This year the iconic Klondike Trail of 98 International Road Relay from Skagway to Whitehorse turns 30!
On September 7 and 8,, teams of runners will cross 176.5km of terrain broken into 10 legs (between nine and 25.6kkm in length), all while gaining 1,004m in elevation (only to lose 394m after the climb).
To celebrate the big anniversary, I asked a series of past race participants and volunteers to share their favourite race memories, trials, tribulations and war stories. Here’s what they told me:
“I remember last year when my boyfriend was support driving for me and I asked him to drive ahead and stop every five kilometres so I could stop and get water, refuel and such.
“After what I thought was 15 kilometres of my 21-kilometre leg, I admitted to him that I didn’t really have another six kilometres in me, which I was a little disappointed by.
“He confessed he had been lying the whole time and actually stopping every six to seven kilometres each time and I only had one kilometre left to finish!
“Best lie ever!”
– Jada Kwok
“Running in the middle of the night with just you, the darkness (and stars), distance and time become irrelevant. It’s as close to a spiritual experience as you can get.”
– Robyn Kuhn
“I volunteer at after party each year, and one year I was on crutches while volunteering. I had multiple requests from runners at the end of the dance to borrow my crutches so they could make it up the stairs at Mt. Mac.
“Sadly for them, I was still non-weight-bearing so needed the crutches myself. Those runners get so tired running, and then they move on to the dance… where they then dance for hours! Talk about exhausted leg muscles!”
– Aimee Ellis
“My favourite was the year that we, as a support team, decided to drive ahead of our runner Tim by a few kilometres and just stop on the side of the road to wait for him.
“He was running one of the middle-of-the-night legs, and two of us had already run ours and were quite exhausted. So as we sat to wait, the three of us all drifted off to sleep.
“We woke up not long later, only a small cat nap, to assume that he hadn’t passed us because we thought he would have banged on the window or something on the way by. Our runner also had a bit of a knee issue that year, so we were expecting him to take awhile.
“As we waited, we started to get a bit worried that he wasn’t coming along and decided to head back down the highway to look for him. After driving basically back to the checkpoint he started at, we all looked at each other and thought, ‘Oh crap…’
“Back down the highway we went, only to find him at the end of his leg, dying of thirst because we had all the water! Worst support team ever!”
– Brianne Bremner
“I’m trying very hard to forget my one attempt at the road relay!”
– Michael Tilbrook
“My most memorable time running the relay was doing Leg 2 when I was five months pregnant and forgot about the time change (blame that on pregnancy brain), and thought I had an hour before I ran.
“Made to it the start line to find out my runner had already left, so I missed tagging off to him and completely wasn’t ready to run. Not my best moment, but one I will probably never forget.”
– Tasha Chambers
“I first ran the relay at the age of 12, I think. The ladies kept putting me on short Leg 2, since they felt guilty. I got the snow, ice, slush and fog, but lots of cheers and smiles.”
– Sara Nielsen
Amber Church is a painter, writer and sports enthusiast. You can reach her at [email protected].