They have names like the Lady GuDivas, the Slomo Sapiens and the Charismatic Megafauna. Their names run from the inspirational, such as Team Survivor, to the silly, with Fast Women ... And We Run Too.
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These running teams and many others will descend on Skagway this weekend for the 24th annual Klondike Trail of '98 International Road Relay. The race, known simply as "The Klondike" to most of its participants, represents a last-gasp of summer and a big party for runners in Southeast Alaska, Anchorage and the Yukon Territories.
"Not to speak for everyone, but I think there's a social component that's at least as important as any sort of running thing," Paul Voelckers said of his team, the Slomo Sapiens. "The team isn't exactly the same year-to-year but has enough people to have a personality and character. I think that social component is a huge thing."
Voelckers, 53, will be competing in his 17th consecutive Klondike starting tonight in Skagway.
The race is a 175-kilometer, 10-leg, non-stop jaunt from Skagway to Whitehorse, Yukon. The race starts tonight and finishes sometimes Saturday in Whitehorse.
This year, 140 teams signed up for the event, with 45 of them coming from the Juneau and Douglas area. In all, 57 of the 140 squads hail from Southeast Alaska.
"I think for some it's the culmination of the season's training," Voelckers said. "It's the spot where you see where it all adds up to. The weekend races locally are fun and they come and go, but there's something special for the Klondike."
In 24 years, the race has grown from a little event into one of the biggest days on the Juneau racing calendar.
Not bad for a little fundraiser designed to support sports in the Yukon Territories.
Throughout the race's existence, Juneau has been at the forefront.
Juneau teams won four of the eight division last year, and the Lady GuDivas set a new record in the Masters Women division with a time of 13 hours, 20 minutes and 5 seconds. Juneau teams also hold three of the course records.
The Klondike is divided into eight divisions - Open, Women, Mixed, Masters Open, Masters Women, Masters Mixed, Corporate and Walkers.
Follow the local teams in the Klondike Trail of '98 International Road Relay at www.sportyukon.com
While the race is certainly competitive, there are elements that make it special for the runners.
From the dance and dinner at the race's end to running a leg at 2 a.m., the Klondike can be a fun and special occasion.
"The best part is the camaraderie with your teammates and the fun you have with your teammates," said Heather Haugland, captain of the Inca Postal Service. "It feels like you're doing something crazy, running in the middle of the night in the Yukon for no reason."
Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at email@example.com.
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