The turnout for the big race Sunday in Soldotna was competitive with other major running events in the area — 110 preregistered racers and another 100 signed up at the start line. The course was laid out with plenty of signage and aid stations at the top of the incline and at the turnaround. And race swag was available so people could boast of their big athletic accomplishment.
If you looked closely, though, the distance printed on the braggy stickers and T-shirts was point 5 K. As in, a half a kilometer. A third of a mile. Sixteen hundred forty-ish feet, and every one of them for a good cause.
“We want to eradicate cancer, we want to raise money for programs and research and in about a hundred years or so, we don’ t want to hear anyone say, ‘You have cancer,’” said Johna Beech, event chair for the local Relay for Life organization.
Kenai Peninsula Relay for Life holds several fund-raisers throughout the year, with the goal of contributing $45,000 annually to the American Cancer Society. The Brewery to Bathroom .5K was a new fundraiser, dreamed up by Relay volunteer Alana Martin.
Racers met at Kenai River Brewing and followed a path behind the brewery up a pretty minuscule hill to the restrooms at Soldotna Creek Park, turned around and finished back at the start line.
“The course is a very grueling .5 K,” Martin said. “That being said, if you are a marathon runner and you love to sweat and you are on the Keto diet, we love you. We are super proud of you, we just aren’t really going to show it for this part. So please, please, please, don’t be offended. Have a great sense of humor, this is supposed to be fun.”
Rebecca Walker, of Soldotna, took the “bathroom” part seriously, with a backpack of emergency supplies strapped over her shoulders. She says she came out for the important reasons.
“I heard there were refueling stations and there’s beer at the end, Walker said. “Pretty much any carbohydrate, I think, is satisfactory.
And the backpack?
“I believe it’s an eight-pack of Charmin, if I’m correct. If you gotta go, you gotta go. You gotta be prepared,” Walker said.
Mother and daughter Bridget and Malena Grieme continued a tradition of supporting Relay events.
“We have done Relay for Life for several years as a family, my mom has lymphoma. I think it’s super creative and super fun. I’m not a runner, so it’s a great opportunity to be able to participate and not, you know, not run,” Grieme said. “There’s doughnuts there, it’s my kind of race. We carb loaded, we stopped at McDonald’s on our way, so we’re ready. I pulled my Xtratufs on really hard to make sure that they were securely in there.”
The morning’s rain petered off by race time, though most still wore boots instead of running shoes as they lined up at the start.
Footwear didn’t seem to have much effect on people’s race times. It was more stopping to read the motivational signs posted along the course. Including, “I run like the winded,” “stretching is for wimps,” and this one:
“She said ‘exercise,’ I thought she said ‘extra fries.’”
If the hill proved too daunting, there was a couch at the bottom with a donation bucket. Five bucks to take a break or 10 dollars to quit right then and there. For those who did make it up the hill, the Kenai Watershed Forum was waiting with a well-stocked aid station.
At the final tally, the Brewery to Bathroom .5K raised $4,246. Relay has another event coming up at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Tsalteshi Trails in Soldotna. This one is an actual 5K, but, as with all Relay events, it’s about participation more than performance, so all are welcome to run, walk or anything in between. You can expect less doughnuts in this one, but the same level of cheering for raising dough to fight cancer.