The Ninth Annual Rotary Unity Run kicked off the day on Saturday morning, and runners were treated to cool, overcast conditions — perfect for running fast.
Mark Blanning led wire-to-wire in the men’s 10-mile race, finishing in a time of 1 hour, 30 seconds, almost eight minutes faster than James Tangaro, who ran it in 1:08:21. Blanning said the weather conditions couldn’t have been better for racing for the 142 runners participating.
“Those hills around miles six and seven kind of take a bit out of you, but I started pulling ahead right off the start,” Blanning said. “I just got into my pace and took off. I was going to see if I could get under an hour, but those hills knock you back a bit, but I’m satisfied.”
Blanning said he plans on running the Wagon Trail Run in Hope and the Lost Lake Race near Seward in the next month.
Heather Gaines won the women’s 10-mile race with a time of 1:09:31, besting runner-up Susan Craig by six and a half minutes.
“The course was flat and fast, and if you work the hills just right, you can save a little for the end,” Gaines said. “I did some speedwork this week, so that really helped.”
Gaines, who won last month’s Run for the River 10-miler, said she was able to hang with the lead group of four racers, all men, but soon found herself alone, with no one to push her.
“I never look back so I don’t know where I was in relation to everybody else,” she said.
Gaines plans on competing in the Women’s Run in Kenai in August, and may even give the Equinox Marathon in Fairbanks a shot, which is a tough course that is run every September.
In the five-kilometer race, it was another case of sibling rivalry for the Theissen twins. Jordan Theissen edged brother Jonah by five seconds in the men’s race, winning in a time of 17:44. Both brothers compete on the cross-country running and track and field teams at Kenai Central High School,
“It felt great, I really haven’t been running much this summer, but for the first race, it was good,” Jordan said. “It was almost like a downhill course.”
Jordan said he and his brother have competed in the Unity Run in previous years, but decided this was the year one of them could win it, and said he was able to gap Jonah at about the two-thirds mark of the race.
“Last year, I got third place, and I thought I could get first this year, and I did so I’m happy about that,” Jordan said. “The last mile, I just gave it everything I had, and I just felt good today, no side cramps or nothing, just perfect.
“I also had a good breakfast.”
Jonah echoed his brother’s remarks.
“The last mile he started to pull away a little,” he said. “The first two miles we were right next to each other.”
Both Theissens recently visited Minnesota, and ran a race in 90-degree weather on the Fourth of July holiday, so the weather conditions Saturday were nearly perfect for them to run fast. Jordan said the Unity Run was a good tuneup for the high school cross-country running season, which begins in mere weeks.
Laura Carpenter cruised to an easy victory in the women’s 5K race, with a winning time of 19:08.
Lauren Bauder and Brooke Forsi finished second and third, running 22:06 and 22:07, respectively. The longtime friends both run for their track teams in college — Lauren just finished her freshman year at Northwestern College in Minnesota, and Brooke just graduated from Biola University in Southern California — and compete in the middle-distance events, such as the 400- and 800-meter races.
“(Today) was good, really fun, we usually do it every year, and we were just talking the whole time,” Forsi said, laughing. “Right from the beginning, (Carpenter) took off, and we were just trying to avoid all the little kids at the start.
“I didn’t even know we were that far up until the end.”
Both runners went to Cook Inlet Academy, with Brooke graduating in 2008, and Lauren in 2011.
“It’s like one of the only courses that you can go downhill and not worry about running up any uphills,” Bauder said.
Editor’s note: Complete and accurate results were not available Saturday night as the Clarion went to press. The results will be printed when they become available.
Saturday’s Rotary Unity Run results
1. Mark Blanning, 1:00:30; 2. James Tangaro, 1:08:21; 3. Bill Wood, 1:10:02; 4. Toni Eskelin, 1:12:18; 5. Michael Stangel, 1:13:11.
1. Heather Gaines, 1:09:31; 2. Susan Craig, 1:16:02; 3. Giuliana Varriano, 1:18:47; 4. Sharon Howze, 1:18:56; 5. Anne Bailey, 1:19:24.
1. Jordan Theisen, 17:44; 2. Jonah Theisen, 17:49; 3. Fox Michaud, 18:32; 4. Sean Goff, 18:40; 5. Michael Stangel, 20:30.
1. Laura Carpenter, 19:08; 2. Lauren Bauder, 22:06; 3. Brooke Forsi, 22:07; 4. Rebeka Heames, 23:24; 5. Devin Hutchings, 23:36.