The Unity Run, put on by Kenai River Rotary of Soldotna and the Tsalteshi Trails Association, continues to build after being disrupted by the pandemic.
The event, which has been going since 2003, had 49 participants in the 5- and 10-kilometer races in 2019. Then the pandemic hit, canceling the event in 2020.
Last year, 11 participated in the 1-mile, 5K and 10K, while Saturday saw 28 runners in the three races despite rain that was forecasted and then materialized during the race.
“I’m glad we’re getting some runners,” said Doug Field, who organizes the event for Kenai River Rotary of Soldotna. “Last year’s turnout was very small. I’m super happy it’s coming back.”
Field said the event is partly to support Tsalteshi Trails, and partly to support Kenai River Rotary of Soldotna programs. Some of those programs are local and international literacy programs, eradicating polio, and local community service projects like cleaning up A.R.C. Lake Park.
The sponsors for the race are Peninsula Radiation Oncology Center; Lambe, Tuter and Associates APC; Nancy Field with State Farm Insurance; Homer Electric Association; David and Marilyn Albright; Bill and Sharon Radtke; Maxim Hair Design; Kenai Neon Sign Co.; Everything Bagels; and Anby Rose and Co.
The 5K and 10K races all saw first-time winners. Madison Labosky won the women’s 5K at 25 minutes, 20 seconds, while Mark Jurek was the men’s winner at 32:55. James Butler won the men’s 10K at 50:34, while Julie Terry won for the women at 54:22.
Last year, Rustin Hitchcock won the 5K while pushing his two daughters. Labosky, who moved to Soldotna just over two months ago with her husband, Jack, won the 5K this year while six months pregnant.
“And then I have a 1-year-old, so kind of back-to-back babies,” Labosky said. “I ran two marathons four months postpartum after I had my son (Charles), so I just keep running and staying in shape.”
Labosky said it’s possible to run pretty much until the day of delivery.
“I had pretty bad sciatic nerve pain, so with my son I had to stop around seven months pregnant,” Labosky said. “I’m hoping to keep going with this one and just take it slow, or slower, if I can.”
The plan didn’t work Saturday. Labosky wanted to do the race for fun with some people she knows from the Kenai Running Club. At the same time, she ran cross-country for Wingate University in North Carolina, graduating in 2017.
“My competitive side came out, and I just started chasing people,” she said.
Jurek decided to run with his wife, Frances, for her first 5K and picked up the win in the process.
Tsalteshi is known for its hills, but Frances said she didn’t know the route beforehand.
“I maybe would have thought about it more,” she said. “I also didn’t know the forecast.”
Despite those factors, Frances is glad she ran.
“I just love these trails,” she said. “These trails are amazing.”
The 10K race was two loops of the 5K course. Labosky caught up to Butler, of Kenai, and he quickly became concerned she was doing the 10K.
“I was like, ‘Oh no, she’s going to pace me the whole way. This is going to be a chore,’” he said. “When she finished the 5K, I was like, ‘Oh yea.’”
Butler also has been having problems with shinsplints and was concerned he would have to drop out at 5K, but he said he took a long warmup and felt great during the race.
When it came to the rain, he just took some advice from his grandfather: “Whether it’s cold, or whether it’s hot, weather will be weather, whether or not, so keep smiling.”
Terry is from Pennsylvania and has been coming to the central Kenai Peninsula for 15 years with her husband, Phil, to stay at a recreational cabin.
She loves running, especially trail running, but is kicking herself because Saturday was only the second time she’s run at Tsalteshi. The first time was Thursday.
“These are great,” Terry said of the trails. “They’re awesome.”
Terry ran the Unity Run with all her children. Allison Terry, Kayla Terry and Mitchell Terry all finished the 5K. Julie said her daughters used the race to get ready for cross-country in the fall.
Julie said the combination of the rain, the trails and the fact she didn’t wear her trail shoes made for a challenging race.
“The hills, I can’t lie, they’re tough,” Terry said. “The rain … whatever. The hardest part was actually going down the hill and thinking I was going to fall on my butt.”
Saturday at Tsalteshi Trails
1 mile — 1. Ryan Queen, 19 minutes, 42 seconds; 2. Larissa Arbelovsky, 21:05; 3. Kara Fraser, 21:05.
5 kilometers — 1. Madison Labosky, 25:20; 2. Allison Terry, 27:30; 3. Kayla Terry, 28:14; 4. Jane Fuerstenau, 31:04; 5. Frances Jurek, 32:54; 6. Katrina Cannava, 36:59; 7. Rachelle Chaffee, 37:00; 8. Candace Nakagawa, 39:25; 9. Rebecca Scudder, 46:08; 10. Trena Richardson, 1:03:04; 11. Connie Wheat, 1:06:40; 12. Connie Goltz, 1:06:40.
10 kilometers — 1. Julie Terry, 54:22; 2. Arianna Cannava, 58:53; 3. Maria Sweppy, 1:32:15.
1 mile — 1. Caleb Olson, 9:07; 2. Zein Elias, 10:22.
5 kilometers — 1. Mark Jurek, 32:55; 2. Mitch Michaud, 33:21; 3. Mitchell Terry, 37:08; 4. John Bryan, 39:25.
10 kilometers — 1. James Butler, 50:34; 2. Kevin Lauver, 56:34; 3. Karl Kincaid, 58:12; 4. Peter Cannava, 1:00:29.