By Jenny Neyman
When you’re little, there’s no nuance to running. There’s no training, no pacing, no heart-rate monitoring. You either go, arms pin-wheeling and legs scissoring as fast as possible, or you stop. And you might not even go in any consistent direction.
That was the case for the little guys running the one-kilometer, 5-and-under kids course July 8 before the regular 5K community Salmon Run Series at Tsalteshi Trails. Some were slowed by an attention-worthy rock or a branch, or they veered a little off course when spotting Mom in the crowd, or they got a little confused at the finish line, running under the tape instead of through the finisher’s chute.
But what they lacked in sophisticated navigation, they more than made up for in enthusiasm.
As 5-year-old Raylie Allemann put it, she was, “Superfast!” She finished in third place.
And 6-year-old brother Micah?
“Two place,” he said.
Mom and Dad, Tiffany and Brett Allemann, heard about the race series from their neighbors and thought it’d be fun to do as a family, with Brett running and Tiffany walking with all the kids, including 2-year-old Jace and 7-month-old Kelty.
“Hopefully we don’t lose any of them,” Brett said, commenting on his older kids’ speed. “One’s really into sports (Micah), one’s really into gymnastics (Raylie) and likes to bounce around so we wanted to get out and get them involved in something that was community-oriented and could run off some energy before bedtime.”
The enthusiasm of the kids’ race was a good reminder to the 150-plus runners and walkers in the community race that it isn’t just about the end result. Sometimes, like for Pamela and Matt Parker, just getting out and participating is the best reward.
“We started running about four years ago and we’re not great at it but it’s fun, so we try to stick with it,” Pamela said. “And when we moved here we knew that this would be a great way to get involved with the community and kind of keep that running up.”
They recently relocated from Gainesville, Florida, where the topography is quite a bit different than the hilly, woodsy Tsalteshi Trails.
“Very flat — very flat,” Pamela said. “I’m not too excited about that first hill up after the starting gate, but we’ll see. The strategy is just to survive, possibly not walk.”
That’s not to say there wasn’t a competitive spirit at the July 8 race, the first in a five-week series, now in its fourth year. The lead runners can post impressively fast times for the hilly course, finishing in 18 minutes or less.
But the fiercest competition July 8 was at the registration table to see how many participants worked for the Kenai Peninsula Borough, and how many for the school district.
“The Battle of Binkley,” said Mike Crawford, board member for the Tsalteshi Trails Association. “Nice, huh?”
Crawford and fellow borough employee Bobbi Lay were the instigators of the challenge, a friendly competition started at the George A. Navarre Borough Building on Binkley Street, as a way to encourage healthy activity.
“There’s a lot of people that sit around the white house and maybe don’t get out as much as they could or follow a lot of the opportunities that they could be doing fun things,” Crawford said.
So far, the challenge seems to be working.
“I’ve seen big numbers from both groups, so it’s pretty exciting,” he said. A lot of popularity on social media and a lot of, to be honest, a lot of smack talk, but only by the school district.”
That might have something to do with Superintendent of Schools Sean Dusek, who has been encouraging district employees to get involved. The competition ends with Dusek and borough Mayor Mike Navarre having to do — something — based on whichever side has the most participants.
“To add a little incentive to have our employees participate offered a challenge that the mayor and I haven’t really quite settled on exactly what the final challenge would be and what the winner would be able to do and what the loser would be able to do,” Dusek said. “I think we’re more interested in just promoting healthy habits, and this is a great community activity for that.”
The other new element to this year’s Salmon Run Series are two youth running camps, one for ages 6 to 10, and the other for ages 11 to 15, taught by Jordan Theisen and Allie Ostrander, who recently completed accomplished running careers at Kenai Central High School. Ostrander started the Salmon Run Series four years ago.
“For 6- to 10-year-old camp, the main idea is just to show them that running isn’t terrible, it’s not just a punishment, it should be fun,” Ostrander said. “And for the older kids we’ll get a little bit more into how to train and stuff, because they’re getting to the age of middle school, high school where they’ll actually be racing.”
Beyond that, the plan for this year’s Salmon Run Series is to follow the lead of a lot of the runners — keep on keeping on, getting a little better every time.
“This year, kind of the same thing, just trying to do everything a little bit better,” Ostrander said. “The first Salmon Run Series was a really good turnout, I think we’ve got close to 200 people, so I’m really happy with it.”
More information and registration for the weekly races and youth running camps is available on http://www.tsalteshi.org.