As I was running into Seward, I laughed when I passed the city limits sign. It reads, “Welcome to Seward – Alaska Starts Here.” So true, but in this case my unique Alaskan adventure was ending, not starting, here. In my exhaustion, the ironic sign helped me ignore the fatigue in my muscles as I completed the remaining mile and a half of my run. I was running leg 34 out of 36 in The Alaska Relay, a race that started in Mirror Lake and ended in Seward. Along with my 11 teammates, I was participating in what described as “the worst game of tag ever invented.”
Mentally any race is a challenge but preparing for this one required a slightly different strategy. Even explaining to friends and family what my team, The Dirty Dozen, doing the weekend of July 7-8, 2017, took some extra effort. Yes, I was going to actually run a 175 mile relay, along with 15 other teams.
Once everyone fully understood what we were doing they told me I was crazy. To which I would always follow up with,
“I am ONLY running 12 miles, some of my teammates are running 20!”
As I sat in our rig on Friday, I began to think they might have been right. My life for the next 32 plus hours was going to revolve around running, exchange points, food, staying hydrated, body odor, Alaskan animal life, and-of course-sleep.
I will never look at the Seward Highway the same way again. Running at 5 am the traffic is so light at you can hear the birds. Their songs, along with the mile markers, kept me motivated as I made my way up to the peak of Turnagain Pass. I noticed that my teammates were slowly stalking me in our rig; there must be a bear in the area. Sure enough, a runner on another team had spotted at brown bear and two cubs around mile 70. There is no cell coverage on this section of highway, so my teammates returned to the exchange point to warn the runners behind me. They then proceeded to play leapfrog with me until I finished my leg, as I found a new motivator to pick up the pace.
Running into Seward against a headwind on three hours of sleep I felt incredibly grateful for the opportunity to have experienced Alaska in an entirely new way. I was now running against the afternoon wind that my family and I love when we sail. We are able to “run with the wind” straight to the harbor thru Resurrection Bay.
If not for this race I do not know why I would have had another opportunity to participate in something like this. I know I am not the only member of this race who laughed, cried or experienced irony during the hours of this intense race. Many thanks to Nathan Luke and all his supporters for allowing us to experience our backyard in an entirely new way.