It’s no wonder why Whitehorse athletes go to Don White for running advice.
White, who is the head coach for Athletics Yukon, placed first in his division at the San Francisco U.S. Half Marathon at the start of the month.
The Whitehorse coach placed first out of 36 males in the 60-69 category with a time of exactly one hour, 40 minutes. He beat out second-place finisher, Joel Camarda of San Francisco, by 8:11, and third place’s Edward Abraham from North Carolina by 8:47.
He was also 198th overall out of 3,662 runners.
It was White’s first time in the event that took runners across the Golden Gate Bridge.
“Running across the bridge was quite interesting,” said White. “It has protection only at the first end on the east side of the bridge, to keep people from jumping off. But once you’re out onto the bridge, there’s nothing. So if you wanted to hop over, go ahead and hop over.
“You run up to the (first tower) uphill, you run around it, get to the halfway point and then you’re running downhill.”
After the bridge there was a gravel section, which, as a Yukoner, he considered “familiar territory.” There was even a couple kilometres along a beach lining the San Francisco Bay.
“Similar to Boston, there’s a bloody hill right before the finish,” said White. “By the time I got to that I point, I wasn’t thinking nice thoughts about the organization (of the race).
“I developed blisters on one foot and that was my big issue – to get back before the blisters started any trouble,” he added.
Running a marathon just a week before likely caused his blister trouble.
Making the most out of his trip to California, White ran in the Napa Wine Country Marathon, Half Marathon and 10K before heading to the City by the Bay.
As a common fixture in the Yukon River Trail Marathon, Napa was right up his alley.
“There was a short section where we had to run 400 on pavement, but everything else was gravel single track – roots, rocks, creeks, and everything that goes along with it,” said White. “It was quite a lot of fun.
“There was a lot of Douglas Fir and stuff I had never seen before … We went through scrubby little oak and eucalyptus forest. It was really cool. It reminded me of something that the hobbits went through. It was all bent and twisted and gnarly.”
Over 400 runners participated in Napa, but only 29 ran in the full marathon. Of those 29, only 14 – including White – finished.
“I was the only guy running in the 60-64 (category),” said White. “I finished, so I won it.”
White is also the head coach for Yukon’s track runners at major competitions, such as the Canada Summer Games and the Western Canada Games. He also coaches Team Yukon’s snowshoe athletes at the Arctic Winter Games.
In May he coached students from Whitehorse’s three high schools at a national track meet, the Nike High School Grand Prix at the University of Toronto.
White figures he’s run about two-dozen marathons over his career. “I have no idea how many halfs I’ve done because I don’t do halfs too often,” said White.
Among the two dozen or so are two appearances in the legendary Boston Marathon in 1992 and 1996. However, a performance in the now defunct Whitehorse Midnight Marathon, a precursor to the Yukon River Trail Marathon, in 1993 stands out in his mind.
“The reason that I remember it was because this guy came up from Victoria and was known for being quick and had run a 2:20 or something like that,” said White.
After getting dropped by the Victoria runner during the race, White began to hear from spectators he wasn’t far behind the B.C. runner.
“I came out of the canyon and I was able to see him at the top of the hill,” said White. “There are lampposts along the road. I would take a look at when he was at a lamppost and then when I was at a lamppost, and I could get an idea of what the difference is. It didn’t take more than two or three lampposts to indicate I was catching up to him.
“I caught the guy just as we were going
past the SS Klondike.”
White went on the win the marathon, posting a time of two hours and 47 minutes.
“That was my fastest marathon ever, and it was just nice to do it here at home,” said White.
Contact Tom Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org