Officiating error robs McHale of national record

An athlete as elite as Denise McHale could probably pull a string of grand pianos 90 metres in less than six minutes, but unfortunately record books don't operate on assumptions.

An athlete as elite as Denise McHale could probably pull a string of grand pianos 90 metres in less than six minutes, but unfortunately record books don’t operate on assumptions.

The Whitehorse running sensation recently found out her 100-kilometre women’s Canadian record, set last November at the 100 Kilometre IAU World Championships in Gibraltar, has been stricken from the record book due to a mistake made by race officials.

McHale, who finished eighth in the race, shaved more than six minutes off the Canadian record, coming in with a time of seven hours, 56 minutes and 41 seconds.

However, after measuring the course and finding it just 90 metres short of 100-kilometres, the International Association of Ultrarunners (IAU) deemed all times inadmissible for record consideration.

“That’s the frustrating thing, if I had of just squeaked by – just beat it by 10 seconds or so – then you can kind of go, ‘Well, you wouldn’t have made it anyways,’” said McHale. “But I had ample time to run that 90 metres. It’s frustrating, to say the least.”

The miscalculation of distance resulted from an officiating mistake early on in the November race. In a five-kilometre stretch, leading to the five-kilometre loop to be completed 19 times, organizers placed a turn in the wrong spot, causing the field to run and extra 1.4 kilometres. To compensate, race officials cut short one of the loops – by 90 metres too much.

“I’m not sure what happened, they didn’t turn us around where they should have,” said McHale. “So they had to modify one of the laps – they made it a little bit shorter because we ran too far out in the first bit. So they rerouted in Lap 12 to counteract the screw-up in the morning.”

The Yukon News received a short reply from an IAU director when asked if any other runners from other countries set national records in the race. However, since the IAU only registers records on an international level, leaving ultrarunning organizations within countries to determine their own national records, it could not be determined if any others were in the same predicament as McHale.

“I’m sure there were a few,” said McHale. “Usually every race a few records go down. We had pretty good conditions that day and it was a pretty good course to run a record on.”

At this point, it’s more about if McHale wants to try for another record rather than if she is able to set one. She much prefers trail running to road running.

“I don’t know if I want to do it again badly enough,” said McHale. “I went in hoping to break the record and the eight-hour mark, and I did all that. While it’s frustrating, that doesn’t change. I did everything that I was in control of for the race.

“I don’t want it to discolour any of the accomplishment I felt.

“I was like, ‘I’m doing this one more time.’ I have some ability at it, but that doesn’t mean I like it that much.”

If she decides to go for the record, McHale will head to Winschoten, the Netherlands in September for the next world championship.

Other races she’s debating are the World Trail Championships during July in Ireland and the Commonwealth 100 Kilometre Championship in Wales (on trails) in September.

“I have a lot of options,” said McHale. “It’s whether it means enough to me to go for the record again.”

McHale’s previous best time in the 100-kilometre was 8:15:56, set at the Canadian championships last year where she finished first for the second straight year. At the event she toppled the course record – one of many that have fallen to McHale.

In her first ultra marathon experience, the 2007 Black Foot Ultra in Edmonton, McHale was the top woman, setting a course record. That performance landed her a spot on the national team

As a member of Team Canada at the 2008 World 100K Championships in Italy, McHale finished as the top Canadian with a placement of 23rd overall.

In 2009 she was first overall – for men and women – at the Yukon River Trail Marathon. She also won NWT’s Rock and Ice Ultra in both 2008 and 2009 for the women.

Last August, McHale competed in the Canadian Death Race in Grande Cache, Alberta, a 125-kilometre run through the Rocky Mountains; she finish third as the top Canadian.

She went on to wrap up the summer running the ultra distance at the Klondike Trail of ‘98 Road Relay, setting a new course record there, too.

In February McHale became the first woman to win the marathon division of the Yukon Arctic Ultra, setting another course record.

Contact Tom Patrick at

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dawson City RCMP are reporting a break and enter on Feb. 25 after two masked men entered a residence, assaulted a man inside with a weapon and departed. (Black Press file)
Two men arrested after Dawson City home invasion

Dawson City RCMP are reporting a break and enter on Feb. 25.… Continue reading

Highways and Public Works Minister Richard Mostyn speaks to reporters at a news conference in Whitehorse on Dec. 21, 2017. New ATIPP laws are coming into effect April 1. (Chris Windeyer/Yukon News file)
New access to information laws will take effect April 1

“Our government remains committed to government openness and accountability.”

City council meeting in Whitehorse on Feb. 8. At Whitehorse city council’s March 1 meeting, members were presented with a bylaw that would repeal 10 bylaws deemed to be redundant or out of date. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Out with the old

Council considers repealing outdated bylaws

A bobcat is used to help clear snow in downtown Whitehorse on Nov. 4. According to Environment Canada, the Yukon has experienced record-breaking precipitation this year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon will have “delayed spring” after heavy winter snowfall

After record levels of precipitation, cold spring will delay melt

Yukon RCMP say they’ve received three reports of youth being extorted online. (Black Press file)
Yukon youth being extorted online

Yukon RCMP say they’ve received three reports of youth being extorted on… Continue reading

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is preparing for a pandemic-era election this October with a number of measures proposed to address COVID-19 restrictions. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City gets set for Oct. 21 municipal election

Elections procedures bylaw comes forward

A rendering of the Normandy Manor seniors housing facility. (Photo courtesy KBC Developments)
Work on seniors housing project moves forward

Funding announced for Normandy Manor

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

The Blood Ties outreach van will now run seven nights a week, thanks to a boost in government funding. Logan Godin, coordinator, and Jesse Whelen, harm reduction counsellor, are seen here on May 12, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Blood Ties outreach van running seven nights a week with funding boost

The Yukon government is ramping up overdose response, considering safe supply plan

Ranj Pillai speaks to media about business relief programs in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. The Yukon government announced Feb.25 that it will extend business support programs until September. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Government extends business relief programs to September, launches new loan

“It really gives folks some help with supporting their business with cash flow.”

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Bylaw amendment Whitehorse city council is moving closer with changes to a… Continue reading

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

Most Read