The Current

This man ran 138 km across the frozen Yukon landscape. He's disappointed he didn't do more

France's Thierry Corbarieu won the Yukon Arctic Ultra race this week, after nine days and nearly 700 kilometres in temperatures of –50 C. Not everyone finished the race though. We talk to two athletes about what it takes to compete, and what it takes to call it a day.

Russ Reinbolt ended his Yukon Arctic Ultra race when he 'started to get foggy'

Russ Reinbolt prepares for the Yukon Arctic Ultra, considered to be one of the most gruelling ultramarathons on the planet. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

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Just over a week ago, Russ Reinbolt ran 138 kilometres across the frozen Yukon landscape, in temperatures of –25 C.

But despite the amazing feat of human endurance, he's disappointed.

"I feel perfectly fine physically, but emotionally I am beat up. I am all battered and bruised, and, you know, my ego took a hit," he told The Current's guest host Piya Chattopadhyay.

"Primarily, it's the sense of self disappointment, I feel like I gave up because of the adversity of the event."

Reinbolt, a 53-year-old emergency room doctor from California, was running the 480-kilometre race in the Yukon Arctic Ultra — considered to be one of the most gruelling ultramarathons on the planet.

Every February, competitors head north out of Whitehorse in the direction of Dawson City, for distances of 160, 480 or nearly 700 kilometres. They can run, walk, ski or bike — but all competitors face the same cold, which can reach temperatures of –50 C.

At last year's event, two runners suffered frostbite that led to amputations. British racer Nick Griffiths lost three toes, while Italian runner Roberto Zanda needed to have both his legs amputated at the shin.

Racing this month, Reinbolt said he spotted the danger signs when he "started to get foggy."

Reinbolt dropped out of the race after recognizing he was becoming cold and mentally confused on the trail. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

"I had not slept enough, I wasn't eating enough, I wasn't drinking enough, and I was getting cold and I was getting some tingling in my fingers," he told Chattopadhyay.

That's when, Reinbolt says, he "almost panicked."

"In a bad emotional state, I hit my help button on my GPS tracker and ended my race very, very prematurely, but probably appropriately."

To discuss what it takes to compete in the Yukon Arctic Ultra, and what it takes to know when to stop, Chattopadhyay was joined by:

  • Pat Cook-Rogers, a six-time competitor who stopped 480 kilometres into her almost 700-kilometre race.
  • Russ Reinbolt, who made his first attempt this year.

Click 'listen' near the top of this page to hear the full conversation.

Produced by Jessica Linzey.


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