The crew at Forward Operating Location Barrow laced up their sneakers and participated in the inaugural Top of the World Midnight Marathon, Friday.
“Race at the Top” consisted of three events. Race participants could choose to register for the full 26.2-mile marathon, the 13.1-mile half marathon or a 3.1 mile 5K run/walk. Coast Guard participants included one marathon runner, two half-marathon runners and six 5K runners.
Petty Officer 2nd Class E.J. Richardson, an aviation survival technician from Air Station Kodiak, couldn’t pass up the unique chance to participate in the inaugural event.
“This was my fourth marathon,” said Richardson. “It just sounded so neat, being the first year and all, and it was for such a great cause. Participation in events like this really builds a positive relationship between the Coast Guard and the local community.”
The median temperature in Barrow during the month of July is around 40 degrees, with highs reaching the upper 40s and lows in the lower 30s. However, race day was anything but average. The snow started mid morning and, by 11 p.m., temperatures had dipped into the low 20s with the wind chill.
“The cold really zaps your energy,” said Richardson. “The wind cut right through the three layers I had on. Even though you are running, you are still shivering and tying to warm up. It’s a lot for the body to take in.”
Petty Officer 2nd Class Joey Bruccheri, an aviation electronics technician at Air Station Kodiak, participated in the half-marathon event. He agreed that the cold added to the difficulty level of the race.
“Running along the water’s edge, the wind was blowing pretty good,” said Bruccheri. “It was snowing and I had ice covering the front of my sweats by the time I crossed the finish line.”
Run at the Top was Bruccheri’s first attempt at a half marathon.
“I was originally going to do the 5K,” said Bruccheri. “I decided to try something new and challenge myself to see if I could do it. It was definitely challenging, but I finished.”
Crewmembers who opted not to run in one of the three races still hit the streets by volunteering to man hydration stations along the course.
“Volunteering and being active in the communities where we live and work is important to us,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Rich Hinderhofer. “It was great to get out and get involved with this community while also supporting our shipmates.”
The idea of coordinating a marathon began in January. Inspired by the Boys and Girls Missionary Challenge and their work in Russia on missionary projects in the more than 1,000 Russian and Siberian villages within the Arctic Circle, youth minister Mark Entzminger set out to find a location to hold an extreme marathon. Proceeds from the marathon would be dedicated to the purchase of food, winter clothing, snowmachines, boats and funding of other various need-based projects in villages within the Arctic Circle.
Entzminger had coordinated 5Ks in the past, but never a marathon. The stars aligned in April when he linked up with Barrow resident and youth minister Mark Roseberry.
Roseberry, a coach with the Barrow High School cross country team, worked with Entzminger to promote and coordinate the race with the North Slope Borough Administration Office. With only three months to pull things together, the “Marks” had a herculean task ahead of them.
“Three months is not very much time for a runner to physically prepare for a race and make arrangements to travel to such a distant location,” said Roseberry. “But we ended up with more than 100 participants registered.”
And next year looks even more promising.
“I got a call from a running club in Houston who is interested in bringing their entire club up to Barrow for next year’s race,” said Entzminger. “I also spoke with a pastor in New York who would like to bring his congregation up here to help raise money for the BGMC and do ministry work in the area.”
The crew of FOL Barrow is looking forward to next year as well.
“If I am back at FOL Barrow next season, I absolutely want to run this race again,” said Richardson. “Now that I know about the event, I can begin training a few months before I come up here. Maybe next year I’ll get to see a polar bear along the route.”
Even without the advanced training, it’s a safe bet that a polar bear sighting would shave a few minutes off anyone’s race time.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Grant DeVuyst works for Coast Guard District 17 external affairs in Juneau. This story first appeared on the District 17 blog, http://alaska.coastguard.dodlive.mil/.