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She Runs North - Day 1 - Leaving Fort McMurray

Jessica Leska of She Runs North is not your average runner. When her plans to attend an ultramarathon in Alaska changed due to COVID-19, she decided to plan her own adventure in her backyard instead. From Fort McMurray in Northern Alberta, Jessica wanted to change the mentality of the town and region - its often only thought of as a Mining town, know for the Oil Sands. Initially she planned to run to the Indigenous community of Fort Chipewyan, about 200km north of Fort McMurray along a winter ice road.


Warm temperatures throughout this winter have dramatically reduced the season for the winter road this year increasing the daily traffic on the road to ensure the community can get all the supplies they need in time. Once again, Jessica pivoted to Plan C - run 200km over the course of 4 days in the trail systems south of Fort McMurray near Anzac and Stoney Mountain.


The sled was packed, the goodbyes were exchanged. And, so she left, at 730am on Friday.


Day 1.


She Runs North getting ready to set off for her 200km run in Fort McMurray, Alberta.
She Runs North getting ready to set off for her 200km run in Fort McMurray, Alberta.
She Runs North getting ready to set off for her 200km run in Fort McMurray, Alberta.

We left Jessica in Draper with plans to catch up to her in the afternoon on the Trails. We found her walking along a major power line mid-afternoon.


The snow was starting to get a bit soft and was clumping to her spikes. But with the adventure still so fresh her spirits were still high. She intended to run 60km on this day so we didn’t stop for long before she was off on her way.


Jessica Leska near Fort McMurray on her 200km solo running adventure.
Jessica Leska near Fort McMurray on her 200km solo running adventure.
Jessica Leska near Fort McMurray on her 200km solo running adventure.

The snow continued to deteriorate throughout the day, slowing Jessica’s progress further. What she expected to take around 9 hours total, ended up taking just over 11 and a half. She rolled into camp, tired, defeated, well after sunset in the dark.


Setting up a tent, cooking supper and melting snow to refill her water bottles for the next day were the only other priorities for the rest of the night. Knowing that she needed to get up earlier in the morning to try to make the most of the snow.

Jessica Leska near Fort McMurray on her 200km solo running adventure.

Check out Jessica's Recap of Day 1 here:


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