While many attended the Sunrise Festival in Inuvik last weekend, two women celebrated the return of the sun their own way.

Rita Pasiciel and her daughter Jennifer Pasiciel ran from Tuktoyaktuk to Inuvik to celebrate the sunrise after a month of polar darkness in Inuvik.

Samantha McKay/NNSL photo. Jennifer Pasiciel, left, and Rita Pasiciel complete the last stretch of their run as the sun rises in Inuvik for the first time in 30 days Jan. 6. Though the sun wasn’t visible through the clouds, the runners were still triumphant in their finish.

“We are running from Tuktoyaktuk to Inuvik, and we call this run the Polar Sunrise 150 km,” said Rita. “It’s not a race, it’s a run, and it’s just the two of us.”

This is not the first time the mother daughter duo have teamed up for an ultra running challenge, but it’s their first one in a cold place.

“We’ve done lots of long runs,” said Rita, whose last run was a 196 km one in Hungary in March.

The inspiration for this run came from Brad Firth, also known as Caribou Legs, whom Jennifer met when she was driving across Canada in the summer. When she met him it was his third consecutive time running across the country.

“We pulled over and he wanted a ride into the next town, so we ended up talking and over the course of the conversation I found out he’s from Inuvik,” said Jennifer.

“So I asked do you know my mum Rita, she had the one-stop-shop.”

Firth was initially planning on doing the run and invited the mother-daughter duo to join him, but was unable to make it. “But I imagine he’ll come and do it at some point.”

“He kind of inspired this run,” said Jennifer. “Since the Tuktoyaktuk highway has been done, it’s a new thing for us to try.”

“Like anything in ultra running we’re not going very fast,” she said. “It’s very paced.”

“Ultra runners always start walking,” said Rita.

The sun doesn’t rise in Tuk until the 14th but rose in Aklavik and Inuvik on the fifth, she said.

“So it was like what could we do that would incorporate the Inuvik sunrise?” said Rita.

The pair left Tuk on Friday January 4, and ran/walked for about 24 hours, taking breaks for food and rest. They also had the support of a crew made up of their friends Freda and Kevin Whiteside.

Samantha McKay/NNSL photo
Kevin Whiteside, left, Rita Pasiciel, Jennifer Pasiciel and Freda Whiteside pose together on Bypass Road after the Pasiciels completed their run Jan. 6. The Whitesides supported the two runners on their journey by car.

“When you do ultra runs, it’s good to have a crew,” said Rita.

“It’s hard to take your socks off after 12 hours of running, you’re just dumb,” said Jennifer.

They entered Inuvik via Bypass Road on Sunday afternoon, finishing just as the sun rose around 1:45 p.m. Although the actual sunrise was hidden behind dense clouds at that time, the two women seemed elated at the end of their run.

“We hope that we can inspire others just to get out there and do things that they like to do,” said Rita.

Meaghan Richens

Meaghan Richens is from Ottawa, Ont., and grew up in Perth. She moved to Yellowknife in May 2018 after completing her bachelor’s degree in journalism at Carleton University. She writes about politics,...

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