What was just an idea last winter for Allie Ostrander’s freshman high school science class assignment is now off and running at the Tsalteshi Trails. As the Sockeye Salmon are running in record numbers up the Kenai River, two legged runners of the human kind are running to preserve the salmon’s habitat and free of invasive plants that threaten that habitat like Reed Canary Grass. “The Caring for the Kenai program asks us to think of something I can do to improve the environment of the Kenai Peninsula. Well, I love to run, and my research in cooperation with the Kenai Watershed Forum taught me about the threat of Reed Canary Grass and what they were doing to combat it. So my idea was to hold a Salmon Run Series of five races with all proceeds going to support the efforts to combat invasive plant species and improve the habitat in the river,” Allie told the Dispatch in an interview.
Embraced by the running community the Salmon Run Series began Wednesday, July 11th and has increased in participation each week. According Alli 64 runners signed in for the inaugural race on a cool wet Wednesday, under sunny skies 76 turned out for the second, and last week 101 competed in the third. The Salmon Run is the first series of consecutive races to be held on the Peninsula and Ostrander, a two time Mt. Marathon winner was asked why a series of races rather than a single event, “Anyone is welcome to run in any one or two of the races or all of the races, some runners signed up in advance for all five and have run every week. I liked the idea of a series because some people like that structure to keep them motivated to work out and improve their conditioning and be able to run in different races so it offered a unique training experience as well as multiple races so no one has to miss the fun,” she said.
2011 Unity Run winner James Tangaro has run in all three races and said, “I did improve my time by10 seconds over last week. There were more cross country kids there last night, which made the overall pace faster. It was a fun night and I think Allie is doing a great job putting the courses together and organizing the events,” said the Tesoro Nikiski Plant manager. “Well I actually came in 5 seconds slower this week but it was a tougher course but still I had a great night,” added Paul Ostrander, Allie’s dad, who also plans on running all five races.
Winning the first Salmon Run was this year’s Unity Run Champion Mark Blanning. In the second 5K run Adam Reimer of Kenai took first and in last weeks race Jordan Theisen was first to cross the finish line. “The races started off easier and we make the course progressively more difficult each week using different trails on the Tsalteshi course. The turn out has been amazing and has been at least three times what I expected and it’s so much fun to see all the people who love running out here enjoying the beauty of Alaska and utilizing this wonderful resource we have here at the Tsalteshi trails. The word is spreading and more folks are turning out and really having a good time for a good cause, some people even run the course pushing their kid in a stroller so everyone can run it at their own pace for their own reason,” explained Allie. Asked if she had an Olympic dream Alli laughed, “It would be really cool to be in the Olympics, but I don’t know if I can dream that big, but I would like to take an Alaskan State Championship in the future.” The 4th of the Salmon Run Series will be held Wednesday, August 1st, with registration starting at 5:00pm at Skyview High School and race time 6:00pm. The final of the series will be Wednesday, August 8th at the same time. On line registration is only $10 at www.tsalteshi.org or $15 to register the day of the race.