For Keith Larsen and Geoff Roes, the first shall be first and the last shall also be first.
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The duo rewrote the Biblical proverb by being the first and last contestants to show up for the Mount Roberts Tram Run on Saturday. Larsen and Roes tied for first place as both reached the top in 35 minutes, 21 seconds. The 2001 winner, Janeann Twelker, won the women's division in 41:28.
Larsen, a long-time Idaho resident and summer sled dog tour guide, showed up at the tram well over an hour before the race's start. On the other hand, Roes had to hurry to sign up because the runners began lining up for the start when he arrived.
Roes, a first-time race participant, found the location of the finish line confusing. At the top of the Mount Roberts Tramway, he turned to Larsen and asked for directions concerning the location of the cross. The cross signifies the end of the race.
Side by side, the two made their way up to finish the race simultaneously.
Several first-time participants did not expect the race to continue up past where the Tramway ends at an elevation of 1,800 feet above sea level. For several runners, the race course surprisingly continued up the trail for about another quarter of a mile and another 200 feet of elevation before concluding at the cross that overlooks Juneau.
First-year Juneau resident Eric Feldt felt that final part of the race was the event's hardest part.
"Once past the tram you expect the cross to be right there, but you can't see it," Feldt said. "My training runs ended at the tram and never beyond it, so my next gauging distance to the finish seemed mentally tougher on me then the rest of the course."
There are conflicting views about the route's toughest section.
Race director Paul Dick believes one of the more difficult sections may be on the pavement through town.
"The runners go up South Franklin (Street) and then turn up Sixth Street, which is probably some of the steepest parts of this whole run," he said. "You're not warmed up and you're getting your heart rate going and all that. Once you get on the trail, you can settle into a pace and then the elevation gain is just relentless."
Emily Laughlin and Breea Mearig, visiting Juneau for the first time from Minnesota, decided to run the race as part of their 10-day vacation. They found out about the Mount Roberts Tram Run on the Southeast Road Runners' Web site.
Laughlin said, "Before we came out here, we knew we wanted to do something competitive, so we found about this and just planned on doing it while we are here.
"Running uphill is a new experience for us. We never run uphill in Minnesota. This whole run was very challenging and we are glad we did it."
Race volunteer Kate Slotnick said, "People who run this race are a tough lot."
Twenty-nine hearty competitors participated in the unofficial 25th Mount Roberts Tram Run.
Dick said the race originated in 1982. He stated that Betsy Fischer, owner of Foggy Mountain Shop, decided, "Gee, with all the mountains around here, we should have a run that goes up a mountain."
She and a friend decided that Mount Roberts was a logical choice. The race started at the Foggy Mountain Shop and ended at the cross. It did not take long after the Tramway began service in 1996 that the starting line changed to the Tramway's parking lot.
The Tramway also offers a free ride down the mountain for runners.
"The Mount Roberts Tram Run is a safer race because of the services that the tram offers," Dick said. "People can get off the mountain a lot safer and do not have to risk injury on a descent."
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