Fort St. John runners survive Canadian Death Race

All Laurie Cardinal wanted to do at this year’s Canadian Death Race in Grande Cache August 3 and 4 was to finish in under 24 hours. Not only did Cardinal do just that, but she shaved 94 minutes off her time from 2018, finishing in 22 hours and 28 minutes.

“I was so close last year (24 hours, two minutes), but to take off more than an hour and a half this year is beyond anything I ever expected,” said Cardinal.

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Her accomplishment was a year in the making, as she trained extensively since the 2018 Death Race. The Canadian Death Race is a 125-kilometre ultra-marathon in Grande Cache, Alberta. By finishing in under 24 hours, Cardinal goes down as an official finisher of the race and received an official Death Race medal, something she didn’t get a year ago.

“I changed up my training this year, spending a lot more time in the hills, and doing the longest distance possible whenever I would enter a race,” Cardinal said.

Another thing she focused on was mental training.

“I focused on my self confidence, keeping my mind clear, and accepting myself as I am. It makes a huge difference, just being able to keep that positive mindset when you get tired and fatigued,” said Cardinal.

Cardinal needed that persistence as this year’s race saw extreme conditions that pushed the runners to the limit.

“The conditions were nasty, with every weather-type possible. There were two downpours of rain, with heat pockets in between. There were 65km/hr winds at the top of the largest summit blowing sideways, and muddy slopes on the hills. There was even wildlife, a cougar followed a group of runners and growled at them, so that was something we had to deal with as well,” she said.

Cardinal wasn’t the only runner from Fort St. John in the mix. Phillip Phelan ran a remarkable time of 18 hours and 16 seconds, good for 44th overall.

Jayme Morrison was 82nd with a time of 20:13:54, and Leon Breton had a time of 20 hours and 37 minutes.

Father and son duo Steve and Dan Toews finished the 42km Near Death Marathon in 6 hours and 38 minutes to finish 35th and 36th, respectively.

In the 125km team relay race, the All the Right Places team of Nicki Haugan, Bailey Haugan, Rachel Fell, Joanna Esau, and Jackie Miranda were the third fastest ladies team with a time of 17:35:56, and 43rd place of all teams. 

Email sports reporter Dillon Giancola at

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