With the sounds of the snow crunching under his feet and a cold, pinkish-grey sky ahead of him, distance runner Brendan Hancock took to the shoulder of the ice road to Dettah last Saturday to meet the challenge of a speed test being put on by his home running club.
Hancock, 30, who came to Yellowknife in October from the Kitchener-Waterloo area of Ontario, is participating in a virtual race called the Health and Performance Arctic Mile Challenge.
Because Ontario is in lockdown due to Covid-19, Hancock says his home club is unable to hold group races. As a result, the club has held a one-mile speed run that he can do remotely. Participants have the first 14 days of 2021 to complete it and send it to the club to have posted, mostly for bragging rights.
“You have the first two weeks of January to complete the challenge on a course of your choice,” Hancock explained. “So, it allows me to do it from here remotely because I can’t meet up with anybody and do it anyway.”
The rules for the challenge he’s participating in specify that he can’t do the run on a surface where there is an elevation loss of more than five metres – meaning essentially a flat route.
“So my challenge has been where the heck do you find a long, flat surface within Yellowknife without having to run uphill?
It turned out that is exactly what he got on Jan. 9 with a -17 C temperature with wind chill.
NNSL Media travelled out to the ice road with Hancock as he completed 1.6 km from the ice road entrance to just past the first major bend.
Equipped with a solid pair of spiked shoes, fleece tights and a long-sleeve fleece sweater, he finished with a time of 4:52.
Yellowknife temperatures during the winter are typically not ideal for speed tests as the colder it gets, more layers of clothing are required, Hancock explained.
“Once we hit -40, I need five layers on top and three on bottom, which is quite excessive,” he said. “You can’t really do any speed work or anything like that because it’s just too restrictive and you can’t move as well.”
As a long-distance runner, typically he competes in five and 10-km races and sometimes half-marathons. He avoids full marathons as the time commitment for preparation is much more extensive.
“Because of my competitive nature, I probably won’t enter a race if I’m not ready for it and if I don’t get the proper time to train for it,” he said.
He typically logs between 50 km to 120 km a week and last week completed 106 km. This usually requires a six to nine hour time commitment over a given week.