Each group portrait follows the same pattern: two rows of middle-aged runners, big smiles, matching race shirts and the Yukon River as a backdrop.
With a closer look, one can start to pick out some of the same faces, too. That’s because all of them feature one or more Metcalfe siblings. For 26 years, some combination of the Metcalfe family — nine Juneau-raised siblings aged between 54-69 — have run the 110-mile Klondike Trail of ‘98 International Road Relay.
Kim, the second eldest, has run in 23 just on her own and has scrapbooks worth of photos, old newspaper articles and results to prove it.
The team that most commonly goes by “Metcalfes and Friends” will be running in their 27th Klondike this weekend. There have been as many as eight Metcalfes on the same team at one time together and as few as one.
The relay begins this evening in Skagway, crosses the U.S.-Canada Border and White Pass and finishes on Saturday in the Yukon capital of Whitehorse. Each team member is assigned a leg of the course that ranges between six and 16 miles in distance. Much of the running is done in the middle of the night.
“It’s a way that we get together and it’s kinda the one yearly thing that we do since at least ‘90,” Jake Metcalfe said, Kim’s younger brother.
More than the Fourth of July, the September relay race has been the reliable annual event that convenes the family.
“It’s probably the best thing you can do as a family together,” Peter Metcalfe of Juneau said. “I mean, there’s no discouragement at all because the consequence of someone not finishing a leg is you have to jump out and finish it for them. So the moment that becomes a possibility there’s great anxiety in the support van.”
There have been years when that’s happened, too. There have also been years when the team boards the ferry to Skagway with a shorthanded team.
“One thing that we’ve done a lot is leave without a full team over the years because we couldn’t find somebody,” Kim Metcalfe said. “One year, we left (Juneau) with only seven people, and we’re thinking, ‘We’re not in that great of shape to run more than one leg each.’ And we picked up three guys along the way.”
The clan — now spread out between Juneau, Anchorage and the Lower 48 — has recently begun inviting the next generation on to the team as well. They have a growing pool of family members to choose from, too. This year, Jake Metcalfe has brought aboard his college-aged son, Bien.
“It’s an opportunity for me to see the family but also see all kinds of people from Juneau who participate, so I connect with old friends, and then it’s just a blast,” Jake said.
Unlike some of the younger participants, the senior Metcalfes have to take training for the race seriously.
“The last couple years I’ve overtrained and I was pretty well recovered within a half-hour or so. I wasn’t in misery like I have been in the past,” Peter Metcalfe said.
“I’ll test your theory this year,” brother Jake said.
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or firstname.lastname@example.org.