An undeniable energy was in the air Sunday morning as runners gathered for the eighth annual Kenai River Marathon. Kenai Mayor Pat Porter fired the starter pistol as men, women and children burst past the starting line at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center parking lot.
The audience cheered and Queen’s inspirational “We will rock you” anthem played in the background as running enthusiasts enjoyed the clear morning and 41—degree temperatures.
As of Saturday evening, KVCC president Johna Beech said 303 runners had signed up for the three races, the largest attendance yet for the marathon, with only 176 runners who competed in 2012.
“It is great to see everyone getting out,” Beech said.
The age range of those participating was 10 to 68. Runners were outfitted in neon colored outfits, crazy costumes and painted faces. Participants received a goody bag filled with items donated by local vendors. Nine water stations dotted the race paths with volunteers encouraging racers.
According to the marathon’s website, the course is a fast, predominately flat course on pavement, beginning in Old Town Kenai and then it following the Unity Trail which connects Kenai and Soldotna and crosses the Kenai River twice. The course ended with runners arriving back at the visitor’s center.
Sam Tilly, number 502 and Kenai resident, won first place in the full marathon in 2012 and won first place in the half-marathon Sunday.
“It felt good” Tilly said after the win. His time for the half-marathon was 1:15 :46.6.
Tilly said he decided to run the half marathon because he had not ran many in his career.
“I thought I’d try to do a fast half,” he said. “And I am in better shape this year than last year.”
Tilly and his wife, Tessa Rhyner, both ran in the race, with Rhyner participating in the relay event. The couple’s son, Kale, was cradled in dad’s arms when Rhyner started the race at 9 a.m.
The 27-year-old runner said he became interested in the sport after high school and a season in college.
Tilly said he enjoys many things about running, but mostly the ability of continued thought.
“When you run you get to think. Normally in your day you are so distracted, you never get to think for more than 10 seconds before you’re doing something or changing activities,” he said. “I like that aspect a lot, and it is a good time to think.”
Tilly also ran the Big Island International Marathon in March, he recently won the Lost Lake 2013 marathon, and has ran in other races in Alaska. He said in the future he hopes to participate in a larger race outside of Alaska; he has his sights on a 50-mile race in San Francisco.
“He is a phenomenal runner,” Beech said.
Sara J. Hardan can be reached at email@example.com