Keith Thaxter and Kelly Hostetler spent seven and a half hours getting to know each other.
That’s how long it took them to run from Carcross to Whitehorse.
The athletes had never met or competed together before their 4 a.m. start. But, for the entire 71 kilometres of the Klondike Road Relay’s inaugural ultra-distance they paced each other like longtime running mates.
Thaxter convinced the 2007 race committee to initiate the category for the event’s 25th anniversary. His rationale was: “If four walkers can cover the distance in 10 hours, one runner should be able to do it, too.”
To prove it on paper, he projected finishing times at various speeds.
To prove it to himself, he anticipated running a nine-minute mile on Leg 7, then slowing to 11 minutes by Leg 10. In fact, both challengers sped up on Leg 9 between Annie Lake and the Carcross Cutoff to post an overall pace of 10 minutes per mile, or 5.9 miles per hour.
Thaxter, who sports a race wardrobe from Boston, New York, San Diego and Philadelphia, finishes marathons in about three hours.
Hostetler, a trail runner who doesn’t even wear a watch, developed endurance for the back-to-back marathon distance at ultras in Alaska and the Lower 48.
“I’m sticking with her,” Thaxter declared at his first water break. At 11:34 a.m., 7:33:52 from the start, the pair crossed the finish line hand in hand.
Now that the men’s and women’s titles are established, Thaxter expects more ultra competitors in 2008.
Overall relay winners — Trail of ’98 Klondike
1st Skinny Raven: Take No Prisoners (Anchorage), 10:49:19
2nd To P or Not to P (Juneau), 14:17:46
3rd Afrodisiacs (Juneau), 14:29:59
1st Hard Women Are Good To Find (Juneau), 15:27:28
2nd Women on the Edge (Anchorage), 15:23:06
3rd Feet Legal (Whitehorse), 16:10:17
1st Pabst Blue Runners (Anchorage), 12:56:20
2nd Vestigial Appendages (Juneau), 13:30:30
3rd 12 Gauge (Anchorage), 14:08:13