On Saturday, a group of Europeans started running 563 kilometres to Tuktoyaktuk from Eagle Plains.
They wanted to experience the extreme environment of the North.
The race is expected to take between six and eight days. The cutoff point is 8 a.m. Sunday.
“I think you take the area you live in for granted, but to us it’s pretty unique to see the complete wilderness that’s around you,” said race manager Martin Like, a Welshman.
“To experience the extremities of the cold, and certainly along the Dempster (highway) and around Eagle Plains the winds as well, for those that are hardy and adventurous I think this is as good a place as any to come to.”
The race will consist of a group of 12, four women and eight men, from France and Britain.
A few want to compete, but most are making the trek for the experience, said Like.
There will be eight checkpoints along the way where the athletes can get food and shelter.
Beyond that, the racers will be on their own pulling sleds or carts of camping gear and food supplies behind them.
“The people who are taking part, some of them have experienced cold-climate races before and others have competed in deserts and others in jungles, or a mixture of all three of them at different times, but this is about as extreme as it gets without being stupid,” said Like.
“Hopefully it will be a safe race, but it’s going to put the athletes in a position where they aren’t going to be comfortable.
“But, hopefully, it will be very safe all the same.”
To prepare for the race, the group did a couple of recreational runs along Whitehorse trails.
On these practice runs, they had to prove to Like that they could hunker down and create camp with the items in their kit.
“Having done this sort of a thing myself, I’d say it takes a very normal person to do this — but I don’t know if that’s the case,” said Like.
“I think you have to be fairly driven… I think in life we’re far too mollycoddled and we take everything for granted.
“We walk into a room and we know the lights are going to come on and water will run.
“We know everything is laid out for us, but I think there is a certain part of our character that says we’ve got to try and go back to the basics a little bit and that’s the sort of person that goes on races like this.”
The run will also be a journey of self discovery, said Like.
The athletes will come out of the experience changed to a greater or lesser degree, but they will all finish knowing more about themselves than when they started, he said.
This is the race’s inaugural year, but Like is hoping to make it an annual event.
He hopes to have some Canadian entrants next year.
The racers will run all the way to Inuvik, NWT, where they will then run along the ice roads to Tuktoyaktuk.
A lot of organization has gone into the race, said Like.
And Canadians have been more than willing to help him with it, he added.
“I cannot say how fantastic they’ve been. You only have to ask these people once to do something and it’s done and that’s so unusual because back in Britain you have to ask for everything in triplicate,” said Like.
They have brought one medic over from Britain to serve as the race team’s doctor.
She’ll be watching for frostbite, said Like.
The race has been dubbed, “The 66/33 Ultra” which stands for 66 degrees and 33 minutes, which is the longitude and latitude of the Arctic Circle.
More information about the race can be found at www.6633ultra.com.