The gods themselves could not keep Whitehorse runners from achieving top-10 results at the second annual Skagway Marathon on Saturday.
The washout of the South Klondike Highway going into Skagway prevented about 50 Whitehorse runners from participating in the event, but 12 were early enough to get through, accumulating five top-10 finishes in the half-marathon distance.
“We left early. We were on the last bus that made it through,” said Whitehorse’s Michael Richards. “Some of the others got through in the middle of the night – they let a few cars through. The two of us that went down together, our bus went through as the road was washing out.”
Thanks to his timely arrival, Richards placed first in the men’s half marathon with a time of one hour, 24 minutes and 30 seconds.
“It was awesome, it was really great,” said Richards. “I really wanted to concentrate, this time, on running my own race and not running it to win – running it for my best for the day. Those are sometimes different. And I ended up doing both, so I was happy about that.”
Because of Richards and last year’s winner Rodney Hulstein, only Whitehorse runners have won the men’s half marathon event. Richards finished second behind Hulstein in the inaugural event.
“Last year Rodney and I were working together against the wind,” said Richards.
In fact, Whitehorse runners occupied three out of the top-four spots in the men’s half-distance race.
Dominic Bradford placed second with a time of 1:27:22, and Ian Parker crossed the finish line in fourth with a time of 1:28:44. In 16th place was Whitehorse’s Lawrence Ignace at 1:53:18.
Americans in the women’s half marathon had a lot more Yukoners to contend with.
Of the eight Whitehorse runners in the women’s event, Holly Pearson claimed the highest position with a fourth-place finish in a time of 1:52:28.
Also placing in single digits was Keltie Hollingdale in ninth (1:56:12), one spot up from Sarah Laxton (1:56:15). Making it three in a row for Whitehorse was Tiffani Frazer in 11th (1:56:44).
Other Whitehorse results include Deb Kiemele in 14th (2:00:14), Katie Moore in 16th (2:04:50), Virginia Sarrazin in 19th (2:08:21), and Haley Henderson in 21st (2:09:50) out of 31 runners competitors.
Richards, who competed at the national level in triathlon in the 1990s, is fairly new to marathons.
In his first-ever marathon, Richards won the men’s full-distance division of the 2010 Yukon River Trail Marathon. He then won the open men’s division last year again, but was third overall behind two masters competitors.
“I hope to be able to run for a first-place finish this year,” said Richards. “Again, I’ll just try to do my best and if that ends up in a first-place win, that’s great.”
He was also the top Yukon finisher in the 2010 Victoria Marathon in B.C., placing 29th out of 3,221 runners, with a time of 2:49:21.
Richards was also a member of the winning team – Whitehorse’s Scarecrow – in the Klondike Trail of ‘98 International Road Relay last year.
Just over a week ago, he was on the winning Olympic mixed team in the Whitehorse Triathlon. He was the fastest runner in the Olympic distance event out of any division.
“The most spectacular thing about the race on Saturday was that every single person gave me a high-five or a big thumbs up,” said Richards. “It’s really hard to run a fast race when you’re up front and it didn’t feel like I was up front, like I was alone. It was one of the best camaraderie races ever.
“All the competitors – everyone was supporting everyone.”
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