Record turnout at Yukon Arctic Ultra

Yukon MP Ryan Leef was on thin ice Sunday. That's no metaphor. While running in the marathon distance of the Yukon Arctic Ultra, Leef slipped from first to second after breaking through the ice on the Takhini River.

Yukon MP Ryan Leef was on thin ice Sunday. That’s no metaphor.

While running in the marathon distance of the Yukon Arctic Ultra, Leef slipped from first to second after breaking through the ice on the Takhini River.

“I was carrying my water bottle and parts of the Takhini River were open so I scooped up some water,” said Leef. “I stepped back and the ice along the edge where I was filling up gave way and I went in up to my knees. I jumped out of that and carried on with about eight kilometres left to go. It was a long, slow eight kilometres for me.

“My shoes began to freeze up and it became more and more a slog.”

Leef and his frozen sneakers finished second with a time of four hours, 47 minutes.

Whitehorse’s Mike Smith claimed first for men with a time of 4:40 while Hungary’s Jozsef Soymosi placed third with a time of 6:10.

“My feet are just starting to warm up now,” Leef said the following day from Ottawa.

The 10th annual Yukon Arctic Ultra had a record turnout with 82 racers, competing in four distances, beginning at Shipyards Park in Whitehorse on Sunday. The ultra also had a record 29 racers tackling the 430-mile race from Whitehorse to Dawson City.

Whitehorse’s Virginia Sarrazin placed first for women in the marathon distance, crossing the finish line at Rivendell Farm, off Takhini Hot Springs Road, in five hours. Juneau’s Anne Johnson placed second in 5:10 and Whitehorse’s Julia Gerlach in 5:53.

Whitehorse’s two competitors in the 430-mile race to Dawson City, Pamela Brown and Shelley Gellantly, have both scratched.

Whitehorse’s Laura Sly, Verena Koeing and Kristi Bane competed in the 100-mile ending at Braeburn.

Sly and Koeing finished together on Monday at 5:50 p.m., putting them in a tie for third overall. Bane scratched at the last checkpoint in the race at Dog Grave Lake.

No Canadians entered the 300-mile race.

Leef considers running in the marathon distance of the ultra good training for an ambitious fundraising initiative he will begin this summer.

In what has been named “Border to Border,” Leef plans to literally run around the Yukon. Beginning on July 2, Leef will circumnavigate the Yukon border in separate trips over the next three summers, running about 3,000 kilometres in total.

The money he raises will go to the Canadian Diabetes Association.

“These are partly training runs to get ready for that and continuing to build the territorial and national consciousness around the seriousness of diabetes in the country,” said Leef.

“The whole goal is to raise awareness and funds to go directly into the Yukon and the North for awareness, prevention and management strategies. In Northern Canada, in particular in the Yukon, diabetes is one of our most significant health concerns.”

Leef was the top Yukon finisher at the GoodLife Fitness Victoria Marathon in October, placing 38th out of 1,616 racers. It was his 14th marathon in which he broke the three-hour mark. Leef also plans to run the Boston Marathon in April.

Contact Tom Patrick at

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