As any distance runner knows, a stress fracture can be a debilitating setback for a running career.
Four stress fractures? May as well kiss the career goodbye.
Kenai’s Courtney Stroh has dealt with four in her life, and it did put an end to her collegiate aspirations, but it did not stop her completely.
Stroh returned to familiar turf Saturday morning to ring up a victory in the 14th annual Rotary Unity Run on the Tsalteshi Trails. Stroh won the women’s five-kilometer race in 21 minutes, 57 seconds, in her second race back this summer following last week’s Hightail Quarter Marathon 12K in Anchorage.
“It felt good,” Stroh said. “It’s my first race here since high school, so it felt good.”
Anchor Musgrave, 15, won overall in a time of 21:37.
In the longer races, John-Mark Pothast won the 10-kilometer event with a time of 42:52, and Megan Bauder took the women’s 10K in 50:55, and Hugh Hanson won the 1-mile dash in 9:55. The five races drew a total of of 45 runners.
Stroh grew up on the peninsula and ran for the Kenai Central High School cross-country team before graduating in 2014.
She then spent four years at Linfield College (Oregon) and running Division III cross-country and track, but she developed her first stress fracture in her first season. From there, it was one after the other, and by the time she decided to call it a career, Stroh had competed in just three collegiate races.
“I never thought I’d race again,” she said. “I was preparing for that reality.”
Last week, Stroh tested herself at the Hightail (formerly Her Tern) quarter marathon distance, and finished third in a time of 45:28.
When she toed the starting line for the 5K behind Skyview Middle School on Saturday, Stroh was ready for it.
“I’m getting back into it, and I’ve started focusing on my training again, starting with jogging,” she said. “If you really love something, you’ll do it.”
Starting last year, the annual midsummer event moved from the paved bike paths of the Unity Trail to the dirt trails of Tsalteshi, and racers have praised the move ever since.
“We totally love the trails,” said Tiffany Musgrave, mother of six runners in Saturday’s races, including 5K race winner Anchor. “It’s safer than the roads, and nicer.”
The course wound its way through the cool trees in a welcome relief from the blazing sun, which radiated upon runners in the finishing area.
Pothast took the lead early and won the 10K with an unchallenged run, but still needed time after the finish to catch his breath and cool off from the hot weather.
“It was toasty out there,” Pothast said. “I was definitely feeling the heat.”
Pothast, 18, will have to become accustomed to the heat as he is weeks away from starting college at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. Pothast beat Ben McGarry by 3:25 over the course, which started with the Moose loop and ran by the school a second time before diving back into the woods for tours of Wolf, Bear, Wolverine, Goat, Raven and Beaver.
Pothast said his family enters the race each summer to support the Soldotna Rotary. The Pothasts are regulars at Tsalteshi in summer and winter, and John-Mark knew the course would turn up the difficulty late in the going with several big uphills.
“I dropped off a bit on Wolverine, but picked it up at the end of Goat,” Pothast said. “I knew what to expect.”
Bauder also enjoyed a lonely race up front to grab the women’s 10K victory.
Bauder graduated in June from Central Washington University as a biology major with a chemistry minor.
Last fall, she entered the Leavenworth Oktobfest half-marathon in Washington, and the 23-year-old Cook Inlet Academy graduate signed up for the Rotary run with fellow racer Leah Streich as a steppingstone to upping her cardio game.
“It’s great, I love to run,” Bauder said. “I love the competition and these races are fun. Every corner was something different.”
In the 5K field, the Musgrave family continued to dominate the trails with six siblings competing against each other. Just like their mother, Tiffany, wanted it.
Musgrave said she and her kids began running the Rotary Unity run years ago for enjoyment but also in friendly competition with the Lewises, who are family friends. Tiffany said Rob and Marline Lewis have often signed up their eight children in the race, and Musgrave’s seven children have enjoyed competing against them.
“I mean I’d sit there and heckle a little 4-year-old,” Musgrave said with a laugh. “But yeah, it’s something we’ve always loved as a family.”
Tiffany’s son, Anchor, took the 5K win with a steady run, beating runner-up Stroh by 20 seconds. Anchor said his siblings — Brenner, Talon, McCady, Golden and Grayden — always encourage each other, but he was glad to triumph over all of them Saturday.
“I wasn’t sure what to expect,” said the incoming SoHi sophomore. “This is one year that I’ve been working hard on running.”
14th annual Soldotna Rotary Unity Run
Saturday at Tsalteshi Trails
10 kilometers — 1. John-Mark Pothast, 42:52; 2. Ben McGarry, 46:17; 3. Unknown, 49:36; 4. Jake Streich, 50:07; 5. Megan Bauder, 50:55; 6. Kevin Lauver, 51:49; 7. Carl Kincaid, 59:43; 8. Will Lafary, 1:04:06; 9. Chisato Johnson, 1:09:04; 10. John Viens, 1:10:16; 11. Sharon Oyao, 1:12:07; 12. Maria Sweppy, 1:21:34.
5 kilometers — 1. Anchor Musgrave, 21:37; 2. Courtney Stroh, 21:57; 3. Riana Boonstra, 23:43; 4. Brenner Musgrave, 23:44; 5. Annabelle Lafary, 24:32; 6. Golden Musgrave, 24:32; 7. Rustin Hitchcock, 24:40; 8. Andrew Sayers, 26:13; 9. McCady Musgrave, 28:10; 10. Grayden Musgrave, 28:14; 11. Sheilah Pothast, 33:00; 12. John Pothast, 33:01; 13. Ben Sayers, 33:20; 14. Kachinel Hall, 33:26; 15. Reif Jordan, 35:20; 16. Earl Haley, 35:21; 17. Terri Cowart, 36:36; 18. Brean McConnell, 36:43; 19. Julie Cisco, 38:11; 20. Talon Musgrave, 39:15; 21. Unknown, 40:02; 22. Lisa Chambers, 40:53; 23. Lanie Hughes, 1:03:52; 24. Connie Goltz, 1:04:38; 25. Irina Richardson, 1:04:39; 26. Connie Wheat, 1:04:40. Leah Streich, unknown time.