Winnipeg runner wins Near Death Marathon in Alberta mountains

A Winnipeg runner didn’t let training in the flat prairie city keep her from winning a gruelling marathon in the Rocky Mountains this weekend.

Gina Tranquada, 35, even set a course record for the women’s Near Death Marathon in Grand Cache, Alta., covering 42 kilometres in four hours, 52 minutes and 52.6 seconds.

“At times you’re sliding on your bum down a mountain, which is quite scary for a Winnipegger,” said Tranquada, who has also won the half and full versions of the Manitoba Marathon.

“And then at other times, one of the challenges of this course is also slogging through the mud, which can get up to waist deep.”

The race features a variety of terrains and sees runners climb more than 5,180 metres, organizer Sinister Sports wrote on its website.

“Even the best runners can succumb to weather that changes from blistering heat to bitter cold and wet. Don’t take anything for granted,” states the course description.

Training for that kind of race presents challenges for anyone — but especially for runners somewhere like Winnipeg, where the peak elevation is a fraction of what they’ll encounter on the trail, said Tranquada.

“I know I’m at a disadvantage,” she said. 

“My body is not used to that. So going into these races, I try not to overthink it and just go … ‘Is this your best effort? Do you need to push a little bit harder?’ so that I come out of these races feeling like I gave my best effort.”

Tranquada said, when she can, she runs more than 32 kilometres up and down Winnipeg’s Garbage Hill. During the pandemic, however, she’s done most of her training on her treadmill.

She is also trying to qualify for the Canadian national trail running team.

But for now, she’s looking forward to an upcoming 50-kilometre race in Calgary, Alta., in September — and this one will happen on the road.

“So I’ll be very happy to not have to slide down the mountain and just run on flat surface.”

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