Vince Perdue tackles Nunavut race
With a total of only 19 competitors covering the 26.2-mile course, the event provided easily the best odds that Perdue had witnessed over the course of 48 previous marathons that he has run.
“Except I probably took a half-hour worth of pictures,” the 62-year-old Sudburian laughed while relaxing at home. “It's not about winning, it's about the experience.”
And what an experience it was. Venturing off to the Arctic Circle was hardly the game plan when Perdue undertook his first marathon back in 1980, taking part in the Voyageur Marathon that was then being run in Valley East.
After taking on the challenge again in 1981 and 1983, Perdue did not partake in another marathon until 1998, at which point he jumped in full-bore.
“A couple of years ago, I realized I was going to get to 50 marathons,” Perdue said.
Just a few years earlier, with a little family assistance, he decided to tackle another “bucket list” item.
Along with his brother-in-law, Ken Stubbings, Perdue decided to attempt to run a marathon in every single Canadian province and territory.
The dedicated pair are joined by their respective spouses, Lise (Perdue) and Lynn (Stubbings), both of whom will run a half-marathon while their mates double the fun.
Celebrating the Stubbings' 25th wedding anniversary with a wish of a wildly memorable excursion, the quartet was fortunate to strike the Yukon Territories from their list in 2010, increasing the pressure to pursue some of the more difficult runs to co-ordinate.
“After doing a marathon in the Yukon, we kind of searched around the web and realized Nunavut was going to be hard to do,” Perdue said. “There isn't even a marathon there every year.”
In fact, if not for the work of those involved with the Arctic Watch Lodge, an organization that sets up camp at the top end of Somerset Island for a period of some six weeks during the summer, Perdue and company would have fallen just short of their goal.
“Our tents are made with aluminum frames with nylon fabric on top, perhaps four metres by four metres square,” Perdue stated. “I did look for a light switch. At three o'clock in the morning, when I realized the sun was still way up in the sky, it hit me how unnecessary that was.
“A six-week window is about all they have to really make it comfortable,” he added.
Well, as comfortable as one can be running in the middle of July, when race temperatures dropped from the in-land start point of 13 degrees Celsius to three degrees Celsius, as the brave souls navigated their way along a 15-kilometre stretch that bordered the Barrow Strait.
Blessed with a wonderful familiarity of countless northern Ontario trails upon which he might run, Perdue admitted that, for the most part, the combination of small granular rock, some packed sand and a whole variety of other terrain was not necessarily the worst he had seen.
Still, there were other obstacles to overcome.
“I'm not exaggerating, we had at least 200 stream crossings, many into two or three inches of water, others easily a foot or so," he said. "I found that my feet dried, or felt comfortable, pretty quickly."
The gaps between competitors represented, quite understandably, a much larger distance than any standard marathon, not that this was of grave concern to the runners.
“I'm here all alone in this big country and not caring one little bit,” Perdue admitted. “It was so uniquely interesting and great.”
And while polar bear sightings, on land, are rare at this time of year, with most remaining out on the ice, race organizers took no chances.
“They had five ATVs — always one in the back, always one in the front, and about two or three travelling along the route of the runners — and they all carried shotguns and plenty of shells,” Perdue said.
The attraction of this race is obvious for a man who grew up with a fascination for both history and geography.
“To step on that land, to see whale bones that are thousands of years old, terrain you would never see anywhere else — it far and away blows the others away.”
Now back home, the search begins in earnest for the next incredible experience. Nunavut will not be easy to surpass, even if Perdue did not win the race.