Historic tie for first highlights River Trail Marathon

Whitehorse and Calgary runners log photo finish in 18th annual event

Half distance runners leave the start line at the Yukon River Trail Marathon in Rotary Park on July 30. Whitehorse’s David Eikelboom, front right, won the half distance with the fastest time in five years. (Tom Patrick/Yukon News)

Whitehorse’s Brendan Morphet and Calgary’s Mark Davis met at the start of the race, were rivals for the first few legs, and were working together as a team by the end.

The two runners tied for first place in the 18th annual Yukon River Trail Marathon, July 30 in Whitehorse.

It is the first time two marathoners tied for first in the event.

“We ended up working each other the whole way and by leg 4 we just agreed, let’s finish it together, keep ahead of everyone else, work hard,” said Morphet. “That’s what it was: work hard till the end, finish together.”

“We both had the same kind of feeling in our legs — weren’t sure what we had left in the tank for the rest of it,” said Davis.

Morphet, 34, and Davis, 32, shared the win with a time of three hours, 24 minutes and 41 seconds.

It was just Morphet’s second marathon — and his second win, having placed first in the marathon category of the Yukon Arctic Ultra in February. He was also the top male in the half distance of last year’s River Trail marathon.

Davis thinks Sunday’s race was his 11th or 12th marathon, but his first on trail. He was in the territory for his first time, visiting friends.

“It was an absolutely beautiful trail,” said Davis. “I do a lot of running in the mountains close to Calgary, but this is fantastic. You don’t have to drive at all, you just go right into the trails from your back door, which is amazing.”

“I see myself coming back, running this again sometime,” he added.

It was quite a different story in the women’s marathon distance on Sunday.

Carcross’ Denise McHale won her seventh title, finishing over 27 minutes ahead of the second place women. The 43-year-old finished in 3:53:01, 25 seconds slower than last year.

“It feels great of course. It’s one of my favourite races and was a great day for running, so it’s always nice to have the win,” said McHale. “I was thinking I was going to be a few minutes faster, but I got to the fish ladder and started feeling a little bit of cramping and stuff. Then I got down to the campground and almost onto the river wall there and I really had to stop a couple times.

“I don’t know if it wasn’t enough liquids — I had a pretty normal race strategy, but who knows.”

McHale, a former national 100-kilometre champion, also won the women’s title at the Skagway Marathon in June and placed second for women in the Reckless Raven 50-Mile Ultra early July in Whitehorse.

Whitehorse’s David Eikelboom sped to his third title on Sunday, but his first in the half distance. The 30-year-old finished the half at 1:31:00, marking the fastest time since 2012.

“This race totally didn’t go how I expected,” said Eikelboom. “I had expected Jonathan Zaugg to be out here and my plan was to run a strategic race, to stay with him and try to make a move at the end. But I guess he didn’t start or something.

“I went out and in the first mile it didn’t seem like anyone was going to come along and had to change the plan.”

Eikelboom won the full distance last year and in 2013, but decided to do the half for his first time after entering the Reckless Raven, in which he finished third.

“Obviously 90 minutes sounds better than 91, but I’m happy with what happened today,” said Eikelboom. “I’ve been really beat up since that Raven (race) — three weeks where I just couldn’t do anything.”

After three attempts, Whitehorse’s Shawna Smith logged her first win in the women’s half on Sunday. The 27-year-old took the win with a time of 1:50:50, over five minutes faster than her third place time last year.

“Last year I ran it with a concussion, so this year I decided I’d run it again sans concussion,” said Smith. “It was quite hot and I’ve been doing a few trips on the river so that hasn’t been helping with my legs.”

“It feels pretty good considering I had a good cheering section at the end,” she added of placing first.

Whitehorse’s Jane Haydock marched her way to a first place finish in the half distance walking division with a time of 2:24:26, more than 52 minutes ahead of second place’s Julie Jai.

A total of 32 four-person relay teams took park in the race.

Jambalaya, a mixed team of Rachel Tredger, Tarek Bos-Jabbar, Logan Potter and Kendra Murray, posted the fastest time at 3:36:30.

Lasses Run Their Asses — Vesta Mather, Kat Davis, Justine Scheck and Rebecca Davis — won the open female relay at 4:16:50.

The Heart Breakers, the only male relay team, finished in 4:49:45. The team was made up of Michael Nadeau, Charlie Furchner, Lee Malanchuk and Art Webster.

“A big thanks to everyone who helped out,” added Eikelboom. “This event happens year after year because of committed people doing the water stations, the timing, everything. Every time I do this race I’m profoundly grateful for the work people put into this.”

“I love the cheering from all the volunteers, so I just want to thank them for that,” said Smith.

Contact Tom Patrick at tomp@yukon-news.com

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Whitehorse’s Richard Thompson runs towards the finish to place fourth in the half distance. (Tom Patrick/Yukon News)

Racers head over the Robert Campbell Bridge into Riverdale. (Tom Patrick/Yukon News)

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