No one could say for sure why more runners took on the full 42.2-kilometre course Sunday at the 10th annual Yukon River Trail Marathon. But a few dared to speculate.
“Two hundred and forty-nine registered, which is just about normal. We haven’t really varied from 250 in a number of years,” said Rick Janowicz, chief of the race.
“There do seem to be more endurance races, so perhaps people are using this for training purposes,” said Janowicz, hazarding a guess as to why the full-marathon category was fuller than in previous years.
Out of the 249 runners, 57 entered the full-marathon. The previous record for full-marathoners was in the high forties.
“I think some are just training hard and want to come out and push themselves to the limit,” said Thaxter, president of the Boreal Running Association, who won the marathon with a time of three hours, 24 minutes and 26 seconds.
“We’ve been doing a lot of trail runs and a lot of the trail-run is the same course that we have here. So people get to know the course and they run farther and farther.”
After hanging in the leaders-pack for the opening kilometres, Thaxter then spent the majority of the race — right up to the final four kilometres — running with two gentleman from Alabama.
“I kind of gave them a guided tour. They stuck right with me until the final four kilometres — the final hill — and I looked back and I lost them,” said Thaxter, who finished second in the race last year.
“It started out that we were going to drive to Alaska to run a marathon,” said Greg Forman from Huntsville, Alabama, who tied for second with his friend Todd White, with a time of 3:27:48, just 3:12 behind Thaxter. “Then someone said, ‘There’s one in the Yukon.’ So we looked at him and said, ‘Yeah, we’ll do that.’”
Besides the inflated sense of satisfaction, every marathoner and half-marathoner received a medal for their accomplishment. However, many received more than a medal to remember the event.
“It’s been three, four years since I’ve done this event and the memories of pain have come back to haunt me,” said Stephen Waterreus, who finished first in the half-marathon with a time of 1:28:29.
“It’s easy to fake a half-marathon but a full marathon you actually have to train a lot for, so I’m not up to that right now.”
Waterreus took the lead a quarter of the way through the race and held it until the end. Despite his success, Waterreus feels he could have put more thought into his preparation for the race.
“I had like two pounds of bacon this weekend, so my stomach wasn’t feeling so good … I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone.”
Waterreus was not the only one feeling the burn.
“My legs hurt a little at the end with those big hills and getting onto the pavement, otherwise, it was a good race,” said Sue Bogle, who was the first female runner to finish the half-marathon, finishing 10th overall with a time of 1:47:30.
“I was behind the fast guys and then just ahead of another pack, so I was kind of on my own.”
The Yukon River Trail Marathon is popular for some of its off-pavement challenges. In fact, the rough conditions in some sections can give runners difficulties.
Thaxter tripped “a couple of times.”
“The trail has so many roots on it, ups and downs, you just get lazy, catch your foot on a root and end up doing a shoulder-roll,” he said.
“You get up, scrape it all off and keep going.”