McHale wins River Trail Marathon

Having just accepted a spot on a team competing at the 1,000-kilometre Primal Quest in South Dakota two weeks from now, Denise McHale decided to skip Saturday's Death Race in Grande Cache, Alberta, and just take it easy.

Having just accepted a spot on a team competing at the 1,000-kilometre Primal Quest in South Dakota two weeks from now, Denise McHale decided to skip Saturday’s Death Race in Grande Cache, Alberta, and just take it easy—by running a marathon.

“I had a change of plans because I got a call to race the Primal Quest,” said McHale. “The Death Race was a 125-kilometre mountain run and I thought having not even two weeks to recover—I’m racing with three other guys—I thought it wouldn’t be fair to show up at the line not fully recovered.”

Not only did McHale run the full 42.2 kilometres in the River Trail Marathon on Sunday in Whitehorse, she was first over the finish line, completing the course in three hours, 18 minutes and 34 seconds. She’s the first women to be the top finisher in the race.

McHale and husband Greg, who will be on the same team in the Primal Quest, have competed in ultra marathons and adventure races throughout the world. And McHale topped the women’s field at last month’s Dry Tri held at the Takhini Hot Springs.

Last time McHale ran the full marathon in Whitehorse was in 2003, when she finished second overall with a similar time of 3:18:21.

“I’m happy with my time,” said McHale. “I didn’t really focus on training specifically for this; I didn’t do any speed work or anything. So I just wanted to have a good, solid run.”

Numbers were down in the full-marathon division, but up overall with 280 runners spread over the full-marathon, half-marathon and relay teams categories.

“We have 280 runners, so this is a record year,” said Keith Thaxter, president of the Boreal Running Association that hosts the marathon. “But last year was the record of full-marathon runners (with 57), usually we have around 40.”

Four continents were represented in the marathon with runners from Germany, Spain, Mexico, Gambia, plus over 20 Americans and about 30 Canadians from outside the territory.

“So we have a splattering of people from all over,” said Thaxter, who finished fourth overall with a time of 3:44:56. “We’re quite happy with the turnout.

“We might have to cap it in a few years if it keeps growing. The thing is, if it gets beyond 300 or 400 people you almost need more volunteers or to have a paid person to manage it.”

Some who travelled farthest were the last to register, with eight South Koreans signing up the night before the race.

“There were about 20 guys hanging around SportLife yesterday and apparently we convinced eight of them to come participate today,” said Thaxter. “And they were having a blast. They were out there running all around and now they’re sitting there teaching people to write their names in Korean.”

Unlike previous years, no bears made any appearances to help motivate the runners along the way.

“I saw two squirrels and a very big dog—no bears,” said Teit Groth from Copenhagen, Denmark, running in his 27th marathon and finishing 16th overall.

“Coming from Denmark, which is very flat, it was really hilly. But the scenery was beautiful, although you have to look down to where you place your feet.”

Full results can be found at

Contact Tom Patrick at

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