The Fast and The Delirious

Senior Researcher Marilyn Terrell is in the Yukon Territory for this week, and she’s blogging, and of course, tweeting, whenever she can. She sent along this dispatch:

I spent ten hours yesterday walking the streets and trails of Whitehorse, (pop. 24,000) the capital of the Yukon Territory (pop. 40,000 people, plus 30,000 bears). Ate breakfast at Baked aka Bakerei Kaffeehaus (+1 867 633 6291)

where the blueberry scones are wholegrain, the latte foam artfully swirled, and toddlers saute plastic vegetables in tiny pans in the wooden play kitchen.

Down by the Yukon River waterfront at Rotary Peace Park, ’60s classics blared and crowds cheered the anchor-leg runners of the 110-mile Klondike International Road Relay as they approached the finish line. The race began at midnight in Skagway, Alaska, and runners carried flashlights over the Coast Mountains through White Pass along the Chilkoot Trail, which originally brought the goldminers in the stampede of 1898. The race officials announced the names of the runners and their teams: the Skinny Ravens from Anchorage, Sole Train from Juneau, CrowsFeet, an all-female masters team from Anchorage, the Chocolate Claim Runners from Whitehorse, the Smokin’ Old Geezers, Team Run Amok, Blood Sweat & Beers, Twisted Blistered Sisters, the Molten Lava Tigers of Doom, The Fast and the Delirious. There were 1,200 runners, 700 women, and many junior teams.

The race is a big local event but draws teams from Alaska, Vancouver and one from Germany (adventure-loving Germans are so thick on the ground here in Whitehorse that some tourist brochures are printed in that language; many were inspired to visit by the Yukon-themed German children’s books that are similar to The Hardy Boys). The registration fees for the race go to Sport Yukon, which funds various sporting activities in the Territory. Some of the teams wear costumes, like the rainbow-bewigged local team Citizens Against Running Seriously. Team Chicken Run also wore distinctive headgear, and handed off a well-autographed rubber chicken as a baton with each leg of the race. During the night the chicken became a yellow torch with the insertion of a flashlight.

I spoke to members of the Bones Brigade as the lounged on the grass post-race. They’re a group of teachers from the Catholic junior high in Whitehorse, and they’ve been competing in the relay for 10 years. “Do your students come and cheer you on?” I asked Sean McCarron. “They come but they come to run,” McCarron explained. “There are some amazing young athletes in this town. It’s not odd to have your butt kicked by a 14-year-old in running, paddling or on a bike. It’s humbling.”

Meanwhile, future young competitors romp barefoot in the sand of the volleyball courts and turn cartwheels on the grass beside the fast-flowing, bottle-green water of the Yukon River. Starting this afternoon the river becomes my home and highway for the next eight days as I travel by boat with the Great River Journey

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geotour visiting First Nation villages and retracing the voyage of the fast and delirious gold miners from Whitehorse to Dawson City, where the sands of the fabled Klondike River yielded $800 a shovelful in 1898.

[City of Whitehorse]
[Klondike Road Relay]

Photo: Michael Melford/NGS

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