Nearly 100 runners of all ages prepare for the start of the 5K Rotary Unity Run.
The Bard would have to agree that a run by any other name wouldn’t be as great. Indeed the Rotary Unity Run has attracted honeymooners from Massachusetts who met during a marathon race and felt that racing in the Unity Run on the Kenai was an omen for their nuptial celebration. This year a couple well passed their seventies Joe and Rachel Baldwin finished the 5/K Unity Run just to show folks they were still running around together. Soldotna Mayor Dave Carey accepted the Unity challenge and finished a respectable 5th in his age group. The wide variety of participants was pleasing to the sponsors of the event, the three Central Peninsula Rotary Clubs who from the inception of the race wanted the event to be family inclusive and a fun time for everyone from the most serious of seasoned marathon runners to moms pushing strollers. “What sets the Unity Run apart from all the other races I’ve run is the way the runners are treated. It’s normal to pay your entry fee, and then have to buy a t-shirt and your own fuel, but here everyone who ran got a t-shirt plus winner medallions, a chance to win some really nice door prizes, and a delicious homemade burger that was big enough so you only had to eat one. It was fun even if I did get beat I made some new friends,” commented a visiting runner.
The fastest time in the 10 mile run was turned in by Tommy Honer, a senior at Skyview High School who hopes to place at the State Cross Country championships this fall. He finished just 17 seconds ahead of
Ari Goldstein, a former Alaska state champion cross country runner who now runs for the University of Nebraska. “She is a strong athlete and she made me earn it going up those hills,” said Honer. He doesn’t believe youth is much of an advantage in distance running, “Older runners log more miles and are more committed to the distances and have a better stamina, so actually I would say the older runners have the advantage in the longer distances.”
Indeed setting a new record in the 4th Annual Unity Run 5K was an older runner from Ninilchik, Todd Boonstra, officially passing the finish line at SoHi in 16 minutes 23 seconds followed by Mark Blanning at in at 17:22. Todd said he has been running since high school and in 2003 won the 4th July Mt. Marathon run in Seward, “I’m glad I came up for the race this morning. It’s a nice course, it ran fast and I hope to be back to defend next year,” said Boonstra.
The idea of the Unity Run came from a local marathon runner and Soldotna Rotarian Steve Stenga who has run in the Chicago and Boston Marathons and got hooked on the experience. “When they completed the Unity Trail several years ago it just seemed like a perfect opportunity to start our own run. I had learned a lot by traveling and running in other races and figured it was something our Rotary Clubs could pull off. It’s continued to grow and get better year and this year we saw a 33% increase in participation. It’s a race that’s catching on and with all the volunteer help we get from 4-H kids and our club members I think it’ll continue to grow and help fund some of the projects that Rotary supports,” said Stenga. All proceeds from the race and sponsorships go to the Soldotna, Kenai and Kenai River Rotary Clubs for local scholarships, exchange students, and projects sponsored by the individual clubs and Rotary International.
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