Record number of people run this year’s Yukon River Trail Marathon

Despite the rainy cool weather over the weekend, a record number of people took part in Sunday’s Yukon River Trail Marathon.

More than 300 people ran in the event. That’s the most registered participants in the race’s 23 years.

Ken Sylvestre, one of the organisers, said people from all over the world sign up for the race because of the Yukon’s natural beauty.

“I think the scenery is one thing that’s really special. It’s a trail run mostly on single track, so it’s really a nice route to run. The footing is really good for runners and the scenery along the Yukon River is really spectacular,” he said.

Sylvestre also said many avid runners from across Canada and the U.S. participate in this trail marathon because “they’re trying to finish off doing a run in each province and territory.”

While Sunday’s conditions were not the most photo-conducive, some runners actually preferred the damper weather.

Geoff Dunbrack holding his participation medal
Geoff Dunbrack came in 1st place in the half marathon male open category with a time of 1:23:47. (Sissi De Flaviis/CBC)

Yukoner Geoff Dunbrack, who competed in the male half marathon open category, said the last time he participated in the race, the trails were incredibly dry and he fell.

“Last time I did it I think it was 25 degrees out. I just remember being so thirsty when I finished but this time the temperature is just right.”

“My feet are kind of soggy,” he said minutes after claiming first place. 

For some, simply participating was a big win. Some were surprised to be among the first to cross the line.

“Yeah I wasn’t expecting that,” said Conor Thompson of Quebec who had COVID-19 three weeks before the race. 

“I didn’t have any expectations, because I didn’t do a lot of intensity [training] in the past week.”

Conor Thompson holding his medal
Despite being sick a couple of weeks prior to the competition, Conor Thompson came in 2nd place in the half marathon male category on Sunday. (Sissi De Flaviis/CBC)

Thompson, who finished second after Dunbrack, said his strategy during the race was to go step-by-step and focus on the flags along the trail.

“I was more in the moment than trying to catch up to people,” he said.

Planning the route

Sylvester explained the event was founded in 1999, when marathon distance trail running was slowly growing in popularity. 

Since then, the race has stuck to a similar route along the Yukon River to Miles Canyon, Chadburn Lake and trails along the Riverdale neighbourhood.

Yukon River Trail Marathon map route
The race has followed a similar route over the years, along the Yukon River, to Miles Canyon, Chadburn Lake and trails along the Riverdale neighbourhood. (Sissi De Flaviis/CBC)

Cooler, wetter weather wasn’t the only challenge this year. Sylvestre said it was tough to determine this year’s route.

“This year was a real challenge for trail work,” he said. “There’s just been a lot of trail issues, downed trees and slides and everything that you can name.”

The Millennium Trail along Robert Service Way was closed for several weeks after a major escarpment slide in April.

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