Unalaska's Parks, Culture, and Recreation Center held its first ever virtual Summer Solstice Run this year.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the PCR's events this spring and summer have been either cancelled or drastically changed in order to observe local and statewide health mandates that require social distancing.
The Summer Solstice Run, which would normally happen in just a few hours, took place over the span of a week, and participants were asked to submit proof of time and participation virtually.
"It's definitely a different experience not having a bunch of people lining up at the starting line with you," said Albert Burnham, recreation manager at Unalaska's PCR. "And, as far as a race, I know it's a lot easier when you've got people in front of you, running after them and people behind you, trying not to let them pass you. So you don't really have that. I'll just be running against the time on my watch. But we're all learning to adapt the things that we do to all of these COVID restrictions."
This was Burnham's first chance to actually participate in the run, as he is normally working the event, along with other PCR staff members.
In place of the usual PCR staff handing out waters and snacks at the finish line and turnaround points like in years past, signs were posted to help runners navigate the course.
While the race usually takes place in one day, participants this year were asked to complete the two-mile course any time between June 15 and 21. The run began at the Carl E. Moses Boat Harbor and the course trailed alongside Bunker Hill, then back to the starting point.
And in order to be eligible to place and receive a medal, participants were asked to use a tracking app to virtually submit tracking data and a map that verified their time and course.
According to PCR Sports Recreation Coordinator Chris DiGiro, 16 participants signed up for the race, and of those, six provided the proper documentation to be considered as award recipients.
DiGiro said organizing this race has been a challenge. While the turnout wasn't terrible in comparison to earlier races this year, like the Quarantine 5K Fun Run/Walk back in May, or years past, he said the lack of interaction with community members due to COVID-19 restrictions made advertising the race particularly difficult.
"It's always going to be a challenge to do a race like this virtually, and I think it's because not many people tend to hear about it," reflected DiGiro. "One thing I really wish I was able to do was advertise much further in advance. But the problem with doing that is we didn't know what was going to be happening. We didn't know if the city was going to have something to say about it. We didn't know what the COVID restrictions were going to be. And then I only had maybe a few days to advertise for a week long thing."
Despite the difficulty of holding a race during a pandemic, DiGiro looks forward to planning more sports events this summer, hoping that since Unalaska is relaxing restrictions and opening up, there will be more time to get the word out to community members about upcoming programs.
The fastest adult male time for the two-mile Summer Solstice race was 19 minutes and 48 seconds, while the fastest adult female time was 24 minutes and 42 seconds. The winner of the teen girl category ran the race in 21 minutes and 42 seconds, and the fastest youth girl time was 25 minutes and 42 seconds.
The PCR's next race is the Ballyhoo Mountain Run which is set to take place in July.