It had been over a decade since Michael Barton attempted the Haeckel Hill Run. It doesn’t get easier over time, he said.
“The hill seemed remarkably steeper for some reason,” said Barton. “God, it really is tough … It just doesn’t give up; it’s just steep all the way.”
Barton was one of over 50 participants in the 20th annual Athletics Yukon event he founded back in 1996, on Saturday. Wearing a T-shirt that commemorates the inaugural event, the 72-year-old walked the course in 59 minutes even.
He used to run the course for fun before it turned into an annual affair.
“I came to Yukon from N.W.T. in 1990 and I started running up here on my own, especially in the summer solstice,” said Barton at the summit. “Then a few others like Tom (Ullyett) got to know what I was up to and in 1996 we had the first official race up here.”
Barton, who now lives in Norway, returned to Canada to visit his daughter and grandchildren in Victoria, B.C. and decided to come to Whitehorse for the event.
“I thought, what the heck, it’s 20 years, I must come up and meet some of the old guys I used to run up here with,” said Barton. “I’ve met so many old friends and it’s just been great.”
Whitehorse’s David Greer was only seven years old when Barton and pals raced the hill for the first time. He was first to the top on Saturday.
Greer completed the 6.4-kilometre course, climbing 584 metres in elevation, in 35:36.
“This race is a great way to start off the running season,” said Greer. “It’s always such a lung-burner.”
Greer was a founding member of the now-defunct Yukon Elite Squad (or “Y.E.S. squad”) ski team. He placed fourth in 2012, the same year Y.E.S. teammate Colin Abbott set the course record of 33:24.
“We all did it then. That was probably the last time I did it, when I was training full-time for skiing,” said Greer. “It’s still fun to get out and make yourself push hard, get a good work out.
“It’s not a normal running race. This early in the season people aren’t that tuned up for racing.”
Whitehorse’s Darby McIntyre was second to the summit, up from a fourth-place finish last year, with a time of 37:43. The 16-year-old won gold and bronze in track at the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games.
Another youngster was close behind. Whitehorse’s Sammy Mather placed third at 39:05, marking the fourth straight year the 12-year-old has finished in the top three.
“I think it’s great, especially seeing all these young people getting into it,” said Barton. “There are quite a few today.”
Whitehorse’s Sue Bogle regained the women’s crown. Bogle finished in 45:10 to be the top female and 10th overall. The 48-year-old also won the women’s division in 2009 and 2013, but was quicker on Saturday than in her previous wins.
“It felt pretty good. It was definitely better this year than some other years where I was really struggling,” said Bogle. “I’ve been doing a bit of hill running, so maybe that helped.”
“It’s just grinding it out, not going out too fast, saving it up a little bit for the end,” she added. “It’s like the Dome (race in Dawson) – you don’t get any breaks … There are a couple flat parts where you catch your breath a little.”
Whitehorse’s Nathalie Dugas came second for females at 46:15.
Yukon Ski Team’s Regan Fuerstner and Amanda Thomson placed third and fourth, respectively, both logging a time of 46:39.
John Storms was the top walker at 48:02. Bonnie Love was the fastest female walker at 59:27.
A total of 53 runners and walkers – up from 35 last year – took part in the 20th annual race, making it one of the largest turnouts to date.
Top 10 men
1st David Greer – 35:36
2nd Darby McIntyre – 37:43
3rd Sammy Mather – 39:05
4th Naiose Dempsey – 39:29
5th John Parry – 40:25
6th Dan Shier – 41:10
7th Jerome McIntyre – 42:05
8th Ben Yu Schott – 43:36
9th Robert Gillis – 44:13
10th Joe Parker – 48:19
Top 10 women
1st Sue Bogle – 45:10
2nd Nathalie Dugas – 46:15
3rd Regan Fuerstner – 46:39
4th Amanda Thomson – 46:39
5th Sara Johnson – 47:21
6th Nola Pullar – 48:19
7th Hannah Shier – 48:43
8th Hayley Henderson – 48:51
9th Ella Parker – 48:59
10th Helen Stappers – 51:29
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