Runners embark on epic relay from Chugiak to Seward

Monday, June 18, 2018 - 10:38
  • Racer Erin Newton of Eagle River climbs a hill during the Alaska Relay on Friday. The Alaska Relay began Friday, June 15, 2018 at Mirror Lake. Teams of as many as 12 runners are competing in the relay, which takes runners from Chugiak to Seward over the course of the race. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)
  • The Alaska Relay began Friday, June 15, 2018 at Mirror Lake. Teams of as many as 12 runners are competing in the relay, which takes runners from Chugiak to Seward over the course of the race. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)
  • Anchorage’s Trevor Storrs runs up a hill during the Alaska Relay on Friday, June 15, 2018 in Eagle River. The Alaska Relay began Friday, June 15, 2018 at Mirror Lake. Teams of as many as 12 runners are competing in the relay, which takes runners from Chugiak to Seward over the course of the race. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)
  • The Alaska Relay began Friday, June 15, 2018 at Mirror Lake. Teams of as many as 12 runners are competing in the relay, which takes runners from Chugiak to Seward over the course of the race. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)

Teams of racers began what some called “the worst game of tag ever” Friday on the shores of Mirror Lake, where runners embarked on a 175-mile trek expected to end sometime Saturday at Waterfront Park in Seward.

The second-annual Alaska Relay features teams of as many as 12 runners alternating legs along the route. The race winds south through Chugiak-Eagle River, Anchorage, Girdwood and onto the Kenai Peninsula. Racers travel in vans, leapfrogging each other as runners alternate running and resting over the course of the grueling event.

Race organizer Nathan Luke said 14 teams and 162 runners are participating in this year’s event, including one team of ultra-runners who elected to field a team of just six athletes — which works out to about 30 miles per runner.

Although Luke said there are some hard-core runners, most of the participants are in the event for the “fun” of slogging from Alaska’s largest city to the seaside tourist town on Resurrection Bay.

“You don’t have to be like, a heavy duty runner,” he said.

The sections are broken up into different lengths, Luke said. The first 8.4-mile leg took runners from Mirror Lake to downtown Eagle River, where the next racers set out on a 4.1-mile run to Eagle River High. From there, the next team members headed toward the third exchange zone at Bartlett High. The shortest leg of the journey is less than three miles; the longest is more than 10.

Luke started the event last year after noticing Alaska — which seems ideal for an overnight race due to its long daylight hours — didn’t have any long-distance running relays.

“I was like, ‘Why doesn’t Alaska have one? An all-night event in June when it’s not dark?”

Luke said the event has grown into a popular event, with this year’s race attracting several runners from Outside who traveled to Alaska specifically for the race.

For more information about the race, visit the event online at thealaskarelay.com.

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