About 30 people take off from the starting line at the Ben Blackgoat Memorial Run on Saturday morning at the base of Perseverance Trail. The race, named after a Juneau teenage who died in an accident on the trail, was the first by the Juneau Trail and Road Runners since it officially added a nonbinary category for participants. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

About 30 people take off from the starting line at the Ben Blackgoat Memorial Run on Saturday morning at the base of Perseverance Trail. The race, named after a Juneau teenage who died in an accident on the trail, was the first by the Juneau Trail and Road Runners since it officially added a nonbinary category for participants. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

A very ordinary, yet extraordinary race for a like-minded teen

Ben Blackgoat Memorial Run first after host adds nonbinary category, but thoughts stay with namesake

A Juneau running club’s first official nonbinary event was just another race — except for the always emotional tribute to the teenager whose memory the event is dedicated to.

About 30 people participated in the annual Ben Blackgoat Memorial Run that started at the beginning of Perseverance Trail on Saturday morning. None of the racers registered in the new nonbinary category and it wasn’t a noticeable element of the event, unless a person chose to interpret pre-race remarks by its organizers as such.

Breea Mearig, left, a friend and running teammate of Ben Blackgoat when they were in high school, talks Saturday about the teenager before the start of a trail race held in memory of his death that occurred during an accident on the trail. With Mearig are her daughter, Sianna, and father Paul Desloover, the organizer of the race since it was first held in 1997. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Breea Mearig, left, a friend and running teammate of Ben Blackgoat when they were in high school, talks Saturday about the teenager before the start of a trail race held in memory of his death that occurred during an accident on the trail. With Mearig are her daughter, Sianna, and father Paul Desloover, the organizer of the race since it was first held in 1997. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

The race debuted in 1997, the year after Blackgoat, 17, a local high school cross country runner, fell to his death after slipping on a patch of ice along a dangerous part of the trail. Breea Mearig, a friend and teammate of Blackgoat when they were in high school, told racers just before the start of Saturday’s run he “was both a very ordinary teenager and a very extraordinary teenager.”

“He was extraordinary in the way he kind of existed outside of social hierarchy,” she said. “He was able to make everybody feel welcome. You could always feel like you were Ben’s friend, and that’s why he influenced so many people in the short time that he lived in Juneau and in his short life. He also knew that running was more than just running as fast as you can, that running builds community and causes you to push your boundaries, and helps you to learn so much about yourself and other people.”

The weather for the race was mild and partly cloudy, with some participants reading a display board featuring news stories about Blackgoat near the starting point. The runners competed in two-, four- and seven-mile categories (and were able to decide how far to run while the race was in progress).

Participants in the Ben Blackgoat Memorial Run stand in front of a display board with stories about the Juneau teenager the race is named after shortly before it begins Saturday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Participants in the Ben Blackgoat Memorial Run stand in front of a display board with stories about the Juneau teenager the race is named after shortly before it begins Saturday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

The race sponsored by Juneau Trail and Road Runners (JTRR) grew over two decades to become the most popular trail run in Juneau before the COVID-19 pandemic, with an estimated 60 to 80 people typically participating. The first post-pandemic resumption of an in-person race last year had only about 10 participants due to rainy weather, so this year’s field was another step closer to resuming normalcy.

Paul Desloover, the race’s organizer since it began, said some build-up time may also be needed before people participate in the nonbinary category of JTRR’s events. There was one person who registered as nonbinary in last year’s local marathon and one nonbinary entrant in a race earlier this year before JTRR made it an official category.

The debut of the new category was timed to occur during Pride Month, but Desloover said that didn’t allow much time for public awareness of its existence.

“I think over time it’s going to be an opportunity for people,” he said.

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

More in Sports

The Nogahabara Dunes spill into a lake 35 miles west of the village of Huslia as seen from the back seat of a Super Cub piloted by Brad Scotton of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service based in Galena. (Photo by Ned Rozell)
Alaska Science Forum: Sand dunes a unique Alaska landscape

NOGAHABARA DUNES — From a molded seat of sand dug into the… Continue reading

Fly fishing for salmon in the saltwater might reduce the opportunity to get quick limits, but there’s nothing like it. (Photo by Jeff Lund)
I Went to the Woods: Silvers on the fly

A school of a few dozen fish moved slowly through the teal… Continue reading

A common aerial wasp forages on cow parsnip flowers. (Photo by Bob Armstrong)
On the Trails: Cow parsnip flowers

Cow parsnip is known in our field guides as Heracleum lanatum, although… Continue reading

A roadside daisy displays a fasciated center. (Photo by Deana Barajas)
On the Trails: An odd plant malady, a clever duck, and more

I recently learned about a mysterious, relatively rare affliction of plants called… Continue reading

Juneau’s Jacob Thibodeau (right) takes a selfie with WSOP legend Phil Hellmuth in the background. (Photo provided by Alaska Sports Report)
Juneau’s Jacob Thibodeau and Mario Fata consistently cashing in at World Series of Poker

Anchorage pro Adam Hendrix remains Alaska’s most prominent poker player, but don’t… Continue reading

Heidi Reifenstein reaches Father Brown’s Cross to complete the Goldbelt Tram-Mount Roberts Trail Run on Saturday, setting a new women’s record for the 3½-mile race with a time of 37 minutes and 40 seconds. (Photo by Jeff Gnass)
A mother of a mountain: Heidi Reifenstein sets new women’s record for Goldbelt Tram-Mount Roberts Trail Run

Longtime Juneau resident returns to peak form after taking break from racing while raising kids.

After a morning hike, a satisfying breakfast for under $20 hits the spot. (Photo by Jeff Lund)
I Went to the Woods: Food for thought

To my left is a man with a thick British accent who… Continue reading

The Nogahabara Sand Dunes in the Koyukuk Wilderness Area west of Koyukuk River. (Keith Ramos / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
Alaska Science Forum: Mystery of the glass tool kit in the sand

From space, the Nogahabara Dunes are a splotch of blond sand about… Continue reading

A bumblebee pollinates the flower of shy maiden, which will turn upward soon afterward. (Photo by Bob Armstrong)
On the Trails: Flowers, showy and otherwise

The spring and summer flower show at Cowee Meadows (way out on… Continue reading

Athletes compete in a swim event at the Dimond Park Aquatic Center on Sept. 16, 2023. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire file photo)
My Turn: It’s OK to say an athlete failed at obtaining a goal

During the telecasts of the 2024 Olympic trials commentators stated that around… Continue reading

A brush turkey on a mound the size of a car (Flickr.com photo by Doug Beckers /CC-BY-SA-2.0)
On the Trails: Nest-building by male birds

Most birds build some sort of nest where the eggs are incubated.… Continue reading

Insects like these flies clinging to a tent seem to be in ample supply in Alaska’s boreal forest. (Photo by Ned Rozell)
Alaska Science Forum: Insects of Alaska forest humming along

Recent long-term studies revealed a three-quarters reduction of insects in parts of… Continue reading