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A midnight run of fun

Return to late hour a resounding success for 19th Only Fools race

Posted: Monday, June 23, 2003

A three-headed monster and a three-month old - along with at least three streakers - came together on the summer solstice Saturday night for the 19th annual Only Fools Run at Midnight.

Only the monster and the baby boy were among the 300-or-so official entrants in the joint 5-kilometer run and 1-mile walk, a fundraiser for the Southeast Alaska Independent Living (SAIL). SAIL provides independent living services to people living with disabilities in Southeast.

The race returned to its roots this year by taking place downtown at midnight. The race had been less successful the last two years when it deviated from that tradition. This year's event returned to the traditional number of participants, many of whom showed up in elaborate costumes.

"Overall, we're thrilled with the turnout and the community enthusiasm for the event," said Joan O'Keefe, executive director of SAIL. "We are happy to bring the Only Fools Run back again as a community event. We are looking to come back again next year, bigger and better.

"Fund raising helps us make ends meet" in the wake of shrinking government support, O'Keefe said.

Shawn Miller, 23, won the 5-kilometer run with a time of 16 minutes, 17 seconds. Julie Sieben was the top women's 5K finisher in 20:18. But there was much more to the race than just running.

"A crowd like this only adds to the fun of it," Miller said.

One of the five people under the three-headed, dragon-like monster was Sarah Bosma, 28, a manager at assisted living house for REACH, Inc., a Juneau-based organization that offers family health and counseling services throughout Southeast Alaska.

"We decided to do this run because (the state) is considering cutting SAIL's budget," Bosma said. "SAIL's services are a necessary piece of people's lives."

Noah Walden, 31, Eliska Champagne-Veselka, 26, Simon Taylor, 32, and Alex Romero, 30, also ran under the dragon costume, festooned with three heads by local artist Jake Higgins. The monster won 10 pounds of fudge from the Alaska Fudge Company for best centipede - an award given to the best group of people joined together.

Three-month-old Jacob Allen Lager, with his three-inch-long black hair wildly spiking out, was toted along the course in a front carrier on the chest of his aunt, Miah Lager, 24, who also works for REACH. They were accompanied by Erin Carroll, 34, a person with special needs.

Miah Lager explained that SAIL "has helped a lot of people just to be able to go and get assisted care."

"I mean, what would Erin do?" Lager said. "They (the legislature and governor) are always cutting funds for people who cannot speak for themselves. That's why we're so important, because we have to be their voices."

Craig Phillips, 43, got into the spirit of things by dressing as a raven - complete with a large black Styrofoam hat on his head. He is visiting from Homer to teach acting workshops for Juneau Dance Unlimited's Fine Arts Camp.

Phillips found out about this event at the last minute, but decided to participate because he said he can "sympathize and understand people who have family members who need a little extra assistance. ... My father had a stroke a few years ago, so he's in a wheelchair."

After the race, a sweaty Phillips advised future racegoers to not wear a Styrofoam hat while trying to run.

"It was form-fit, very comfortable and light - but on the warm side," he said.

Team DIPAC was yet another costumed centipede. Its members were five young ladies who work as tour guides at the hatchery this summer. They dressed as the five different species of pacific salmon by making a paper silhouette of each salmon type and wearing it on their head. James Anderson, 24, dressed as a fisherman at the behest of his wife, Brandy Anderson, 20, who went as a pink salmon.

When asked how their team did against the Crazy Cross Country Caterpillar - made up of 13 JDHS cross-country runners joined together - DIPAC team member Phoebe Rohrbacher said, "they smoked us." Rohrbacher, 17, designed each fish and played the red smoked salmon - which was illustrated with a cigarette between its fish lips.

In addition to the three-headed monster's best centipede award, other costume winners included Todd Denton, 23, who won best costume among adults for playing the tin man in a Wizard of Oz five-some.

Denton, who teaches in Boston but is back in Juneau for the summer, was wrapped in tin foil, with a shiny funnel on his head, machine washing exhaust vents on his arms and silver sparkles spread all over his face. The tin foil around his legs quickly burst during the race, but much of it remained intact. His sister, Heidi, 18, managed to finish the race in a heavy "Toto" dog costume.

Henry Prussing, 6, won for best child costume by dressing as a snake.

The event lived up to its "foolish" name when one unclothed young man streaked by Centennial Hall as the race was ending - with a police officer directing traffic just a hundred yards away. At least two other streakers were seen in the area.

Last year's Sunday afternoon Only Fools race in the Mendenhall Valley drew about 75 people. Sierra Kaden, director of SAIL's Outdoor Recreation and Community Access (ORCA) program, called this year's turnout of several hundred racers "fantastic," and said it made clear that "the community really wanted to see it at midnight."

Mike Carson, a VISTA volunteer for SAIL from Boise, Idaho, uses a trained service dog, Cheyenne, who can perform a number of tasks like picking things up and opening and closing doors. He said SAIL was happy to become a part of the long tradition of Only Fools Run at Midnight, and that the money raised will be used to provide valuable services.

"We are really honored to be able to bring this on as a fundraiser and bring it back to its original capacity," Carson said.

"(SAIL) helps people not only with equipment but also with the knowledge about living independently. This saves the state a tremendous amount of money by making people more independent and ... empowers them to live independently on their own.

"The main concern is helping someone to live independently. I am a prime example of that"

Details on the amount of money raised for SAIL was unavailable Sunday, and will run in the Empire later this week. Complete race results also will run later this week.



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