Kris Swanson breaks collarbone; wins anyway

Trent Ernst, Editor


Nine days before the Emperor’s Challenge marathon, seminal winner Kris Swanson was injured in a motorcycle accident.

According to Swanson, when he mentioned that he had a race coming up, his doctor told him: “that’s too bad; you’re going to miss that.”

On the drive up, Swanson stopped at the hospital in Prince George and asked them if they could look at his hand, as it was still swollen. He asked them if it would be okay to walk 20 km on Saturday. “The doctor said, ‘yeah, you can probably do that,’” recalls Swanson. “I thought, ‘okay, we’re good to go.’”

The day before, Swanson went into the local clinic to talk to local family doctor and race organizer Charles Helm. “I asked him what he thought of me running the race,” says Swanson. “He gave me the consequences of my choices. Basically, he said ‘don’t fall and you’re good to go.’ So I didn’t fall.”

Helm says Swanson is underplaying his injuries. “He has abrasions and lacerations and sutures and road rash everywhere,” says Helm, in addition to the broken collar bone. “The worst lacerations are on his feet, which is why he’s cut the top off his shoes. He wasn’t worried about wound opening up; just didn’t want it to affect his performance.

“Yesterday he came in and we had a long chat, and I told Kris he was crazy for wanting to race. A broken collarbone? Most people would be out. Lacerations on the feet? Not a chance. We told him he could  watch the race, or walk it slowly, or run a bit of it, but I asked him, ‘do you really think you can compete?’  I told him none of his injuries were life threatening, and that was good enough for Kris.”

So Helm rigged Swanson a brace for his arm that allowed him to hold his arm at any of three different heights. Of course, he didn’t use it for the race itself.

Swanson finished the race in 1:29:41, nearly a full three minutes ahead of 18-year-old Alexander Nemethy out of Vanderhoof, who placed first in the Junior Men category. Swanson says Nemethy is the future of the sport. “I’m getting old,” he laughs. “Alexander is in his prime. Next year, I’m going to be moving up to the masters category,” says the 34 year old Swanson.

So, what drove Swanson to run the race instead of sitting it out, or even just walking? “Adrenaline is a hell of a drug,” he says. “I ran twelve minutes yesterday and it was awful. I tried to run a little bit as a warm up today and I thought it wasn’t too bad. It’s been getting better every day. So I thought I’d try running up, and I just kept going.”

82 year old Eugene Barton was both the oldest racer and the fastest racer in the Super Master Men division, crossing the line in 3:14:53. The Charlie Lake resident says this might be his last time heading up the mountain. “I just can’t comprehend the effort that has gone into this,” says Barton, marveling at how well organized the race is. He says that one of the reasons he does this is to inspire people. “One of my sole purposes in doing this is if I can convince the young people to get away from the streets and get outside. I tell the young people if they keep doing this, then one day, they will replace me.”

The first female across the line was Prince George’s Kristen Kieta, crossing the finish line in 1:41:41, beating last year’s winner Sharleen Balogh, who crossed in 1:45:18, beating her last year’s result by a minute.

Helm says he knows why Kieta won. “It’s because she stayed in my basement,” he jokes. “I don’t know what it is, but people who stay in my basement win the race. Make of that what you will. Birgit wants to stay in my basement next year. I’m moving down there next year. Who knows what might happen?”