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Endurance race helping migrants displaying 'real human resilience'

KYLE THOMAS PHOTO</p><p>Actif Epica — Manitoba’s most gruelling ultra-endurance event — has added a new course extension for its 2017 race that starts in Emerson Saturday, along with a new goal — raising money for an organization helping refugee claimants who've trudged through bitter cold and knee-deep snow to cross the border into Canada.</p>

KYLE THOMAS PHOTO

Actif Epica — Manitoba’s most gruelling ultra-endurance event — has added a new course extension for its 2017 race that starts in Emerson Saturday, along with a new goal — raising money for an organization helping refugee claimants who've trudged through bitter cold and knee-deep snow to cross the border into Canada.

The asylum-seekers are out in the cold pushing themselves across the frozen prairie to find a safe country to call home.

The racers are out in the cold pushing themselves to test their endurance.

Now Actif Epica — Manitoba’s most gruelling ultra-endurance event — has added a new course extension for its 2017 race that starts in Emerson Saturday, along with a new goal — raising money for an organization helping refugee claimants who've trudged through bitter cold and knee-deep snow to cross the border into Canada.

The event's motto — "celebrate human resilience" — hit close to home as the racers became aware of the rising tide of asylum-seekers fleeing the U.S. and crossing into Canada on foot at Emerson, said Actif Epica organizer David Pensato. Most are from Somalia, one of the seven mostly Muslim countries listed on U.S. President Donald Trump's travel ban, which has been put on hold by the U.S. court system.

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The asylum-seekers are out in the cold pushing themselves across the frozen prairie to find a safe country to call home.

The racers are out in the cold pushing themselves to test their endurance.

Now Actif Epica — Manitoba’s most gruelling ultra-endurance event — has added a new course extension for its 2017 race that starts in Emerson Saturday, along with a new goal — raising money for an organization helping refugee claimants who've trudged through bitter cold and knee-deep snow to cross the border into Canada.

The event's motto — "celebrate human resilience" — hit close to home as the racers became aware of the rising tide of asylum-seekers fleeing the U.S. and crossing into Canada on foot at Emerson, said Actif Epica organizer David Pensato. Most are from Somalia, one of the seven mostly Muslim countries listed on U.S. President Donald Trump's travel ban, which has been put on hold by the U.S. court system.

"They're actually displaying real human resilience," Pensato said.

In its sixth year, Actif Epica is asking participants and the public to make donations to Hospitality House Refugee Ministry, a non-profit organization that helps privately sponsored refugees.

Pensato said the race's connection with Emerson is a small way to show solidarity with people seeking a safe country to call home. News of refugee claimants — like Seidu Mohammed from Ghana who lost his fingers to frostbite after crossing into Canada Dec. 24 — have grabbed the world's attention. The last two months have seen a rise in the number of asylum-seekers arriving on foot in the freezing cold at Emerson, say RCMP and Canada Border Services Agency officials.

The new leg of the Actif Epica means racers can start in Emerson for a 200-kilometre route (bike only) that heads north along the Crow Wing Trail; Ridgeville for a 162-kilometre race (runners only); or a 120-km route from St. Malo (bike/run/relay). More than 70 racers have signed up and it's expected to take them 12 to 24 hours to get to the the finish line at The Forks.

Unlike the "border jumpers", as they're called by residents of Emerson, Actif Epica racers are prepared for the cold, said Pensato.

"There are strict gear requirements," he said. "It's mostly preparing for the worst. It's all about layers — having a change of clothes if they get wet, and having food and preparing for if they need to take shelter," he said. "And they've got to have navigation equipment," said Pensato. "There's sections out there where all you see around you is white when you're in the middle of a field somewhere. Some years, when it's been cold and blowing snow, it can be a real challenge."

On race day in Emerson Saturday, above-normal temperatures are forecast, according to Environment Canada.

The racers arriving from all over the world, including warm weather climates like Brazil and India, shouldn't mind.

"People who are into this stuff, it's what they do," Pensato said.

Actif Epica was named as one of Canada’s 10 Big Rides by Canadian Cycling Magazine, received a Manitoba Tourism Award for Event of the Year in 2014 and is a qualifier in Alaska’s internationally renowned Iditarod Trail Invitational.

Hospitality House Refugee Ministry, which relies on donations, has sponsored thousands of people from appalling refugee circumstances without any government funding.

Donations can be made online at: https://www.canadahelps.org/dn/8351.

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Read more by Carol Sanders.

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History

Updated on Tuesday, February 14, 2017 at 1:05 PM CST: Adds photos

6:05 PM: updated

6:17 PM: added photo

6:24 PM: minor edit

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