Mother Nature had mercy on some 50 runners Friday evening at Tsalteshi Trails. The glacier that carved the moraine on which the trail system sits, however, had no such mercy.
Friday's weather featured a steady diet of showers. But, around 5 p.m. when the race was about to take place, the sky relented.
The same can't be said of the moraine terrain. That, featuring as many ups and downs as a Pamela and Tommy Lee relationship, never relented.
The racers were assembled for an event organized by Pete Sprague, the chair of the Tsalteshi Trails Association, as part of Progress Days.
Sprague addressed runners before the race, and said as of yet the event had no official name. In the interest of keeping this a family newspaper, I'll just say names I can come up with are the Tsalteshi Trails Walk or Walk Funny After Trying to Run, or perhaps the Thigh-killer 5-kilometer.
That's assuming the race actually is 5 kilometers. Sprague, a borough assembly member, told the runners before the race they would do "about 3.1 miles." He was smiling at the time.
Never trust a smiling politician.
Living up to my duties as a member of the fourth estate, I consulted my official map of Tsalteshi Trails after the race. The distance (somewhere Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein are nodding proudly) was actually more like 3.6 miles.
In a preview story in this publication, Sprague also said, probably smiling at the time, that the course will cover some gentle hills.
The race did offer one gentle hill. That would have been the first hill that climbs into the woods.
Problem was, by the time racers got to the top of that hill, there was gasping in the air not unlike the scene where passengers are dumped into the icy water in "Titanic."
At the top, second-place women's finisher Teri Ostrander, who runs the trails often, chirpily called out, "And that was the easy one!"
Remember in school, when teachers gave you tests and said they'd start with the easy questions first? Remember how it felt when the first question was barely survivable, meaning the rest of the test would be unbearable?
That's kind of how I felt at the top of that first hill, except this time I couldn't look at the paper of the person sitting next to me.
I managed to hang on and finish in 24 minutes, 41 seconds, 2 1/2 minutes behind winner Brent Knight and just ahead of 2002 Kenai Central graduate and top female finisher Katherine Amen.
I was feeling pretty good about the jaunt until after the race when, while I was wondering what color to get my new walker in, third-place finisher Daniel Harro told me Amen had to leave right away to go do some kick-boxing at a fitness club.
Anybody who saw me run the last 100 meters knows I had about as much kick as a shot of the curiously clear whiskey that started showing up in my parents' liquor cabinet during my high school years. And as for boxing, well, about the only boxing I was thinking about was boxing my running shoes up for the summer.
And that's why I liked this race so much. It had a certain character.
For one, it was free, with donations being optional. Too many races in the community cost $10 or $15. Who wants to pay that much to run on streets that can be run on every day?
The race also was laid-back, not scaring away runners with seriousness, but also was able to eventually provide runners with results, if they so desired.
Finally, Sprague's event brought some summer competition back to Tsalteshi Trails. The trails have hosted the Tsalteshi Triathlon, Tsalteshi Duathlon and Tsalteshi Challenge in the past, but none of those events were held this year.
Tsalteshi draws droves of skiers in the winter, but in the summer many don't like the hills or being alone back in the woods. Organizing a summer gathering around a community asset such as the trails at least once a year is invaluable.
Sprague told me after the race that there would be another one next year. I'm glad to report he wasn't smiling at the time.
This column is the opinion of Clarion sports editor Jeff Helminiak. Comments and criticisms can be directed to email@example.com.
Progress Days Fun Run at Tsalteshi Trails
1. Brent Knight, 21 minutes, 18 seconds; 2. Grant Gephardt, 21:36; 3. Daniel Harrow, 21:44; 4. Brian Beeson, 21:55; 5. Mark Blanning, 22:19; 6. Adam Tressler, 23:12; 7. Troy Navarro, 23:23; 8. Paul Ostrander, 23:48; 9. Jeff Helminiak, 24:41; 10. Elijah Porter, 25:02; 11. Steve Stenga, 25:17; 12. Eric Mohler, 25:32; 13. Allan Miller, 25:58; 14. Sid Mauer, 26:28; 15. Noah King, 26:58; 16. Robert Navarro, 27:05; 17. John Hedges, 27:09; 18. Bill Coghill, 27:41; 19. Dave Knudsen, 28:20; 20. Dennis Ghormley, 29:29; 21. Russel Mattison, 30:08; 22. Cody Ferguson, 33:57; 23. Malcolm Rooper, 34:28; 24. Abe Porter, 25:02; 25. Paul Knight, 35:04; 26. Travis Navarro, 45:05.
1. Katherine Amen, 24:54; 2. Teri Ostrander, 26:36; 3. Katie Franzmann, 27:52; 4. Kristi Knudsen, 28:19; 5. Cheryl Brown, 29:23; 6. Jamie Miller, 29:54; 7. Laura Rooper, 30:51; 8. Carly Relmer, 34:06; 9. Amy McVee, 34:31; 10. Janel Murphy, 35:19; 11. Dawn King, 35:19; 12. Katy Pankoski, 37:31; 13. Chelsie Harris, 37:33; 14. Breauna Blanning, 38:11; 15. Kenda Blanning, 38:11; 16. Rachel Besse, 39:01; 17. Annette Pankoski, 41:23; 18. Lisa Franzmann, 44:50; 19. Maria Sweppy, 45:59; 20. Kathy Mattison, 50:45; 21. Brittany Lesher, 50:50; 22. Patty Bere, 1:09:40; 23. Ida Weed, 1:09:43.
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