Marathon grinds to a halt when wayward grizzly bears take over the course

Grizzly bear in open grassland
A video posted shows a large bruin crossing the road, halting runners (Image credit: Getty)

Getting ready for race day means months of training, researching the route, charging your GPS watch and making sure you've got your nutrition and hydration down pat. And if you're running in the Banff marathon, it also means preparing for wildlife encounters of the grizzly variety.

On Sunday, the Banff marathon was heavily delayed due to multiple grizzly bears on the course. A video posted to Instagram by Back Country Quest, which you can watch below, shows a large bruin crossing the road before scenes of dozens of halted runners being rounded up by park officials and given instructions on how to proceed behind a safety vehicle.

According to reporting by the Rocky Mountain Outlook, this was just one of several bear delays on the day. They report that the race's winner, Andrew Payne, was stopped three times by bears, adding 90 minutes to his finishing time of 4:32:11.

“Everyone walked back slowly and it was just getting closer and closer as we were walking back and eventually a car came along and scared it away, but it was huge. It was at least the size of six, seven people," recalls Payne.

Though most of us wouldn't expect to encounter a grizzly bear on race day, it's quite a common occurrence for this particular marathon, which takes runners through stunning Banff National Park, home to 65 grizzly bears.

“This isn’t a typical marathon, we know this can happen so we were prepared for it,” says race director Paul Regensburg.

Grizzly bear at Grant Teton National Park

Though most of us wouldn't expect to encounter a grizzly bear on race day, it's quite a common occurrence for this particular marathon (Image credit: Getty)

Bear safety

No matter whether you're running a marathon or hiking and camping in grizzly country, it's important to know exactly what to do if you meet a bear to stay safe.  If you are charged or approached by a grizzly bear, it’s best to leave your backpack on and play dead.

As scary as that might sound, it’s a defensive manoeuver to help keep you as safe as possible. Simply lay flat on your stomach with your hands clasped behind your neck. Spread your legs to make it harder for the bear to turn you over. Remain as motionless as possible until the bear leaves the area.

Fighting back usually increases the intensity of such attacks. However, if the attack persists, fight back vigorously with whatever you have at hand – a branch, rocks, one of your boots – to hit the bear in the face. Learn more in our article on what to do if you meet a bear.

Julia Clarke

Julia Clarke is a staff writer for and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.