the trip for the first time and I think a lot of us have pretty healthy relationships with running where it’s kind of something we have done competitively for a long time and it’s something we want to continue to do even longer than our competitive years.”
In the women’s open category, Super SHEroes, an all-female Yukon team finished with 13:25:47, good for first in their category and second place overall. In the mixed open category, Not Fast But Furious, a team made of racers from across the Yukon, placed first in their category and third overall with a timestamp of 14:28:48.
In the mixed masters category, CC Striders finished with 15:56:10, Winter Loooong, a team in the mixed masters, finished with 16:23:41 in the women’s masters, while Horny Goats 2 finished with 15:52:59 in the corporate category.
Peter Mpala, a Carcross resident and member of Not Fast But Furious team, said the race “was good and went better than he thought.”
This was Mpala’s first time doing a road relay where he ran two legs for his team. Whenever he is running, he said it is usually mountain trail races. On Sept. 16, he told the News he will be participating in the Frosty Mountain race in British Columbia.
“After the first leg, my toe started hurting,” he said. “I didn’t want to push so hard. I just wanted to go a little bit because of my upcoming race.”
Killian Niemarkt, a German citizen and member of Horny Goats 2 team who travelled from his base in London for the race, said “it was a great challenge” and his first time doing a 20-kilometre run.
“I had incredible teammates who supported me,” he said. “This is my first time in Canada, so it’s nice to be there to experience this.”
In the adult race from Carcross to Whitehorse, Full Double Rainbow All Way team finished the mixed open with 8:02:25, while the HCG Ya Know Me team finished with 8:04:31. In the mixed masters, the Over 50 With Pre-Existing Medical Conditions team finished with a timestamp of 7:58:51, Aged to Perfection 2023 finished their race with 7:53:47, while the Against All Odds team finished at 7:19:57.
The men’s solo category had No One Fights Alone finishing at 6:16:46 while Maren Bradley’s team finished the women’s solo in 7:33:01.
Greg Smith, a member of the Ambiguous Fantasy team said the Klondike Road Relay is the best time of the year.
“We ran with a lot of spirit,” he said. This is Smith’s seventh time running the race. Each year, he said, they come down from Juneau with their costumes to participate in the race.
“This for me was a great run, not too hot or cold. It’s beautiful with the sun out. This was one of my fun races,” he said. “The volunteers and the locals were welcoming. It was simply amazing. It was nice this year because it could have been snowing.”
Smith has some words for those considering running the road relay: “If you haven’t done it, come and give it a try and have a good time; have fun and an amazing time.”
Sports Yukon executive director Tracy Bilksy said the race has evolved massively through the years.
“Our expectations have been met with the race and we hope to do this every year and for many more years,” she said. “We just want to thank the community around us for supporting our race year after year, especially our volunteers and sponsors including the Community Development Fund.”
Northwestel, one of the long-time sponsors, connected the race from space using OneWeb’s low Earth orbit satellite technology. For the first time ever, runners, volunteers and supporters connected online with teammates and loved ones at Tutshi Lake’s checkpoint five.
Bilksy said activities around the 40th anniversary of the race included a walk down memory lane with video and photo exhibitions of people and runners through the years.
“This is just to celebrate the fact that this race has been around for this long,” she said.
At the Party in the Park, hundreds of people gathered at Rotary Park on Sept. 9 to cheer runners across the finish line. Food trucks, music, a beer garden, games for kids, a mobile sauna, massage and reflexology, photo booth and other side activities were organized as part of events celebrating the race’s 40th anniversary.
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