On Sept. 16, Stephanie Case, a Canadian human rights lawyer for the United Nations and an accomplished ultratrail runner, was the first woman to finish the 450km Tor des Glaciers race in Italy (and third overall) in 155 hours, six minutes – almost 30 hours ahead of the women’s course record, set in 2019. Case raised funds for her charity Free to Run, whose mission is to enable women and girls to safely and boldly engage in outdoor activity in conflict-affected regions.
Tor des Glaciers is the longest of the Tor des Géants races, and covers 450 kilometres around Italy’s Aosta Valley, with 32,000 metres of climbing. The race is self-navigated and climbs and descends several mountain peaks in the course of a week. The race was won by Luca Papi of Italy and Jules-Henri Gabioud of Switzerland in a tie for first place: 138 hours, 18 minutes. The third male (fourth overall) was Claudiu Beletoiu of Romania, finishing in 158:24. Second female was Marina Plavan of Italy, who finished in 165:29. Case and Plavan were the only two female finishers.
“Strong legs can help, but they alone cannot carry one over mountain peaks for seven straight days,” said Case. “To be able to finish this race was an immense privilege and one that so many are not afforded. I thought about the women and girls of Free to Run in Afghanistan with every step.”
Case completed the race in 155 hours (six and a half days), sleeping for a total of four to five hours during the race. “I was extremely driven by the idea of finishing the race, and knew that if I could finish at the top it would help provide an example of how women are just as strong as men,” she said.
She cited the recent events in Afghanistan as having only made her stronger and determined to make a difference. “The recent restrictions placed on the women of Afghanistan enrage me to my core, but our fight is not over,” said Case. She believes that her accomplishments will continue to inspire women to help make a difference and show the world that women can handle the toughest of environments.
“Free to Run is still focused on options for evacuation of those remaining in country and supporting staff members who have already been evacuated and are in transit, or who have landed in their new home countries,” Case told us in an email. “Our programs are continuing in Iraq, and we remain committed to our mission of increasing the visibility of women and girls in the outdoors, using outdoor sports to drive community change in areas of conflict.”
Operators of the Skyway Monte Bianco landmark announced that they will plant an Alpine cherry tree at the base of the cable car in Courmayeur, dedicated to Case and Free to Run, in recognition of her humanitarian work and her accomplishments at the Tor races.
Case is a Tor veteran, having participated in 2015 (when the 330 km race was called due to extreme weather), finishing second in 2016 and finishing fourth in both 2017 and 2018. She is also a two-time attempter of the Barkley Marathons in Tennessee, participating in 2018 and 2019.