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Wildlife Encounters Turn Banff Marathon into an Epic Adventure

Marathon winner Andrew Payne recounted the shocking moment he came face to face with a massive grizzly bear

On June 16, Banff’s wild residents gave Banff Marathon runners a heck of a tale to tell around the dinner table.

Imagine running along, focused on your pace, and getting icy air into your lungs when suddenly you’re face to face with a grizzly!

Marathon winner Andrew Payne from Roberts Creek, BC, described the scene: “It was all clear, and then the grizzly bear was right in front of us… it was huge, easily the size of six or seven people!”

Cold and rainy weather didn’t dampen the spirits of runners at the Banff Marathon on June 16
Cold and rainy weather didn’t dampen the spirits of runners at the Banff Marathon on June 16 | Banff Marathon | Facebook

Luckily, a passing car quickly scared it off!

Lena Krendelshchikova, the top female finisher, also had her share of heart-pounding moments with bighorn sheep and more bears popping up unexpectedly. 

“I was super nervous, but overall, this has been the best marathon I’ve run just because it was so adventurous,” she said with a laugh, reflecting on the challenging terrain and surprise wildlife guests.

These bear encounters added about 90 minutes to race times, turning a typical marathon into a real Banff wilderness experience. Check out this video for a taste of the encounter.

Race director Paul Regensburg emphasized that wildlife is an unavoidable part of the area’s charm. Hence, wildlife crews were on standby to ensure everyone’s safety.

Plus, the spring season is the prime time to see bears especially.

“This isn’t a typical marathon; we know this can happen, so we were prepared for it,” Regensburg explained. 

Despite the delays caused by bear crossings, everyone was OK, thanks to the organizers’ forethought!

The 10km and half marathon races continued smoothly following the surprise encounters.

Local runners even bonded over the experience! Participants also raved about the fantastic support of volunteers, which made the delays more than “bearable.”

“Volunteers were singing songs and having an enjoyable time. Thank you so much for keeping us entertained. Definitely be back again next year and every year afterwards,” said participant Tim Chmelnytzki.

The event’s camaraderie underscored the marathon’s spirit, and so did the athletes!

Banff locals put their all into each event. 

Henry Ratcliff placed 16th overall in the marathon, and Melissa Delgado was 142nd. In the half marathon, Julita Bikulciute came in 69th, and in the 10km, Harrison Enns was third overall, while Kim Logan ran through in 19th!

The local bears, however, never quite crossed the finish line. 

Thank Goodness.

Winner Andrew Payne of Roberts Creek, B.C., at the finish line of the Banff Marathon
Winner Andrew Payne of Roberts Creek, B.C., at the finish line of the Banff Marathon | Jordan Small | Rocky Mountain Outlook

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