Runners take off from the starting line of the 35th annual Only Fools Run at Midnight at 11:59 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019. The event included a costume contest and 1-mile and 5-kilometer run/walk/wheelchair. The event is being revived this year at 9 p.m. Friday. (Nolin Ainsworth / Juneau Empire file photo)

Runners take off from the starting line of the 35th annual Only Fools Run at Midnight at 11:59 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019. The event included a costume contest and 1-mile and 5-kilometer run/walk/wheelchair. The event is being revived this year at 9 p.m. Friday. (Nolin Ainsworth / Juneau Empire file photo)

‘Only Fools Run’ costume-themed fundraising race returns for summer solstice after multiyear absence

5K and 1-mile events will start downtown at 9 p.m. Friday, rather than old tradition of midnight.

It’s been six years since people dressed as fools ran for a good cause at night on the summer solstice in Juneau, but what used to be an annual event is returning in a slightly altered form Friday with the “Only Fools Run at Night” 5K and one-mile races starting at 9 p.m. at Centennial Hall.

The event, taking place for the 36th time, was long known as the “Only Fools Run at Midnight” since it started at that time — with participants not running completely in the dark due to Juneau’s 24-hour nautical twilight during the “longest” days of the year. But the most recent summer solstice race in 2018 saw the starting time moved to 11 p.m., a year later took place during the fall equinox in September due to organizational challenges — and then COVID-19 left the race in the dark for the past four years.

This year the race was revived by Juneau Trail and Road Runners as a fundraiser for the Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé cross-country team, said Abby Jahn, chair of the group organizing the race and the team’s co-coach, in an interview Saturday.

“We’re going to try to bring it back with a new flavor,” she said. “We decided to do the run at 9 p.m. instead of midnight to make it a little more family friendly.”

The course essentially remains the same as before through downtown streets and along Glacier Avenue, Jahn said. Also, in keeping with tradition, awards will be presented to individuals and groups in a costume contest for race participants taking place at 8 p.m. at Centennial Hall.

Jahn said the event is raising funds for JDHS’ cross-country team since it will be a far larger group of students next year due to the consolidation of Juneau’s two high schools and the expenses they incur traveling to other communities for events. She said a core team of about six organizers is putting together the race, but volunteers to be guides at intersections are being sought.

The event has historically been a fundraiser for various causes, according to Carl Brodersen, a longtime participant who is helping organize this year’s race. In an email detailing the history of the race, he stated that during an initial 10-year period it raised $187,000 for a muscular dystrophy youth camp.

“It has always been a very successful fundraiser, having been hosted more recently by Southeast Alaska Independent Living, KTOO, and Tlingit & Haida — almost always with the help of Juneau Trail and Road Runners,” he wrote.

Among the memories from his years of participating in the race is “you’ll feel naked if you’re not dressed up,” Brodersen wrote.

“I’ve seen people run their first 5k as part of this race, and firemen run it all in full kit, and newly-weds run the course after their weddings in dress and tux as part of their reception,” he wrote.

Among the “traditional” costumes is a group joining together as a centipede, according to Brodersen.

“The cleverest one I ever saw was in 2008 when a group dressed up as electrical transmission towers (connected by string high-tension lines) and ran away from an avalanche. So topical,” he wrote. “The best costume I was ever a part of myself involved a 12-foot cardboard pirate ship with two masts that went around the race at breakneck speed playfully harassing the other runners, closely followed by a 12-foot cardboard frigate of the Royal Navy running after them, its skipper bellowing comical sailing commands like ‘tickle the mizzen!’ the whole way with the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack playing (on a custom-made CD-player backpack because this was 2012).

“The boats finally met up in the last 200 feet of the race, launched broadsides of black water balloons, tossed cardboard grappling hooks, boarded each other, and smashed the soggy vessels to utter smithereens in front of a huge crowd cheering as the two captains ran each other through and collapsed into a big mess. It was glorious.”

Advance registration ($25 adults, $15 people under 18) is available online until 6 p.m. Thursday and same-day registration begins at 8 p.m. at Centennial Hall.

For more information about the race or volunteering visit www.southeastroadrunners.org/general-7 or contact Jahn at (907)321-6062 or abbyrnjahn@gmail.com.

• Contact Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com or (907) 957-2306.

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