A cold day in late January may seem like an odd time for an outdoor race, but then Winnipeggers can be an odd bunch.
The Frostbite River Run, which took place on Sun., Jan. 26, was unique in almost every way imaginable; it took place on a frozen river, on the longest skating trail in the world, in frigid temperatures while snow fell from the winter sky and blew into the runners’ faces. Thanks to organizer Dennis Cunningham, this year’s race had the most participants since its inception five years ago.
"We ended up with over 85 runners. With a wind chill of -35 that’s pretty good," Riverview Community Centre general manager Ryan Karhut said. The race began at the community centre, followed Churchill Drive up to the Red River Mutual Trail, snaked down the river to The Forks, and came back the same route — roughly five-miles through as idyllic a landscape as the city has to offer at this time of year.
I definitely took an intrepid spirit to participate. Though far shorter than even a half-marathon, the Frostbite River Run presented its own set of challenges. For obvious reasons, runners wore heavier and warmer clothing than would be necessary in an average summer marathon.
"Runners are a different group of people. They were upbeat, energetic. It was not so much a race as it was for fun," Karhut explained, confirming that conditions weren’t ideal, and that running through fresh snow can be similar to running in a desert — during a surreal frozen sandstorm. Not conditions for the faint of heart.
But Winnipeg is, without a doubt, a winter city, deservedly synonymous with snow and ridiculously cold temperatures, both of which have been abundant this year.
Yet people continue to be active. Bears hibernate and birds fly south to find warmer skies. Winnipeggers brave the cold on skating rinks and frozen rivers, regularly using the world’s longest skating trail for all kinds of winter activities.
The Frostbite River Run shows that a harsh climate won’t stop crazy people from taking to a frozen river to participate in a completely insane foot race. It may get colder than Mars from time to time in Winnipeg, but unlike our planetary neighbour, incredible specimens of complex (but questionably intelligent) life forms are easy to find.
Andrew Braga is a community correspondent for South Osborne.