Rex Shields hooks local runner Mark Blanning along the Unity Trail during Saturday's 10 Mile Unity Run from Kenai to Soldotna.
When Soldotna Rotarian Steve Stenga came up with the idea for the Peninsula’s first marathon run utilizing the 26 mile Unity trail loop that connects the river cities of Kenai and Soldotna, he named the race to honor the completion of the trail and to encourage unity within the communities. When Michael and Michelle Albrecht of Baltimore, Maryland decided to tie the knot, they felt it very appropriate to plan their honeymoon making the 10 Mile Unity Run in honor of their marital union. “We met while running on Long Island actually and we’ve always wanted to come to Alaska, so when we planned our wedding a year ago we came across the Unity Run on the internet and planned our honeymoon to include it and we are very happy to be here and have made the 10 mile run today,” said Michael who finished the race along side his bride with a time of 1 hour 24 minutes. “It was a great race, a little hilly, but the air was wonderful, and the wildlife we saw was amazing, nothing like this in Long Island, my body is in shock from all the clean fresh air,” added Michelle.
Largest group of runners ever start the 10 Mile Unity Run from Kenai to Soldotna last week at KCHS.
Now in its third year, the Unity Run drew a record number of runners this year with nearly 130 registered participants. “It’s not only become a popular competitive race drawing runners from all over the country, but it’s gaining the reputation of a great family event where grandfathers run with their grandkids, police chiefs push their kids in strollers, moms out run their teenagers, weight-watchers take photos at the finish line, and everyone has a fun day,” said Steve Stenga.
The race is jointly sponsored by the Soldotna and Kenai Rotary clubs, with proceeds going to support their many local and international charitable projects and scholarships for youth practicing “Service above self.” Numerous local businesses support the race with prizes and contributions for the participants. “This year we had a record number of sponsors as well as runners, and we really appreciate it,” said Stenga, who ran the 10 mile course this year and added that his favorite part of the race was the finish line.
The new record for the 10 mile course of 58:15.8 was set by 17 year old Rex Shields of Springville, Utah, the grandson of Kearlee and Beth Wright of Soldotna. Shields is the Utah 2 mile state champion and was happy with his run, “I ran the race two years ago and took fourth, so I was looking forward to doing it again now that I’ve improved.” Shields hooked veteran marathon runner Mark Blanning early on and matched his pace stride for stride, “I could tell he was running strong and easy and when he made his move there was no catching him,” said Blanning, who had been favored to win this year’s event. Blanning fished second two minutes behind Shields with time of 1:00.26.7. Winning the Women’s 10 mile run was Ari Goldstein with a time of 1:3.50.9 second was Carry Setian at 1:13.45 and Kendra Blanning was third. In the 5 K frolic, Allen Gearhart took first with a time of 18:29.1 in the men’s category, Mike Moerlein was second and Anton Wissenberg was third. For the women’s 5 K Molly Watkins crossed the finish line first at a time of 20:28.7, Jeni Stenga was second, and Allison Ostrander was third. Bringing in the red lantern this year but respectfully finishing the 10 Mile run was Kenai postal carrier Forrest Nelson. Nelson was encouraged by her friends along the trail with signs reading “Run Forrest run!”
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