An overnight road race between Northern Southeast Alaska and the Yukon Territory will see a strong turnout for its 35th anniversary.
The Klondike International Road Relay follows a former gold rush route from Skagway to Whitehorse. Most runners participate in teams of 10. The more than 100-mile relay is divided into legs that range between about six and 16 miles each.
The race takes place mostly overnight. It begins Friday, Sept. 8 with the first heat of runners taking off at 6 p.m. Alaska time.
Sandra Soares is with Sport Yukon, which organizes the event. She hasn’t run in the relay before, but after orchestrating it for a few years, she has a sense of why people flock to the overnight race.
“A lot of the things that we hear are team camaraderie…just being out there in that vibe with all that energy,” Soares said. “And doing it together with your friends, and just supporting each other, encouraging each other. Some of those legs can be quite challenging. And I think you get out there and you just get this boost of energy. Some teams don’t sleep the entire time.”
To help keep that energy going, Sport Yukon is adding a beer garden at the Whitehorse finish line. There’s also a dance after the race at a local convention center in which two bands will play this year instead of just one.
Last year, the relay saw a record number of participants, with about 170 teams of 10. This year there are five or six fewer teams registered, but the numbers are still strong. (There are 184 teams in total.) Soares says they expect close to 1800 participants, including youth and walkers who track a shorter course starting in Carcross.
As summer comes to a close, Soares says the relay is accomplishing its original goal.
“The race was kind of brought together as a way to bring tourists to the Yukon in our off-season,” Soares said. “Our summers are pretty busy here with people coming in and driving to Alaska, that sort of thing. But the fall, it’s tends to fall off a bit. So it was a combined effort between Tourism Yukon and Sport Yukon and they developed this idea to do a run from Skagway to Whitehorse.”
Soares says runners should be aware of construction zones towards the beginning and end of the race. And she says, bring layers. Another major athletic event in the region, the Kluane Chilkat International Bike Relay, was cancelled in June because of a highly unusual snowstorm.
The forecast is calling for cloudy weather in the 50s on Sept. 8 and 9. But Soares says runners should arrive prepared for anything.