British Columbia

With a time of 7½ days, B.C. woman wins 350-mile category of Alaskan Iditarod Trail race

After seven days, 11 hours and 20 minutes, Jessie Thomson-Gladish of Kamloops, B.C., crossed the finish line of one of the world’s longest winter ultra-marathons.

Jessie Thomson-Gladish now eligible for 1,000-mile category

Jessie Thomson-Gladish is looking ahead to next year, trying to decide if she will compete in the 1000-mile race. (Jessie Thomson-Gladish)

After seven days, 11 hours and 20 minutes, Jessie Thomson-Gladish crossed the finish line of one of the world's longest winter ultra-marathons this week, coming first in her category. 

Having negotiated ice, snow and extreme cold, the Kamloops, B.C., resident won the 350-mile (560-kilometre) women's foot race of the Iditarod Trail Invitational in Alaska, which started on Feb. 26.

The Iditarod Trail Invitation, not to be confused with the popular dog-sled Iditarod, began in 2000. Only 70 people from around the world are invited to compete each year. 

"It's a bit surreal actually," she told Daybreak Kamloops host Shelley Joyce.

"Ultimately, it's a physical and mental challenge that takes me through the wilderness and sort of brings everything down to a survival, simplistic mode.

"I really, really enjoy it, and it's absolutely beautiful to be walking through the wilderness like that."

It took Jessie Thomson-Gladish of Kamloops, B.C., just over a week to complete a 350-mile foot race through the Alaskan Iditarod Trail. (Jessie Thomson-Gladish)

At 32, Thomson-Gladish has competed in several ultra-marathons, winning her category in the 2017 Yukon Arctic Ultra and competing as the only woman in the same race in 2015, and she plans to do more.

She said she wanted to compete in the 350-mile race because finishing it is a prerequisite to taking part in the 1,000-mile (1,610-kilometre) category.

How does she do it?

For some, preparation for these kinds of races are intense, and can involve pulling tires and spending hours at the gym and on the trail. 

But Thomson-Gladish says her training regime is "relatively mild."

"I do a lot of running, and then I also add in snowshoeing and cross-country skiing," she said.

"I approach these races more as an expedition," she said.  

'Amazed at what our bodies can do'

For 560 kilometres — the distance from Vancouver to Revelstoke, B.C. — Thomson-Gladish pulled her pulk, a sled with all her equipment and supplies, through snow and ice in the Alaskan wilderness. 

She only slept and ate when absolutely necessary because the clock keeps ticking even when racers stop moving.

"I'm continually amazed at what our bodies can do, or what my body can do in these extreme distances per day," she said.  "A little bit of rest and some food and the next day you're good to go again."

Thomson-Gladish would like to be able to do an ultra-marathon on her own, with no other racers around her, but said races make it safer for all competitors.

"There's a risk of going through ice, there's risk of falling in overflow [pockets of slush], there's exposure to extreme cold. It's as safe as it can be."

Jessie Thomson-Gladish won her category in the Iditarod Trail Invitational this week. (Jessie Thomson-Gladish)

With files from Daybreak Kamloops