Ilona Gyapay this week is skiing in the toughest and coldest race in the world: the Yukon Arctic Ultra. Temperatures have been -45C to -50C. Ilona is pulling a 27 kg (60lb) sled, transporting food, sleeping bag and survival gear. She’s attempting to cover over 70 km a day for a distance of 692 kilometers (430 miles). She’s racing in the northern Canadian wilderness, alone in wolf country. She sleeps in the open under the dark sky. She’s fighting frostbite and fatigue and has to think clearly and make the right decisions to stay alive. She has to avoid losing her fingers and toes to the cold. One of the youngest racers she is also one of only two Canadians registered for the full distance. Most people don’t complete the long-haul race. In 2015, when temperatures also reached -50C, only five people finished the full 692 km distance with the others all having to drop out. From the Canadian Running Magazine podcast: “months of sacrifice to attempt this race…no glamorous finish line…no purse for the winner…motivation is just to prove they can do it…it is just about finishing…rewards are not material.” Last year Ilona placed third in the Arctic Circle Race in Greenland: 160 kilometres through mountainous regions. Extremely modest Ilona doesn’t boast about her accomplishments; she doesn’t update her social media. She doesn’t talk about how strong she is, how capable she is, how courageous she is. She’s racing alone out there guiding us all.
photo by Noel Rogers