By DAN FOX
It’s a record year for participation for the Klondike Road Relay, a fitting enough occurrence for the race’s 35th anniversary.
There are 85 Yukon teams and 98 teams from Alaska, with 9 of those coming from Skagway.
Sandra Soares, race coordinator for the relay, said registration for the 2016 relay had previously been the biggest year ever with 160 teams. The 2017 relay looks to surpass that record.
“We have 192 teams in total for the event [this year] between the official and special categories,” Soares said.
The start line this year will have a throwback theme to it, Soares said.
“So we’re hoping that people can bring photos from when they first ran the relay, kind of dress up in like an 80s theme, if possible,” Soares said.
Racers start from Skagway on Sept. 8, and head up the Klondike and Alaska highways to Whitehorse over that evening and on Sept. 9.
“These people that do this race, they love it,” Soares said. “It’s such a unique event in the way that they do run throughout the night in the wilderness on the highway, rain or shine. You see anything from snow up at the summit and rain, to beautiful northern lights and sunrises going through Carcross.”
There are 10 different checkpoints along the route, all manned by 10-20 volunteers per checkpoint.
There are also special categories starting in Carcross, including youth teams and walking teams.
Registration is closed, but the event is still looking for volunteers to assist the runners.
“This race is only able to happen because of our volunteers, it’s like 250-300 volunteers to successfully run this race,” Soares said. Volunteer opportunities are available at klondikeroadrelay.com.
There are two major spots of construction to contend with along the relay’s route this year.
The first is the area by the Captain William Henry Moore Bridge, which is being replaced. The second is near where the Klondike Highway deposits traffic onto the Alaska Highway – as the road goes towards Whitehorse, there is construction there as well.
“We met with them today to discuss what their plan will be, it’s hard to say at this point because they still have three weeks till the event, and they are moving so quickly,” Soares said regarding the construction at the highways’ intersection. “But that definitely will be a construction zone that people are running through.”
In the upcoming captains’ meetings, Soares said the teams will be informed of the plan for racing through those two locations.
New this year at the finish line – at Rotary Park in Whitehorse – will be a beer garden.
“We’re trying to make that scene a little more of a place to be,” Soares said. “We’ll have one of our nonprofit groups doing a food tent, so we’ll have food and beverages down there for everyone.”
Following the race, a dance and awards ceremony will be held at the High Country Inn Convention Center.
Michael Healy, captain for one of the Skagway teams, said his teammates are a good mix of experienced and newcomers. The camaraderie amongst the team is what he looks forward to most about the upcoming relay.
Healy’s team is made up of ten people. Running as a team of one, Nicole Kovacs will be racing the 44 miles from Carcross to Whitehorse on her own. Kovacs said she has done ultra races, marathons and 50,000-meter runs before.
“I’m excited to be racing around other people, and it’s just a super fun event, there’s a lot of stoke and excitement,” Kovacs said.