I live in Alaska, and one of the best things about living here is that it's always light in the summer. So when I heard that Fairbanks has a night run on the summer solstice, I was immediately interested. All I had to do was find someone else crazy enough to make a 5 hour drive there, and the same back. My friend Krista is just crazy enough.
So at noon on the day of the race, Krista and I and her two little kids, and my teenage daughter as babysitter for said kids, loaded snacks and tents and sleeping bags and running gear into my little car and off we went.
It poured rain all the way to Fairbanks, plus there was tons of road construction, making the drive a little more than 5 hours. We got there around 7pm, with 3 hours to kill before the race. We checked in and picked up our bibs and shirts, and discovered the bibs each had coupons for free 6" subs at Subway. We didn't want to eat a lot before running, but it fed the kids well. Then we went to a random playground which luckily turned out to be only a block or so away from the finish line. We left the kids there and caught the shuttle to the start line.
The starting corral was divided according to the pace you thought you would run, so we dutifully stood by the sign that said "10:00 mile".
There were a lot of people there, more than I thought there would be. There was a costume contest, a jazzercise warm-up and other festivities. We didn't wear costumes, but we did get matching tank tops for the race.
The race started on the UAF campus, and ended at Pioneer Park, but the vast majority of the course wound through neighborhoods. This seemed to cause a miles-long block party, with people along the course sitting in lawn chairs, cheering, handing out water, and watching us run by. Teenaged boys wove in and out on skateboards, and one family was handing out cans of beer instead of water. One little girl had her hose out, and I ran through the spray, which after 4-ish miles of running, felt pretty good.
The last little bit of the course was along a bike path beside the river. I gather that the course normally runs a little more along the river, but they had to change the course last minute due to flooding.
The entire course was essentially flat and paved. There was one short section of packed gravel where they were doing road construction. They did a good job of blocking off traffic to protect the runners. The race was 10K, so a little over 6 miles, and they had signs at each mile point.
For me, the first couple of miles are the hardest, and I ask myself over and over why the hell am I doing this??? Once I get past that point, though, I can usually just keep going, and that's what we did. Krista and I seem really well matched this year, and we stayed together throughout the race, and I think it challenged us both just enough, without making it a killer. I ran it a little faster than I usually do. Chronotrack results aren't out yet, but Runtastic said I averaged 10:13 a mile, which is about 15 seconds per mile faster than my last several runs. When we hit the 6 mile sign, I flashed Krista the "go" sign, she nodded, and we took off, practically sprinting to the finish line. I was thrilled to see the timer say just over 64 minutes when we crossed the line.
We were worried that we would get rained on after driving the whole way in pouring rain, but we got only a few sprinkles. The finish line festivities included oranges, watermelon, protein shakes, baked potatoes, and mini cupcakes. If we didn't have to get back to the kids at the playground, we could have stuck around and really enjoyed it more. Maybe next year. This is definitely one we will do again.