First timers dominate River Trail Marathon

An improved course could not have come at a better time for the Yukon River Trail Marathon held Sunday in Whitehorse.

An improved course could not have come at a better time for the Yukon River Trail Marathon held Sunday in Whitehorse.

Still growing after 11 years, the marathon had a record 300 participants out to try the new course, the start/finish line of which was moved down river from Rotary Park to Shipyards Park.

“It’s growing every year, and that’s because of a good organizing committee and word-of-mouth and a lot of people came from out-of-town,” said participant Keith Thaxter, who helped design the new course. “Probably half the runners are from out of town.”

Despite a large field of Outside runners, coming from Ontario, Alberta, BC, Alaska, Australia, Japan, France and Germany, most divisions were captured by Whitehorse runners.

“The course is fantastic. Keith (Thaxter) did a great job – he’s put a lot of work and a lot of thought into this course,” said Whitehorse’s Michael Richards. “It’s perfectly marked and it was just great.”

Racing in his first-ever full marathon, Richards took the overall prize, completing the course in three hours, 13 minutes and 37 seconds. Richards ran with Thaxter, who finished fourth overall in the marathon and first in the master men’s division, for the first eight kilometres before dropping him.

“For the rest of the race I was wondering who was going to catch me,” said Richards. “I kept looking for Keith’s yellow hat.”

Last year’s overall winner, Whitehorse’s Denise McHale, the first woman to have the fastest overall time for the marathon, was absent from the race, as was Whitehorse’s Simon Lapointe, who won his second straight Mayo Marathon in June.

Both are training partners with Richards.

“Thanks to Denise and Simon for not being here because it made it easier,” joked Richards.

“I’m really happy. I worked really hard for this one today.”

For Thaxter, who won the marathon in 2008, the race hit a snag with a strained muscle early on.

“I pulled my hamstring around kilometre 12, so I was beat up,” said Thaxter, who has competed in more than 50 marathons over his running career. “It was a chore just to get through. I’m not disappointed, but I had to work pretty hard to get through today.”

Featured in Canadian Running in an article titled Canada’s 10 Must-Do Trail Races, word of the River Trail event is spreading.

An example of this came in the master-plus women’s marathon division. Winning the division and coming in with the fastest women’s time overall was Dawn Hamel, who came all the way from Coldwater, Ontario, to run the race for the first time.

“I came with a friend who wants to do a marathon in every province and territory, so we met here so we could do this race together,” said Hamel, who came in with a time of 3:52:12.

“It’s beautiful; it’s absolutely gorgeous.”

A late bloomer in the sport, in 2008 Hamel was the national marathon champion and cross-country champion for the 50-54 age group.

“When I turned 50, I ran faster,” said Hamel. “In 2008, I ran faster than I did when I was 10 years younger.

“Start old and run hard.”

Whitehorse’s fast woman in the marathon was Michele Beulieu, winning the open division with a time of 4:22:07.

The half-marathon open divisions ended up in the hands of Whitehorse runners, both competing in the divisions for the first time.

Taking the open women’s title was Maura Sullivan, who also won the solo women’s division at the Dry-Tri triathlon in mid-July, coming in with a time of 1:30:58. Sullivan also finished second in the Olympic women category of the Whitehorse Triathlon at the start of June.

“It’s a nice course, fairly flat, good trails, nice weather – all that was great,” said Sullivan. “I ran with Joel Macht and we tried to break one hour, 35 minutes, and we both did, so we were happy with that. It’s hard to break 1:30 on a trail marathon, so we thought we’d try for under 1:35.”

Competing in the open men’s division, Rodney Hulstein came in a full five minutes ahead of second place finisher Karl Blattmann from Teslin, finishing in 1:19:32.

To compensate for the extra kilometres installed in the course with the start/finish location change, organizers eliminated a loop around Hidden Lakes and used some trails recently installed near Schwatka Lake. Hulstein seemed to approve of the changes.

“It’s a lot easier with the road – there’s an extra mile of road each way,” said Hulstein. “It makes it a lot faster.

“No Hidden Lakes – that’s the real hard part at the end. I’ve done the course before, just not in a race, and it’s a lot easier.”

Due to a technical glitch encountered during the marathon, results remained unofficial at time of press. For full results, and those of the relay divisions, visit

Top-five results


Open men’s marathon

1st Michael Richards

(Whitehorse) – 3:13:37

2nd Bryan Hitchcock

(Juneau) – 3:22:57

3rd Erik Hursh

(Valdez) – 3:33:21

4th Sam Herreid

(Fairbanks) – 3:43:36

5th James Wigmore

(Whitehorse) – 3:55:27

Open women’s marathon

1st Michele Beulieu

(Whitehorse) – 4:22:07

2nd Aurita Maldonado

(Haines) – 4:25:12

3rd Kelsey Bragg (Whitehorse) – 4:42:17

4th Patricia Curtiss (Whitehorse) –


5th Lauren Johnson (Little Rock) –


Master men’s marathon

1st Keith Thaxter (Whitehorse) –


2nd Peter Schofield (Abbotsford) –


3rd Daniel Atkin (Whitehorse) – 4:06:56

4th Rod Palm (Rimbey) – 4:13:35

5th Aldo Furlan (Winnipeg) – 4:18:05

Master women’s marathon

1st Nancy Chong (Midhurst) – 4:09:39

2nd Susan Bentley (Chilliwack) –


3rd Nathalie Dugas (Whitehorse) –


4th Brigitte Karsupke (Windischleuba)

– 5:07:59

Master plus men’s marathon

1st Don White (Whitehorse) – 3:47:30

2nd Bryan Craven (Whitehorse) –


3rd Rob McWilliam (Gillies Bay) –


4th Glenn Mills (Whitehorse) – 4:40:16

5th Ken Sylvestre (Whitehorse) –


Master plus women’s marathon

1st Dawn Hamel (Coldwater) – 3:52:12

2nd Brenda Dion (Whitehorse) –


Open men’s half-marathon

1st Rodney Hulstein (Whitehorse) –


2nd Karl Blattmann (Teslin) – 1:24:51

3rd Andrew Brown (Whitehorse) –


4th Joel Macht (Whitehorse) – 1:31:43

5th Justin Carre (Whitehorse) – 1:32:20

Open women’s half-marathon

1st Maura Sullivan (Whitehorse) –


2nd Larra Daley (Whitehorse) – 1:39:30

3rd Adele Lay (Whitehorse) – 1:42:30

4th Kaley Strachan (Whitehorse) –


5th Morgan Bouquot (Whitehorse) –


Master men’s half-marathon

1st Mike Tribes (Whitehorse) –


2nd Dave Hambly (Whitehorse) –


3rd Cam Baldwin (Red Deer) –


4th Eric Marcoux (Whitehorse) –


5th Terry Boone (Whitehorse) –


Master women’s half-marathon

1st Debra Jonasson (Whitehorse)

– 1:42:51

2nd Sandra Orban (Whitehorse) –


3rd Susan Bogle (Whitehorse) –


4th Janet Vink (Chilliwack) –


5th Carla Brehmer

(Grande Prairie) – 2:00:47

Master plus men’s half-marathon

1st Tom Ullyett (Whitehorse) – 1:32:42

2nd Kieran Rogan (Edmonton) –


3rd Terry Berezan (Whitehorse) –


4th Robert Bowerman (Whitehorse) –


5th Francis Whiteman (Whitehorse) –


Master plus women’s half-marathon

1st Margaret Mundell (Whitehorse) –


2nd Catherine Ziegler (Whitehorse) –


3rd Joy Vall (Whitehorse) – 2:16:06

4th Ginny Macdonald (Whitehorse) –


5th Susan Staffen (Whitehorse) –


Contact Tom Patrick at