The Yukon Arctic Ultra Marathon has run every year since 2003, with the exception of 2010. Athletes can choose to run the course on foot, by skis, or by bike.
There are four distances available; a marathon, 100 miles, 300 miles or (every second year) 430 miles.
The race takes place in the Yukon, in northern Canada and attracts an international field of world-class athletes. Competitors must be in top physical condition and have experience in cold weather events. That experience is topped up with a cold weather survival boot camp for those competing in the 100 mile or higher events.
The Arctic Ultra is mentally and physically demanding. Competitors spend long stretches alone on the trail with temperatures that may plummet to 50 below. There are more hours of darkeness than light and the long nights increase as the athletes move north. There may moose or wolves along the trail. Hypothermia and frostbite are serious and sometime life-threatening risks.
Athletes Must be Fit Enough to Withstand the Rigors of the Race
Athletes Must Follow the Rules or be Disqualified.
The comprehensive rules that govern the race are designed for the athlete’s safety. They include…
Competitors must provide a doctor’s certificate stating that they are physically able to compete.
No outside assistance is allowed.
Athletes who must be rescued and evacuated from the trail will be responsible for the costs incurred.
Athletes arriving a checkpoint exhausted or sweating heavily must remain at that checkpoint for a minimum of four hours.
The 100 mile race must be completed in 3 days
The 300 mile race must be completed in 8 days.
The 430 mile race must be completed in 13 days.
Athletes Must Carry Their Own Food and Supplies to Keep Warm.
The Mandatory Gear List
Competitors in the 100 and 300 mile categories must carry the following supplies or be disqualified.
Sleeping bag rated to -35 or better.
Headlamp with spare batteries.
First aid kit
Matches in a waterproof container
Wind resistant lighter
Small stove with fuel
Pot, cup, bowl and spoon
Enough food to last two days
Competitors in the 30 mile race (every second year) must carry all of the above plus
Tales From the Trail
Only the Strongest Finish the Race
There is a true international flavor to the Yukon Arctic Ultra Marathon. In 2011 American Douglas Girling won the 100 mile foot race in 28 1/2 hours. Spaniard Jorge Aubesco was best in the 300 mile foot race taking 123 hours and Canadian Grec McHale topped the 430 mile foot race in 200 hours. Englishman Alan Sheldon was the best on the bike completing the 430 mile course in 99 hours.
But for every athlete who completes the race that are many who don't. Of the 20 competitors who signed up for the 2011 430 mile foot race only four made it to the finish line.
Competitors may suffer from hypothermia, frostbite or mental and physical breakdowns. They may run out of food, get injured or their gear may break down. Even for the most seasoned athlete temperatures below -40 put everyone at serious risk. When competitors simply can't go on they push their "help" button and a snowmobile heads down the trail to pick them up.
Take the case of Francis Beauvallet. In 2009 he was competing in the 300 mile foot race. His headlamp broke, he was mired in knee depth snow and he hadn't seen another person in 27 hours. It was time to call it quits!
But extreme athletes don't like to fail. Many return another year to take a stab at conquering the gruelling Yukon Arctic Ultra Marathon.