The Kenai River Marathon courses will be back to normal Sunday. The race will not.
After road construction changed the courses last year, the annual event will be back to a 5-kilometer run, half marathon and marathon that start and end at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center.
The race will look a little different from past events due to coronavirus mitigation measures.
Brittany Brown, executive director of the Kenai Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber and the city of Kenai are happy they are able to put on the race despite the pandemic. Many running races around the state haven’t happened this year.
The event even seems set to have numbers comparable to the past. As of Thursday morning, Brown said a little over 200 runners were signed up.
Last year, the changed course and a wicked rain kept numbers just under 200. 2018 saw 260 runners, while 2017 saw 218.
“Folks aren’t scared to be outside,” Brown said. “People are so excited to do something that feels more like normal. We’re taking every precaution, but we’re also taking the opportunity to create something that feels more like normal.”
There will be no registration the day of the race, with the half marathon and marathon starting at 9 a.m. and the 5K starting at 10:15 a.m. Also, the spaghetti feed has been canceled.
When racers pick up their bibs and their bags of goodies, included in that bag will be a face mask.
“We’re asking runners to begin the race with a face mask on,” Brown said.
Soon after the start, there will be a series of trash cans at Burger Bus. Brown said at this point, runners can remove their masks. While runners don’t have to throw their masks in the trash cans, Brown said masks should be left in the general area so gloved volunteers can throw the masks away.
From that point on, the race should be normal. At water stations, gloved and masked volunteers will get the racers the fuel they need to continue their race.
At the finish, Brown said racers will be asked to pick up another mask before entering the visitors and cultural center to pick up their beer and hot dog from masked and gloved volunteers.
Unlike in years past, when the building served as a hangout spot after the race, runners will be shuffled in and out of the building because the building is limited to 50 percent capacity.
Brown said that, fortunately, the forecast is calling for sun with temperatures in the 50s.
“It will be nice to have a hot dog and beer and hang out outside and talk with fellow runners,” she said.
A final feature of the marathon that has been changed is that it will not be a qualifier for the Boston Marathon. Construction on the Kenai Spur Highway altered the bike path so the course must be recertified.
Brown said volunteers are normally vital in putting on the race, but this year their role had grown even more outsized.
“The volunteers have taken the time to sit and learn what’s safe for everybody,” she said.