Joel Juht's polar marathon starts today

On Friday, ultrarunner Joel Juht gave the last interview in “Ringvaate” before the world’s hardest ultramarathon Yukon Arctic Ultra 2019 in Northern Canada, which will start today.

The survival course provided knowledge

“This business is quite ugly. It’s still a long way from running,” Juht said about his impressions in “Ringvaat” on February 1 before the start of the marathon. The just completed Yukon Arctic Ultra survival course gave the Driver a real insight into how harsh the conditions can actually become in the competition and how to behave in life-threatening situations. The manager said that the temperature, which is constantly fluctuating up and down, being, for example, -17 degrees one day and -42 degrees the next makes it especially difficult.

However, the only Estonian in the competition is positive, very excited and ready to act. “Before the survival course, I was already very stressed and scared if I could handle it at all. However, during the survival course, I realized that there is more than one way out and solutions. If it gets really cold, you can freely light a fire, put on your clothes, get warm in your sleeping bag and then move on. During the course, I learned how to properly make a fire in the forest, light a fire, plan sleep, etc. I even got myself some cotton pads that I could use as a quick solution to start a fire,” explained the Leader.

100 km in one day

According to the Leader, the most important thing is that the competitor does not start sweating, because the body must not get wet. “If the body gets wet, the water turns to ice in such cold weather, the moisture gets between the clothes and the sleeping bag, and the race is essentially over for the participant.” The driver mentions the use of gloves as another important point. “The heating tank with which we prepare food is made of metal, and at -35 degrees it is so cold that if you accidentally use it without gloves, you will immediately get frostbite,” said the Manager. He explained that at each intermediate point they check whether the person is sweaty, whether the clothes are dry, how the equipment holds up and what the food reserves are. “If any of these things don’t work or the person seems weak, he immediately gets a penalty of nearly 5 hours.”

The goal of the driver is to complete the marathon as quickly as possible. “My plan is to run 96 kilometers on the first day and only then go to sleep, but now I feel so good that I could maybe even run over 100 kilometers in 14 hours. I’m not afraid of the cold,” the Leader was convinced. He added that, of course, everything will become clear when the marathon starts. “I’m still running, not just walking, the average speed could probably be around 9 minutes per kilometer. At this point, however, it must be taken into account that unpacking and packing things and preparing food is a separate time-consuming activity, which takes nearly an hour a day,” explained the Leader. He emphasized that various obstacles on the track also add to the complexity. “One of the most dangerous places are those where it looks like there is ice, but there are several layers of water under it, and a person can fall through. In such places, you have to go round, not straight across,” said the Leader.

The biggest dangers are freezing and hallucinations

Each competitor needs to prepare his own strategy and plan to complete the marathon, because these conditions work differently for everyone’s body. “I can choose to sleep myself, but it remains to be seen whether and how much sleep I will get at all in this cold. The equipment is top-of-the-line in every way, and it certainly doesn’t fall behind. In a competition, it is more important that if you feel that something is wrong, you have to react immediately. If you don’t react and postpone, something can end very badly,” said Joel Juht. As the biggest dangers, he sees the freezing of toes and fingers, and it has also been said that the person may begin to see illusions. “If you run so long that 100 km in a row is straight and only trees, I’ve heard that you can start to see all kinds of interesting things. I’ve never seen hallucinations, but with such an ordeal, you really don’t know what to expect,” said the Leader. According to him, it is crucial to plan your journey correctly on a daily basis, take everything into account and not react at the last moment.

Joel Juht’s main goal is to come back in one piece, not to win a medal or a trophy. Even now, he feels that he is very happy that he undertook such a thing. He has gained a lot of new knowledge and met very exciting people. Currently in the Yukon, the competitors are packing their equipment, making their final runs and discussing strategy.

You can follow the competitors here, and Joel’s race number is 416. The start is given at 10:30 in the morning according to Yukon time, which in terms of Estonian time is tonight at 20:30.

See “Ringvaade” interview with Joel here!

Good luck!