Duff’s Skagway Marathon is billed as the toughest marathon in Alaska.
It’s particularly tough to win when there are Yukoners in the field.
Yukon runners won all six divisions at the seventh annual event on June 10 in Alaska.
“It’s a fairly tough course,” said Carcross’ Denise McHale. “There aren’t any super big climbs, but just continual rolling hills. And it was a really windy day Saturday so there was a big headwind coming back, so it wasn’t necessarily a fast course, but a beautiful course.
“It was nicely run with great volunteers and it was a nice local, low key event.”
McHale took first in the women’s marathon with over a half hour to spare, crossing the finish at three hours, 23 minutes and 52 seconds. The 43-year-old, who is a former 100-kilometre national champ and six-time winner at the Yukon River Trail Marathon, decided last-minute to enter.
“I was going to do a long training run here this weekend, but then I thought, ‘Maybe I’ll pop down to Skagway,’” said McHale. “I had always looked at doing that marathon, but it never worked timing wise.
“It was kind of close and a good, forced training session. You always run a little faster in a race than you would if you were just out training on your own.”
Whitehorse’s David Eikelboom captured the men’s title in record time. The 30-year-old cut a half hour off the previous record with a time of 2:47:56.
Like McHale, Eikelboom is a Yukon River Trail champ and is entered in the Reckless Raven ultra, a new 80-kilometre race to be held in Whitehorse on July 2.
“This was a tune-up race for the Reckless Raven 50. So the goal wasn’t to go out there and kill myself, but to try and run more of a cautious race and live to walk the next day,” said Eikelboom. “I feel good today. I was able to go out for a little jog, so mission accomplished for that.
“I got a little nervous because right when the race started there was a guy … (who) went out pretty fast. I was glad Dominic Bradford was there too because we were talking to each other in the first couple of miles: ‘Let’s remember the goal here, it’s not to get in a sprint with some dude we don’t know.’
“Over the first half of the race, Harry (Subertas) is his name, kind of slowed down a little bit and we ended up running with him for a good chunk.”
A pair of Whitehorse win streaks were kept intact in Skagway.
Kendra Murray won the women’s half marathon, making it seven straight times in which a Whitehorse runner won the division. Murray, a cross-country skier and orienteerer who has competed at world championships in both sports, topped the largest division of 54 runners with a time of 1:35:11.
Daniel Dreiseitl won the men’s half with a time of 1:31:09, maintaining its status as a division that has always been won by a Whitehorse runner going back to the inaugural event in 2011.
Whitehorse’s Bonnie Love and John Storms were the top half-marathon walkers on the day. Love finished in 2:36:41 and Storms in 2:27:44. They both represented Canada in walking events at the 2017 World Masters Games in New Zealand this past April.
A total of 115 racers — six fewer than the participation record set last year — took part in this year’s marathon. None was eaten by bears.
“This was the first year we had bears actively on the course while racers were out,” said race chief Kristin Wagner. “One racer had to be followed with two cars and a four-wheeler while a bear sat on the side of the road watching in curiosity. The bear activity is certainly something we are going to chat about at our next board meeting as we look towards the 2018 race.”
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Women’s half marathon
1st Kendra Murray (Whitehorse) — 1:35:11
2nd Erica VanVlack (Whitehorse) — 1:36:17
3rd Maura Sullivan (Whitehorse) — 1:37:42
4th Anett Kralish (Whitehorse) — 1:38:39
5th Shawna Smith (Whitehorse) — 1:39:14
Men’s half marathon
1st Daniel Dreiseitl (Whitehorse) — 1:31:09
2nd Nolan Isozaki (California) — 1:32:02
3rd Tom Ullyett (Whitehorse) — 1:38:00
4th Richard Thompson (Whitehorse) — 1:44:34
5th Benjamin Scott (Skagway) — 1:44:36
1st Denise McHale (Carcross) — 3:23:52
2nd Valerie Morey (Whitehorse) — 3:56:27
3rd MaryAnn Love (Juneau) — 4:17:25
4th Joanne Van Bibber-Widrig (Whitehorse) — 4:26:38
5th Mindy Shaw (Juneau) — 4:31:43
1st David Eikelboom (Whitehorse) — 2:47:56
2nd Haroldas Subertas (Massachusetts) — 2:57:38
3rd Dominic Bradford (Whitehorse) — 2:57:55
4th Jason Hoepker (Minesota) — 3:18:38
5th Blake Bottle (Arizona) — 3:19:04
1st Bonnie Love (Whitehorse) — 2:36:41
2nd Alyssa Sawyer (Arizona) — 2:56:19
3rd Jean Smith (Juneau) — 3:00:27
4th Becky Jensen (Skagway) — 3:16:45
5th Donna Lambert (Haines) — 3:21:34
1st John Storms (Whitehorse) — 2:27:44
2nd Reed McCluskey (California) — 4:20:40