The Kenai Watershed Forum’s annual 5K race series is kicking off this week, but don’t look for it on Tsalteshi Trails—this year, it’ll be in town.
The annual run series came from a Caring for the Kenai project by Kenai runner Ali Ostrander and has grown to draw more than a hundred runners of all skills and ages every Wednesday in July and early August. The Kenai Watershed Forum runs the event as a fundraiser. It’s always been on the trails, but this year, Watershed Forum development director Tami Murray said the outhouse at the trails wasn’t going to work for sanitation purposes, so they’re trying it out in town.
The first race starts at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Lucy’s Market/River City Books on Homestead Lane. Runners will follow a trail through Swiftwater Park and back along the Sterling Highway to finish at Kenai River Brewing. Murray said one big change this year is no mass start—they’ll have waves of 20-25 runners starting at a time.
"We’re asking the runners to wear masks when they start," she said. "They can take them off as soon as they’re clear of the field, away from folks they don’t know."
The finish line will be spaced out as well, so runners aren’t all funneled together. The Watershed Forum worked with the city on a mitigation plan to help the event happen within the city and hopes to be back on the trails next year, Murray said.
"This year, we’re just going to have to change, and we’re going to have to have people change their tactics," she said. "I mean, they can socialize all they want elsewhere, but we just can’t have it done at the race—unless they’re a family group, of course, they can do what they need to. It’s on the runners’ shoulders to make sure that we do it properly and I think they will do that."
One note: There won’t be any in-person signups this year. Runners have to sign up online before the event. Murray said that’s to avoid the contact between volunteers at signup tables and participants and the exchange of money. Central Peninsula Hospital has also signed onto the event as a sponsor, and so all CPH employees and their families run for free.
Like the Run for the River earlier this year, Murray said they do also have a virtual run option for those not comfortable running in a group. Because everyone registers with a name and contact information, it also enables them to do contact tracing in case someone does test positive. Right now, there are five races planned through July and early August, each Wednesday night with bib pickup starting at 5 p.m. and races starting at 6 p.m. Race routes will be announced on the Watershed Forum’s Facebook page.
Reach Elizabeth Earl at firstname.lastname@example.org.