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Fairbanks runner gauges community interest in summer solstice race alternative

Published: Apr. 14, 2021 at 6:57 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - It is 10 p.m. on the Saturday closest to the summer solstice in Fairbanks and there are only a few places to be; at the University of Alaska Fairbanks for the start of the Midnight Sun Run, posted in a neighborhood along the course with a cold beverage - or somewhere in between - but either way, the community is celebrating the longest day of the year.

Fairbanks will not get that full experience this year either as the Midnight Sun Run will be held virtually again, which left some locals disappointed.

“Those emotions quickly changed to wanting to do something about it,” said Fairbanks runner Jared Lees.

When Lees discovered the traditional summer solstice race will not be in-person, he turned to social media to gauge the community’s interest in an alternative to the event.

“I wanted to see if something can be set up to bring this community together and show that people are still wanting to make an in-person event possible and I am certainly willing to take the leading role in that.”

Lees, who would be described as a casual runner, is not interested in who can win a 10-kilometer race, but to provide some semblance to the fan-favorite event.

“Being born and raised in Fairbanks, I truly feel like this community really epitomizes the ‘Golden Heart City’ and the togetherness and community feel,” added Lees, a West Valley and UAF graduate. “I think the traditional Midnight Sun Run race is something that really symbolizes that.

“Running through the Riverview community, I think most of the community is probably familiar with what that looks like and how that makes people feel and to just to try to bring whatever little bit of that as possible in a world of COVID is what the goal is.”

During the early stages of developing a race, Lees ran into some roadblocks such as insurance and mitigation plans, which he hopes an established running organization can either step in and help, or take over the race coordinating duties altogether. He mentioned the importance of community, business and organizational support needed to put on such an event.

And to Lees, it is not about replicating the event that featured over 3,300 participants in 2019, the last year the race was held in-person.

“Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how many people [participate] to me, but just to get the community together again in a special event that so many Fairbanksans and Alaskans hold very dearly.”

Those interested in participating or helping organize an alternative race can reach Lees at summersolstice10k@gmail.com.

The 39th annual virtual Midnight Sun Run is set to run from June 18-21. Registration for the event and the Couch to 10k program can be found at midnightsunrun.net.

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