For the third consecutive year, Whitehorse’s Scarecrow won the open division of the Klondike Trail of ‘98 International Road Relay.
The team was the last to start the 176.5-kilometre race, which began in Skagway on Friday evening and finished in Whitehorse Saturday afternoon.
Being the last to start presents unique challenges.
“It’s weird, actually,” said John Parry about racing alone. He began running at 11:30 p.m. Friday.
With only the clock to race against, he had to focus on his legs and breathing. “You’re running in the dark, so it’s hard to know how fast you’re going. You just keep the pedal to the floor and keep it going,” he said.
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Parry ran his leg in just over 58 minutes and was the male with the second-fastest overall time for that leg.
He was one of five new members on the championship team.
“It’s been an interesting year,” said team captain Simon Lapointe, who won Leg 7. “It’s hard to replace five really strong runners.”
The team was finalized in July, but they never ran together before the event. “It was a bit of a shot in the dark,” he said.
If adding new members was difficult, their results didn’t show it. The team took 15 minutes off of their time from last year, completing the race in 11 hours, 29 minutes and 43 seconds, at a pace of 9.5 miles per hour.
They finished over three hours ahead of Juneau’s C.C. Striders, who finished second last year.
In 2010, Scarecrow became the first Canadian team to win the open division since Whitehorse’s Pepsi Roadrunners won in 1993. But their victories have always come without the chance to compete against Anchorage’s Skinny Raven: Take No Prisoners, the team that won the division each year between 2003 and 2009.
The more competitive teams participating in the event, the better it is, said Lapointe.
“We would like to race head-to-head with them,” said Whitehorse’s Ray Sabo who won Leg 4. He doesn’t know why the team hasn’t returned to competition, but hopes they do.
Scarecrow members had individual wins in six of the race’s 10 legs. David Greer took Leg 2, Fabian Brook Leg 3, Sabo Leg 4, David Brook Leg 5, Lapointe Leg 7 and Karl Blattmann Leg 9.
Scarecrow wasn’t the only victorious team with significant roster changes. Whitehorse’s Cougars…It’s business time won the women’s division with a time of 15:27:52. The team took third-place last year. It’s made of a group of between 10 and 20 women who participate in various sports together throughout the year. This year’s team had three different members than last year’s group.
“It’s a really good blend of fun and competition,” said Aisha Montgomery, who has been on the team for the last four years.
The victory came without the chance to fully compete against Ladies Worth Freezin’ For, the second-place finishers.
The two teams are very similar, said Montgomery. “We were really looking forward to competing with them.”
One of the Ladies Worth Freezin’ For didn’t make it to the race, and that setback gave the Cougars the advantage, said Montgomery.
American teams dominated the mixed category, with Team 8 from Douglas winning with a time of 12:13:08. The top Yukon team was Whitehorse’s Red Carpet Runners who came in fifth.
Whitehorse’s Slowly Heading North won the walking division. The Chocolate Claim Walkers, winners of that division for the previous three years, slipped to third. Whitehorse teams were the top three finishers in that division.
Whitehorse’s Keith Thaxter was the sole runner in the ultra division. He ran the final 72 kilometres of the race dressed as a prisoner. Thaxter ran with a torn ACL and knew it would be a rough event. But The Fugitive on the Run was determined to reach the end.
“I would have crawled down the waterfront to finish,” he said.
His support team didn’t always understand his determination. As he ran through Miles Canyon, he told them he was “feeling crappy and may need an ambulance at the end.”
Thaxter has run the ultra event six times and was joking. But they thought he was serious, and when he completed the race an ambulance was waiting for him.
He had his blood pressure taken. After getting something to eat and showering, he felt fine.
This year’s race saw 144 teams compete. Whitehorse teams won all but two categories.
This race also saw a new timing system. Runners used equipment from the bicycle relay and the Yukon Orienteering Society. At the end of each leg, runners put flash drives into readers that recorded their times before handing them over to the next runner on the team. For the first time, runners were able to know their results immediately and not wait until after the event.
Sport Yukon hopes to use this more in the years to come.
Contact Meagan Gillmore at