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PCR Staff Replaced By Buoys As Annual Ballyhoo Mountain Run Goes Virtual

Maggie Nelson/KUCB

Unalaska's Department of Parks, Culture, and Recreation is holding a virtual Ballyhoo Mountain Run. The event started July 18 and goes through the end of the month.

Because of social distancing mandates due the coronavirus pandemic, instead of joining together and racing up the mountain and back down in a matter of hours—like in previous years—runners and hikers must record their run with a tracking app on their phone and submit a screenshot.

PCR Sports Coordinator Chris DiGiro said this is his second time coordinating the annual race and it's been particularly strange and complicated trying to figure out how to mark the trail. But, he said, he and his team came up with a unique but fitting solution.

"In place of people at each turn point, we have one buoy for the 12-and-under age group to turn around at, which has been placed about three quarters of the way up [the mountain]," DiGiro said. "And we have another buoy—there's like a Russian Orthodox cross up there at the top—and that's roughly around the area where the second buoy is for anybody 13-and-older."

Similar to theSummer Solstice Run, which took place last month, race winners will be contacted when the race is completed and results have been submitted.

DiGiro said he's not too concerned about participants trying to cheat the virtual system. Other than having someone run the race for them, he said runners would have to get pretty creative if they wanted to work around the tracking system.

"We've always joked about having somebody bring their dog for the run and attaching their phone to their dog or something," DiGiro said. "But I'm sure with a dog you'd see a lot of zigzags. There's not really a way you can mitigate that." 

Overall, DiGiro said he's learned a lot from organizing the Summer Solstice Run in June and is excited to get more opportunities to coordinate virtual races.

But the terrain of this race is unique, he said. Holding the Ballyhoo Mountain Run as a virtual event poses some distinct hazards.

"I would say use extreme caution because we don' have staff on the course this year. You know, it's a mountain, the footpath is  slick," DiGiro explained. "So just exercise caution. It's good to [run] in pairs or in groups just because if something happens to you or somebody in your group, you have one or two other people who can go get help." 

If you're running alone, be sure to let someone know, DiGiro added

For more information on the race or to learn how to register—visit our community calendar or call the PCR at 581-1297.

Hailing from Southwest Washington, Maggie moved to Unalaska in 2019. She's dabbled in independent print journalism in Oregon and completed her Master of Arts in English Studies at Western Washington University — where she also taught Rhetoric and Composition courses.
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