Lars Arneson runs to a victory and new event record in the Kenai River Marathon on Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Lars Arneson runs to a victory and new event record in the Kenai River Marathon on Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

A speech, a smartphone and a bike

Circumstances lead Arneson to Kenai River Marathon record

One thing led to another, and the next thing Lars Arneson knew, he was the event record holder at the Kenai River Marathon.

Arneson, a 2009 graduate of Cook Inlet Academy now living in Anchorage, ran through brilliant fall colors and splashy Sunday sun to finish at 2 hours, 35 minutes and 33 seconds. The effort broke Allan Spangler’s 2:36:42 event record in 2015.

The Kenai River Marathon, which drew just short of 170 runners Sunday, started in 2006. The course, which starts in Kenai and loops on the Unity Trail, has changed a bit over the years due to construction, but 26.2 miles is 26.2 miles.

Arneson and everybody else crossing the tape first were first-time winners at the Kenai River Marathon.

Homer’s Amanda Cherok was the top women’s finisher in the marathon at 3:32:01, while both Sterling’s Kristin Davis and Soldotna’s Lee Frey set personal bests in winning the half marathon. Davis came through at 1:37:22, while Frey hit 1:26:56.

The 5-kilometer race went to Morgan Aldridge in 23:32 and Jeriah Smith in 24:51. Elijah Hutchison, Ian McGarry, Alek McGarry and Benjamin McGarry won the relay at 3:11:52.

Arneson’s serendipitous trip to the record book started when Brett Perry, executive director for the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center, invited Arneson to speak at the spaghetti dinner the night before the race.

“So I said yes to that, and then part of that was that I can get free entry,” Arneson said. “So I figured I’d come down and run a race.”

Arneson was invited to speak due to a glittering endurance running resume that, ironically, did not include a road marathon before Sunday.

The 32-year-old has won the last three Alaska Mountain Runners Grand Prix awards for overall excellence in Alaska mountain races. He also holds the fastest known time for an unsupported runner on a route down, up, down and then up the Grand Canyon.

Arneson beat a 2012 record in the Matanuska Peak Challenge in early August. He also holds the record for the 12-peaks Challenge, a trek that includes summiting the 12 peaks higher than 5,000 feet in the front range of the Chugach Mountains.

It was in 2019 that Arneson set the current record. He also set a record in 2017 that was broken the next year. That 2017 trip was the topic of his speech.

“I talked about the first time doing the linkup, and how I found myself in a pretty dark spot,” he said. “But I mentally overcame that and hope that can be a bit of inspiration for anybody listening.”

Arneson found no such dark spot Sunday as he returned to race on the central peninsula for the first time since 2015. Instead, he found himself asking his wife of two months, Heather Arneson, to make sure with 5 miles left that Spangler’s time was really 2:36:42.

Because Lars had a feeling he could break it.

Heather got on her smartphone, verified the time, then caught up to Lars on her bike to confirm he was in record territory.

The reason Lars hadn’t committed the record to memory is he had no idea how he would do in the race.

“I haven’t been training for this route at all,” he said. “It was hard to know what pace was possible.”

Then things went really well the first half of the race.

“I had planned on going 6:20s or something, but I just kept ticking off 6s,” he said.

Despite the impressive debut in the road marathon, Arneson is not sure when he will try one again. Coming off this summer, he has his sights set on prestigious mountain races in the Lower 48.

“I feel like I’ve been racing well,” he said. “I plan on doing racing out of state next summer. Just how this summer went, I feel like I should go.”

While Arneson finished far ahead of the 3:22:27 of runner-up Felix Wong, Cherok had a tight race on her hands from Homer training buddy Elizabeth Roedl. Roedl finished just 52 seconds behind Cherok.

“She paced me for like the entire first half,” Cherok said of Roedl.

But this was no training run. It was a race.

So when Roedl stopped at Mile 14 for water, Cherok pounced. The 35-year-old said Roedl never stopped pushing after that, but Cherok was able to hold her off.

After setting a marathon personal record of 3:27:30 in the Mayor’s Marathon in June, Cherok is running faster than ever. She said being a physical therapist at Summit Physical Therapy in Homer doesn’t hurt. She also said training with Roedl for the past two years has made her a lot faster.

While Cherok won in her second Kenai River Marathon, Frey won after doing the half marathon about five times and the full marathon once.

“A lot depends on who signs up for these things,” the 39-year-old said. “And I guess it was a lucky year for me. But I got a new PR today, so I’m pretty happy about that. Regardless, I’m always just racing myself out there.”

Frey said the trick to getting faster as one ages is consistent training. He’s been consistently training for three or four years.

He also takes racing himself seriously. Runner-up Landon Basner finished far back at 1:37:45, but Frey put himself in visible agony as he sprinted down the finish chute.

“I just wanted to set a new goal for myself and keep trying to build and get faster,” he said. “I’m hoping to do the full next year, or maybe down to the Lower 48. We’ll see how it goes. I’m just trying to build back up for a full next year.”

At 45, Davis also is doing her best running. Before running her best half marathon Sunday, she set a personal best in the Lost Lake Run in August while finishing second in her age group.

“I’ve never run this well in my life,” she said. “It’s hard work and training, really focused training. It’s putting in the time. Now that the kids are older, I have the time to do that.”

Davis also is an assistant coach for the Kenai Central cross-country team. She said running with students in practice, and keeping up with her husband, Trevor Davis, in the mountains, also pays dividends.

After finishing second in the half marathon last year, Davis won the Kenai River half in her third attempt this year. Sara Larsen was second at 1:47:07.

Kenai River Marathon

Sunday

WOMEN

Marathon — 1. Amanda Cherok, 3 hours, 32 minutes, 1 seconds; 2. Elizabeth Roedl, 3:32:53; 3. Emily Lamb, 3:47:10; 4. Tricia Fields, 4:02:18; 5. Mariesha Krzalic, 4:09:16; 6. Jen Novobilski, 4:18:17; 7. Kate Swaby, 4:23:51; 8. Jenna Brown, 4:35:46; 9. Sondra Stonecipher, 4:50:07; 10. Emily Tuttle, 4:57:03; 11. Cassandra Simmons, 4:58:01; 12. Kristy Berington, 5:18:26; 13. Andrea Berington, 5:18:27.

Half marathon — 1. Kristin Davis, 1:37:22; 2. Sara Larsen, 1:47:07; 3. Sierra Smith, 1:49:32; 4. Chelsea Wingard, 1:49:56; 5. Devon Melin, 1:54:49; 6. Maria Nalos, 1:55:19; 7. Allison Reeves, 1:56:35; 8. Rebecca Grimes, 1:59:44; 9. Mari Rueter, 2:00:53; 10. Antonya Hall, 2:01:03; 11. Megan Murphy, 2:01:55; 12. Becca Satathite, 2:03:22; 13. Deann Denter, 2:05:38; 14. Taylor Ewing, 2:09:23; 15. Grace Thompson-Johnston, 2:10:16; 16. Kathy Trinh, 2:11:03; 17. April Brown, 2:14:36; 18. Natalie Bickers, 2:15:08; 19. Nicole Thomas, 2:17:57; 20. Lila Johnson, 2:18:18; 21. Michele Harmeling, 2:18:52; 22. Britt Todd, 2:19:40; 23. Nicole Hall, 2:19:50; 24. Emily Cuneo, 2:19:50; 25. Courtney Able, 2:22:51.

26. Susan Reed, 2:22:58; 27. Lindsay Hallam, 2:25:33; 28. Sarah Pribbenow, 2:25:33; 29. Margaret Griffin, 2:25:50; 30. June Stuckey, 2:26:03; 31. Tamara Hibberd, 2:26:51; 32. Theresa Halpin, 2:29:45; 33. Kristin Oelschlegal, 2:31;04; 34. Christina De La Torre, 2:31:21; 35. Kylie Morris, 2:32:45; 36. Abbie Hall, 2:33:07; 37. Juley Kalugin, 2:41:36; 38. Heather Swanson, 2:49:16; 39. Jeanine Huston, 2:49:57; 40. Krystal Mitchell, 2:50:06; 41. Dawn Homer, 2:54:02; 42. Margret Nelson, 2:57:41; 43. Mollie Pate, 2:57:41; 44. Elizabeth Cox, 2:57:41; 45. Rebecca Bezdecny, 3:30:32; 46. Suzzanne Harwood, 3:40:41.

5 kilometers — 1. Morgan Aldridge, 23:32; 2. Viorca Thompson, 29:14; 3. Havilah Hilbish, 29:36; 4. Denise Lutton, 33:13; 5. Renee Helie, 33:38; 6. Marina Rodriguez, 34:39; 7. Mary Kate Guilfoyle, 37:09; 8. Hailey Syverson, 38:43; 9. Margaret Gilman, 40:11; 10. Christine Moris, 40:22; 11. Taryn Lewis, 40:29; 12. Maria Sweppy, 41:27; 13. Valerie Weathers, 48:08; 14. Holly Lewis, 48:08; 15. Barbara Allen, 49:42; 16. Bridget Boyer, 49:43; 17. Wanda Reith, 54:23; 18. India Pribbenow, 56:02; 19. Nancy Hukka, 58:45; 20. Karen Campbell, 58:45; 21. Michelle DeYoung, 58:46; 22. Carol Bannock, 1:01:08; 23. Lynda Moore, 1:03:25; 24. Beth Knorr, 1:03:34; 25. Ruth Bratz, 1:03:37.

MEN

Marathon — 1. Lars Arneson, 2:35:33 (new event record, old record Allan Spangler, 2:36:42, 2015); 2. Felix Wong, 3:22:27; 3. Keith Blanchette, 3:29:49; 4. David Seramur, 3:52:12; 5. Russell Throckmorton, 3:52:49; 6. Sean O’Shea, 3:54:13; 7. Dean Denter, 3:54:30; 8. Peter Shurr, 3:58:36; 9. Max Wanser, 4:04:38; 10. Norbu Tsering, 4:10:05; 11. Gabe Smith, 4:19:08; 12. Jacob Joanis, 4:19:09; 13. Gordon Harwood, 4:38:21; 14. Steven Gehring, 4:49:10; 15. Brian Reith, 5:01:07; 16. Mark Yurchenko, 5:12:05; 17. Joseph Rytikov, 5:12:07; 18. Thomas Ball, 6:24:13.

Half marathon — 1. Lee Frey, 1:26:56; 2. Landon Basner, 1:37:45; 3. Don Connelly, 1:43:21; 4. John McGlasson, 1:45:03; 5. Zach Richards, 1:47:51; 6. Cason Hucks, 1:56:26; 7. Larry Nickell, 1:56:50; 8. Christopher Harris, 1:59:36; 9. Carl Kincaid, 2:01:41; 10. Larry Tews, 2:06:58; 11. Kevin Lauver, 2:08:00; 12. Todd Welcher, 2:09:26; 13. Bradley Reich, 2:11:21; 14. Roy Stuckey, 2:11:39; 15. Sean Concannon, 2:19:51; 16. Wyatt Gritt, 2:20:56; 17. Michael Reed, 2:22:57; 18. Kaveh Maleknia, 2:24:04; 19. Dallas Norman, 2:24:28; 20. Brent Johnson, 2:34:28; 21. Tyler Cobb, 2:39:54; 22. Kennaty Kerley, 2:48:35; 23. Steve Bezdecny, 3:30:32.

5 kilometers — 1. Jeriah Smith, 24:51; 2. Michael Eyre, 25:35; 3. Ruairi Tuite, 31:46; 4. Maverick Boyer, 31:55; 5. Robert Weathers Jr., 40:52; 6. Matthew Knorr, 48:19; 7. Quintun Pribbenow, 56:01; 8. Robert Moore, 1:03:25.

RELAY

1. MPC=MCS+H (Elijah Hutchison, Ian McGarry, Alek McGarry, Benjamin McGarry), 3:11:52; 2. Nikiski Middle High School Runners (Paul Nelson, Kara Bethune, Rustin Hitchcock, Patrick Metzger), 3:33:55; 3. Crossroad where friends meet (Kelly Chang, Nicolette Dent, Genevieve Beck, Alex Yang), 3:56:28; 4. Allyson Felix Wannabes (Chelsea Koerber, Valerie Rubinic, Stephanie Eastman, Kimberly Spence-Jensen), 3:57:26; 5. MPC: 3 Nerds and a Firefighter (Kevin Realon, Johnna DeGray, Jami Wright, Samuel J. Satathite), 3:57:58; 6. Advanced Physical Therapy (Lindsy Moore, Patrick McCarty, Shelby Lee Harris, Demitra Apergis), 4:21:19; 7. Eagles Wings (Sean O’Connell, Dylan Rubinic, Windy Perkins, Theresa Thomas), 4:30:04; 8. Teacher Friends (Katrina Cannava, Amy Frapp, AnnMarie Rudstrom, Oriana Tomlin), 4:40:51; 9. Nikiski North Star Elementary (Shannon Porter, Jenna Fabian, Katy Settlemyer, Colby Way), 5:03:06.

Kristin Davis runs to victory in the women’s half marathon in the Kenai River Marathon on Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kristin Davis runs to victory in the women’s half marathon in the Kenai River Marathon on Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Deann Denter runs to 13th in the women’s half marathon on Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022, at the Kenai River Marathon in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Deann Denter runs to 13th in the women’s half marathon on Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022, at the Kenai River Marathon in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Lee Frey runs to victory in the men’s half marathon at the Kenai River Marathon on Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Lee Frey runs to victory in the men’s half marathon at the Kenai River Marathon on Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Megan Murphy, Cason Hucks and Allison Reeves run in the half marathon at the Kenai River Marathon on Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Megan Murphy, Cason Hucks and Allison Reeves run in the half marathon at the Kenai River Marathon on Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Marathon and half marathon runners begin the Kenai River Marathon on Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. At the front are women’s marathon winner Amanda Cherok (28), men’s half marathon winner Lee Frey (third from right), women’s half marathon winner Kristin Davis (242) and men’s marathon winner and new event record holder Lars Arneson (36).

Marathon and half marathon runners begin the Kenai River Marathon on Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. At the front are women’s marathon winner Amanda Cherok (28), men’s half marathon winner Lee Frey (third from right), women’s half marathon winner Kristin Davis (242) and men’s marathon winner and new event record holder Lars Arneson (36).

Lars Arneson runs to a victory and new event record in the Kenai River Marathon on Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Lars Arneson runs to a victory and new event record in the Kenai River Marathon on Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

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