Manitoba has got some long distance running talent.
The premier runners finished off this year with two first place finishes in two separate and very difficult races.
Firstly, a few outstanding local racers attended the Canadian 100 mile Trail Championships, which were held in Lethbridge, Alberta this year. It’s the famous race called ‘The Lost Soul’. Three of Manitoba’s premier long distance runners attended: Craig Desjarlais from Winnipeg, Sue Lucas from Dauphin, and Bert Blackbird from Brandon.
Unfortunately Desjarlais had to pull out, and while Blackbird managed a respectable finish of 29 hours and 59 minutes, the accolades go to Sue Lucas. She managed to grind out the miles and take the women’s National title for the third time, with a time of 29 hours and 54 minutes.
“I had to dig deep to win this one,” says Lucas. “I had a terrible first half of the race. My pacer and I battled back on the third loop to outrun Michelle Barton who was leading the race from the start. She’s a super fast runner from California. My pacer and I had to literally run the last 25+ kilometres of the race except for the huge climbs to win this one. It was epic for me to say the least. It’s amazing what you can push your body to do.”
In 2009, Lucas won Sulphur Springs 100, as well as the 2010 and now the 2014 Lost Soul 100, for a total of three National 100 Mile Ultra-Endurance Running titles. She didn’t attend the championships in 2012 or 2013.
In a separate race, held on a 103-mile stretch of the Superior Hiking Trail in Minnesota, there was a car load of local runners who placed admirably at the finish. Winnipeg’s Mallory Richard not only placed well, but was the women’s overall winner with a time of 27:32:27.
“This was the most difficult race I’ve run so far,” says Richard. “I ran well during the daylight hours and loved how beautiful the trail was, but had some really low points during the night.
“I got through it with the help of my pacer and crew, but it wasn’t until the sun rose Saturday morning that I felt ready to really push my pace.
“I don’t have much racing experience on hilly or technical courses, so I went into this race just hoping to finish,” explains Richard.
“I started near the back of the pack and slowly worked my way toward the front. April Cole led the race for the first 90 miles, but ran into some issues around that point and I caught up to her by the time she dropped out at the second-last aid station. That got me excited and I ran well enough for the last 13 miles that I (briefly) caught up to Steven Graupner.”
Steven Graupner from St. Malo, who placed 16th in the men’s division with a time of 27 hours and 31 minutes, amazingly closed the distance from 45th place to 16th place during the last phases of the race.
“At mile 81 I had made a questionable decision to stick with a group at a good pace rather than take a walking break” Graupner recalls. “Whether due to that or just the distance taking its toll, I was doing terrible for the next section, but bounced back a little for the final stretch.”
He adds, “Awesome trail — many good views of Lake Superior, inland lakes and ridges … lots of hills and rocks and roots … some very technical sections … some sections of the trail quite muddy.”
And finally, Joel Toews, who is the inspirational rock when it comes to support for these long, tough races, was impressed his friends’ performances, and privileged to have supported them.
“This is a tough race with lots of climb and decent and this year, because of recent rain, there was a lot of mud,” explains Toews. “I had the opportunity to crew Mallory and Steven, as well as run with Mallory throughout the night. It was amazing to support Mallory and Steven who are both incredible runners. Definitely felt a sense of Manitoba pride when they crossed the finish line.”
All photos from the Superior 100 were taken by Joel Toews, who paced and encouraged his friends to finish this gruelling event. Bert Blackbird’s photo from the Lost Soul 100 was taken by his loving mother.