Not even a fourth of the way to the top of the 3,000-foot Mount Marathon, and fatigue was already setting in -- partly because I have slacked on hiking this summer, but my real enemy was lack of sleep. A few friends and I celebrated the summer solstice with an all-nighter.
The sun, too, was bearing down on the four of us as we made our ascent. Though the rays were a welcomed break from the week of rain, another cloudy day would have helped, at least somewhat. As we continued the death march, I reflected on how our impromptu trip to the eastern peninsula began.
Around 7:30 a.m. -- I had been awake for nearly 24 consecutive hours at this point -- my friend absconded with his mother's RV and proceeded to my house. After 12 missed calls in a nine-minute span, I pulled myself out of bed (I was about 30 seconds from passing out). As I stepped out of my bedroom, I was met with a, "Hey buddy. We're going to Seward to hike Mount Marathon," from my friend who had let himself into my house and was sitting on my couch. He was wearing a supersized, devilish grin. I knew then he would not take, "No," for an answer.
I threw on some shorts and loaded myself and my two dogs, Chloe and Natty, into the RV. We stopped at three of our friend's houses and forced two more to join our summer solstice escapade.
Two of the four took advantage of the hotel on wheels and immediately crashed as we pulled out of Fred Meyer. I played the role of navigator, though I was just keeping the driver verbal company.
As we pulled into Seward, I got my third -- or maybe fourth -- wind. Our cockamamie plan came to fruition. Well, at least getting there did. We still had to climb the monster.
As three of us made our way to the top -- one hiker had to turn back because his dog was struggling -- I thought of the amazing athletes that finish the annual race on the Fourth of July in just 45 minutes. It's something that can't be appreciated until after climbing Mount Marathon.
As we exited the woods and the RV came into sight, a sense of accomplishment trumped the pain in my legs. And it's never felt so good to sit down.
Though I complained for a majority of the hike, I'm glad I finished what we started. (After all, I forced everyone to go. So, I had to make it to the top.)
When the next spontaneous hiking trip occurs, I'll be ready to go. But a few hours of sleep beforehand might be needed.
If Peninsula Clarion records are correct, fun runs on the central Kenai Peninsula reached a low point in 2002.
That summer, the only fun runs I could find contested were the Run for the River, Nikiski Fun in the Midnight Sun, a city of Kenai solstice run and the Kenai Peninsula Run for Women.
Gone from the year before were a duathlon at Tsalteshi Trails, a Jeff Ransom fun run in Kasilof and a fun run at Sterling Community Days. Gone from two years ago was the Tsalteshi Challenge.
Fun runs since then have made an impressive comeback.
The runs kicked off this year with the Run for the River, which had 280 participants, compared to 56 in 2002. The next day, the first Tri the Kenai was held, attracting about 120 participants. This event is in the mold of a Tsalteshi Triathlon, which was last held in 2003. That event in 2003 was a one-year respite from a break that had started three years later.
Saturday, the Fun in the Midnight Sun and the Tsalteshi Duathlon were held. After the original version of the duathlon ceased in 2001, the event returned to the calendar in 2008.
On July 17, the Rotary Unity Run will be held, a popular event that was added to the calendar in 2004. Last year, it drew 135 runners.
On July 23, Everything but the Red Run will be held at Tsalteshi Trails. This no-frills event, in the legacy of the Tsalteshi Challenge, started in 2003.
Aug. 14 will see the 23rd Run for Women, Sept. 18 will be a Tustumena Fun Run in Kasilof and Sept. 26 will be the Kenai River Marathon, which started in 2006 and last year had about 80 individual runners and an additional 13 relay teams.
From a public health standpoint, it's good to see the central peninsula once again has a fun run menu that is long in diversity and getting longer in tradition. Different types of events lure as many people as possible, and events with tradition get athletes used to training for them every year.
The volunteers and the participants that make these events happen deserve credit for their contributions to a healthy community.
Mike Nesper and Jeff Helminiak work in the sports department at the Peninsula Clarion. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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