A Polish ultrarunner has been hospitalized in Whitehorse after suffering severe frostbite to his hands, legs and arms on the first day of the Yukon Arctic Ultra, a 500K race from Whitehorse to Dawson City.
Michal Kielbasinski, an accomplished, 46-year-old ultrarunner, said he’s used to running in -20 temperatures, but the -40 he experienced on the first day of the Yukon race was more than he was prepared for. The runner was leading the race when he was forced to withdraw with very serious frostbite. He was airlifted back to Whitehorse General Hospital.
“Still, we are fighting for fingers. I’m sure I am in very good hands, so I hope I will be successful,” Kielbasinski told CBC. He noted that, although he’s still in danger of losing his fingers, he’s already begun thinking about what he can do to better prepare to complete the event next year.
The race, run in the dead of Yukon’s winter, is extremely cold, race organizers claiming to have once measured the temperature at a race checkpoint at -63 C, nearly equalling the official record for Canada, recorded in Snag, Yukon in 1947.
“Well I think it’s safe to say that in 13 years of running this race this is probably the worst we had,” race organizer Robert Pollhammer told CBC, commenting on Kielbasinski’s frostbite. “I think what happened, basically, is that he thought he could out-run his problem and he didn’t stop and deal with the problem and when he came to a check point he did not follow our advice to stop and warm up.”