Runners from New York, Alabama, Oregon, Iowa, California, Michigan and points in between signed up for the 17th annual Frank Maier Marathon and Douglas Island Half Marathon on Saturday.
Frank Maier, an architect and longtime Juneau runner, is memorialized annually by Juneau's local running club with a race to celebrate his joy of running. Both the full and the half marathon start (and end) at Sandy Beach and meander out the North Douglas Highway, providing spectacular views of the ocean, forest, glaciers and sometimes, wildlife.
Sometimes the wildest aspect of the race is the weather, but that's part of the fun of a race in a rain forest.
Holly Koester, a teacher and motivational speaker from Cleveland, will be completing her 50 State Wheelchair Marathon Goal this year in Juneau. She is the first woman to achieve this goal.
A 10-year Army veteran, Koester was paralyzed in an accident during training. After being told she'd never walk again, she began racing in 1995, completing a 10K.
Koester set her goal to complete marathons in 50 states, and Juneau will be the star on her goal.
Other runners just enjoy the beauty of Alaska. Lawrence Macon of San Antonio has been coming back to run the marathon for so many years now, race officials think of him as an old friend.
For a small city, Juneau boasts its share of competitive runners, too.
Local runner Shawn Miller set a 2 hour, 31 minute record in 2003, and then set the half-marathon record of 1:09 in 2005. In the wheelchair division, Seth McBride owns the marathon record and plans to race the half-marathon this year as part of his training for 2008 U.S. Paralympic Wheelchair Rugby Team matches in Beijing.
But you don't need to run fast to enjoy this race, and both of the runs offer one-hour earlier start times for slower runners. Many runners come out just to enjoy a long run with their pals, to train for other races, or to try to set a personal record. Other runners take advantage of Juneau's certified course and try to qualify for the prestigious Boston Marathon.
The races will be followed by a free barbecue and awards ceremony at Sandy Beach. The event offers an opportunity to share road stories and commiserate with other runners. People who aren't running can volunteer to help out.
Spectators are encouraged to show support by cheering racers on along the North Douglas and Douglas highways or honking when driving by. Volunteers can help out at one of the race aide stations, set about every two miles, or another activity.
Runners can pre-register online at Active.com, or with forms available at www.southeastroadrunners.org. For more information or to volunteer, call race director Bob Marshall at 586-6200.