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Runners competing in the 20th edition of the May Day Mud (and Mountain) Run will be treated to a new course this year, one that features two crossings of the Gastineau Channel instead of the usual one.
``The tides are really low this year (minus-four feet), so the Channel's relatively easy to cross,'' race organizer Bob Deal said. ``So the race director made it more challenging by adding the second crossing. It's the same mileage, but double the mud.''
The race has two courses that start and finish at the Fish Creek Parking Lot on Douglas Island. Both races start at 9 a.m. with runners heading in opposite directions.
The short three-mile course leaves Fish Creek and crosses the Gastineau Channel to a checkpoint at the end of the Mendenhall Dike Trail near the airport before runners return to Fish Creek. The longer seven-mile course starts at Fish Creek, but runners head up the Fish Creek Trail to Fish Creek Road (the road to Eaglecrest Ski Area) to a checkpoint where the trail and road intersect. Runners then come back down the hill to Ninemile Creek Beach Access, where they make their crossing of the Gastineau Channel to the Mendenhall Dike Trail checkpoint and the return to Fish Creek.
The short course has just one checkpoint, and the long course only has two checkpoints. Other than staying off the Douglas Highway and avoiding Bayview Subdivision, runners can pick their own routes for the race.
``There's a lot of strategy involved, and route-finding,'' Deal said. ``The race has as few rules as possible. It's just a point-to-point race.''
The strategy will really play into the long-course race, Deal said. Many a race has been won or lost because a runner took a wrong turn, or wandered into deeper water than he intended and lost a shoe.
``The Fish Creek Trail is muddy, has a lot of roots on it and there are a lot of blind trails coming off it where runners might have to double back to the main trail,'' Deal said. ``Runners will probably be trying to figure out where they can leave the trail and get onto the Fish Creek Road up to the checkpoint.''
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Deal said the race's first three years featured a course that started in Douglas and ended on the Juneau side, then the course was reversed for the next 16 years. But there was another reason to make the change, besides the low tides.
``Logistically, this is a lot easier to deal with,'' Deal said. ``On the old course, the first runners would beat a car across the Channel, by the time we walked back to where we were parked and with all the driving we had to do to get down to the Douglas Bridge. There's a lot of parking at the Fish Creek Parking Lot.''
Last year, Dave Pusich won a water-logged, rain-soaked longcourse race with a time of 42 minutes flat and Michelle Ramsey took the women's long-course race in 63:23. Rick Thibodeau won the men's short-course race in 24:19, with Joann Quigg winning the women's race in 31:09. Deal said he's not sure which runners are in town this year so he didn't list any pre-race favorites.
In past years anywhere from 70 to 100 runners will enter the two races, depending on the weather. Many families run with their kids, Deal said. Pre-registration for the race costs $5 and is available today at Foggy Mountain Shop and the Juneau Racquet Club. Day-ofrace registration costs $8 and is available at the Fish Creek Parking Lot from 8:15-8:45 a.m. For more information, contact Deal at 789-3123.