Marianne from Derbyshire is world’s first woman to win the Montane Yukon Arctic Ultra

editorial image

A Derbyshire woman who braved -38C temperatures to become the first female to win the world’s ‘toughest and coldest’ ultra-marathon near the Arctic Circle says it is one of the ‘most challenging things’ she has ever done.

Marianne Heading, from Ashover, completed the Montane Yukon Arctic Ultra in Canada over several days, pulling a sled across frozen rivers, lakes and land.

The 47-year-old, who trained in the Peak District and by dragging a tyre through her village to simulate the weight of a sled, said she came close to giving up at her low points despite being ‘good with cold’.

But the beauty of nature spurred her on- particularly an encounter with the Northern Lights that ‘danced across the sky’ and ‘made it seem like there was a greater force guiding and celebrating’ with her.

Marianne said: “There were some incredibly tough low points along the way and many times when I questioned what I was doing and why.

“This event is as much about the mind as it is the body, and finding ways to get through the lows is a challenge in itself.

“On the other hand, there are also some incredibly high highs- for example, being alone out in the vast wilderness of the Canadian Yukon, the surroundings are stunning on a cold, sunny day.

“This can lift the spirits and motivate you to keep going, you can literally feel on top of the world.

“The same goes for some of the stunning sunrises that greet you out on the trail and also the huge moon and stars that join you during the night.

“Sometimes the transition between low and high mood can be just a few seconds.”

Marianne says it ‘never occurred to her’ she would win the race, which has been running since 2003, and only discovered she was in the lead just 50 miles before the finish line.

“I set out for this race with the goal of completing the 300 miles within the allowed time and focussing on eating well, resting well and finishing fit and healthy,” she said.

“So when I was asked how I felt about leading the race, it hadn’t really occurred to me that I was.

“Buthaving now not only completed the race but having won overall, I still can’t quite believe that I did it.

“All the training, preparation and focus came together for me and I achieved something I never dreamed I could.”