Brendan Morphet was leading the Yukon River Trail Marathon by 15 minutes and victory was well in hand, until he was confronted by a dangerous roadblock: Two grizzly bears.
Morphet rounded a corner in leg three of the race alongside Chadburn Lake where a steep hill was on one side and a sharp drop-off to the lake was on the other. In front of him on the trail were two grizzly bears.
“I yelled and yelled,” Morphet told CBC News. “They wouldn’t go anywhere.”
Morphet backed away out of the bears’ line of sight and waited for a bit, and then tried again. One bear remained defiant.
“I figured, ‘Eh, maybe I’ll go yell again, maybe it buggered off,’ and as I came around again, I could see it making its way toward me, kind of doing a little run, and then I just, I was gone.”
Morphet began backtracking and ran into Jody Eikelboom, who was running the relay portion of the race, and another relay runner. Both began backtracking with Morphet.
Then they ran into Denise McHale, who like Morphet was running the full marathon and was in second place at the time.
“I had just started the first kilometer or two of leg three,” McHale told CBC News. “Then there were three of them coming back toward me, the runners, so I’m like ‘What are you guys doing? Are you lost?’”
McHale continued on without incident and wound up winning the marathon with a time of 3:24:52. Morphet took second place at 3:26:51.
“So he kind of got ripped off a little bit,” McHale said of Morphet.
Ken Sylvestre, director of Sunday’s race in Whitehorse, Canada, said nobody’s time gets adjusted for detours such as this one.
“Well, it’s a wilderness race,” he told CBC News. “There are bears. We’ve had bears before.
“We want to be as clear as we can that there are bears out there and individual runners have to be comfortable dealing with that.”
Photo is courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.