Juneau Road and Trail Running president John Kern thinks of the Klondike Road Relay as the end of the running season in Juneau.
And he sees no better way to celebrate it than running in the 110-mile road relay between Skagway to Whitehorse, Yukon, which will begin on Friday night.
Kern is sitting the relay out this year for the first time in 15 years. Kern has run every year with the team “Eat and Run” in the mixed category. Kern said there’s been around 60 different runners join the team over the years and he’s been one of the mainstays, until this year. Having booked six marathons this year — he’s already completed four of them — he decided to rest up and nurse some injuries.
Kern’s name was etched in 2014 on the Senators Cup, a tradition celebrating individuals who have ran in all 10 legs in the course. Kern said his favorite leg is the one he considers to be the most challenging, Leg 6, which at 16 miles is the longest of all 10.
“The wonderful thing about Leg 6 is with the timing you’re usually finishing in Carcross at sunrise,” Kern said. “You can plan on a nice hot cup of coffee, there’s a couple ladies serving coffee at Carcross and they stay open 24 hours a day during the Klondike.”
The event, Kern said, presents unique challenges and is much more than just running from Point A to Point B.
“The logistics become so much more important: When is your replacement going to be at the next leg? How are you going to coordinate support for each group or for each runner on each leg?” Kern said. “Your finish time becomes important to the next runner because that’s their start time. It really changes what some people might see as an individual sport to all of a sudden a very interesting and exciting team sport.”
Brandon Collum, 43, is one of the six returners this year on Eat and Run, along with Rob Haight, Dirk Miller, Carleen Mitchell, Glenn Haight and Dave Mitchell. Cullum joined a team of strangers from the Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, four years ago for his first Klondike. He said they got along great with each other, but it didn’t feel like they were a true team.
“It was a bunch of great people on the team but nobody knew each other,” Cullum said. “It was up to each runner to support his or herself and it didn’t feel like as much of a team experience — it’s really the opposite with Eat and Run.”
Cullum describes the Klondike as a family event and “moving party.” Cullum’s 10-year-old daughter, Isabella, is joining him for the second year in the run. Runners under the age of 18 can form teams of eight to run the final three legs of the road relay (about 40 miles).
“That just adds another layer of the family dynamic to the whole event,” he said.
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