By HANNAH FLEACE
Teal water licked at the rocks underneath the Broadway Dock.
Whoosh. Crash. Whoosh. Crash.
He bounced on the wooden boards of the dock, a few inches from the painters tape finish line.
Up. Down. Up. Down.
Five and a half hours rolled by.
A small group of volunteers stood with Paul Nelson on the dock, waiting for his wife Cassie Nelson to complete the Skagway Marathon.
Paul finished about an hour ago. The sweat around his eyebrows and on his neck had turned to salt crystals, and his green Brooks shoes now had 250 miles battered into them.
Paul, 45, and Cassie, 41, are 50 staters – people who make it a goal to run marathons in all 50 states.
“We’ve finished the seven continents,” Paul said. So naturally, the states were next.
The couple has completed marathons in more than 20 states.
“This was one of the most beautiful,” he said. “Really hard, but well supported. Top three, top four.”
The other contenders for most beautiful marathon are Antarctica and Mongolia. Their Antarctic race took them through more than 20 miles of snow and 30 degree temperatures. In Mongolia the course was riddled with brutal inclines.
But on June 13, the hills in Dyea were not showing mercy either.
Fifteen full marathoners, 68 half marathoners and 16 half marathon walkers flooded the steep hills and bending roads between Skagway and Dyea during the 4th annual Skagway Marathon.
The full marathoners and half marathon walkers began at 8 a.m. The half marathon runners started at 9 a.m.
Family members cheered encouragement along the roads, and the aid station crews scrambled to get enough water ready for the next wave of runners.
Like ants on a leaf, the runners spread into single file and pushed up hills. A few had water bottles strapped onto them; others gulped Dixie cups at the aid stations.
Around 10:30, the first half marathoner crossed the finish line.
Logan Roots finished one hour, 13 minutes and 18 seconds after flying from the starting line. The first female half marathoner, Amelia Fraser, finished at one hour, 38 minutes and 22 seconds. David Eikelboom finished second in the men’s half marathon at one hour, 14 minutes and one second. Anett Kralisch took second in the women’s category at one hour, 39 minutes and 19 seconds.
. . .
Sheldon Lyslo slipped the blue medallion in the shape of Alaska around his neck.
“That was gorgeous,” he said. “One of the most scenic I’ve ever done.”
Lyslo finished first in the full marathon and in the men’s category at three hours, 29 minutes and 54 seconds. He sported a small blue backpack with water bottles tucked by the shoulders and a white hat – a few essentials for surviving a marathon.
“It helps to have a running buddy,” Lyslo said. He’d paced a coworker for most of the race.
The 42-year-old Whitehorse resident is on his 20th marathon since he began running 10 years ago.
“I could’ve trained more for the hills,” he said. “But it was just beautiful.”
He planned to celebrate, but not in the ordinary fashion. He had to rush back for his daughter’s birthday party.
“It’s not too bad if you keep moving,” he said. “But on my way home, that’ll be rough. I drive a manual.”
Second place in the men’s division was Jason Mackey with a time of three hours, 44 minutes and 58 seconds. Joanne Van Bibber-Widring came in first in the women’s category at four hours, 28 minutes and 48 seconds. Tammy Sieminowski finished second in the women’s category, crossing the finish line four hours, 41 minutes and four seconds into the race.
. . .
The support and encouragement of the community is what convinced Mike Healy to run 26.2 miles on a partly cloudy day in June.
“The people around town inspired me,” Healy, 37, said. “It’s crazy to think a person can run that far.”
In the months leading up to the race, Healy, who owns the Skagway Brewing Company, was running 40 to 60 miles a week in preparation.
But nothing could ready him for the last leg of the race.
Just after the big hill by Long Bay, Healy stopped at an aid station. A short break, a quick drink, back to the pavement.
“And then I just kept going,” he said. “It’s like you’re not inside your body.”
The euphoric state some runners achieve after great distances is called runner’s high, the feeling that you could run forever.
“At a slower, steady pace,” he laughed.
Healy finished in third place, three hours, 46 minutes and 10 seconds into the race.
A mix of half, full and walking marathoners trickled onto the dock, stopping the timer every few minutes.
Bib number six wanted a Pepsi. Two brothers ran across the line together, one in tears. A throng of women finished in matching superhero t-shirts. One runner finished and immediately turned back around. He wanted to get to Whitehorse to see a Star Wars themed burlesque show.
Skagway local, Ray Tsang, jumped across the finish line and declared, “Now I am certifiably nuts!”
The dock became a cluster of stretching legs and half chugged water bottles. Each time a runner passed through the gates and across the line, the cluster erupted in applause.
But around five and a half hours in, nearly everyone was gone.
Just a small group of volunteers stood with Paul Nelson on the dock.
A volunteer said they saw someone coming.
“Is it a blue shirt?” Paul asked.
Paul and his wife Cassie have been running together for more than a decade. Cassie started in the late 90s, and Paul began running in 2001.
“Growing up, the New York City Marathon ran right past my house,” Paul said. “I always wanted to do it.”
They both joined a running team in New York City where they live, and one day on a practice run, they said hello.
Paul proposed at the finish line of the New York City Marathon in 2002. A year later they finished the Blackmores Sydney Marathon on their honeymoon.
As the six-hour time mark approached, Paul headed off to find his wife.
They returned a little while later, holding hands down the final stretch. Together they crossed the finish line, hands intertwined.
A volunteer stepped up with food and water.
“What do you want, C?” Paul asked.
“You’re done.” Paul squeezed her shoulders.
“That was beautiful,” she said and then, “I’m tired.”
After six hours, one minute and 48 seconds, they crossed Alaska off the list.