Various states, countries participant in Virtual Midnight Sun Run on their own courses for their own reasons
FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - For consecutive years, the annual Midnight Sun Run was held virtually, where participants completed their own 10-kilometer course from June 18-21. Although there is truly only one location to be a part of a race that runs through the late hours of the summer solstice, people from all over the map still wanted to be a part of the attraction, even it it was under their plain, old, regular sun and not Fairbanks’ famed midnight sun.
Runners, walkers and joggers from 36 states and four countries participated in the 2021 Virtual Midnight Sun Run, including Australia, Austria, Vietnam and Israel, who was represented by Ilana Eitan.
For an event that is best experienced in-person, why did so many people want to partake in the Midnight Sun Run, without a midnight sun? For some, it was to relive memories of being joined by thousands of others taking on the course that begins at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and concludes at Pioneer Park (formerly known as Alaska Land). For others, it was just another way for them to maintain an active lifestyle.
Tonya Wood and her family were stationed in Alaska from 2012-2018 between Fort Wainwright and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, having participating in the event as recently as when it was last held in-person in 2019 while on vacation. The week leading up to an anticipated visit back to Alaska, the Woods, who now reside in Fort Dix, New Jersey, completed a 10-kilometer course at a local track as part of the Virtual Midnight Sun Run.
“We like the traditions, we like that there is always something to do year-round,” Wood said of taking part in the race virtually. “The town, the community is absolutely amazing. Everyone does random 5K’s here and there, but there are a couple that Fairbanks and Alaska does that we really enjoy.”
While it was not the same scene as the traditional Midnight Sun Run, Wood and her two sons, Sam and Jack, still enjoyed participating, especially because it is only once a year.
“They did very well, they didn’t stop. But, I had to remind them that it has been awhile since we have done this distance.” Wood said.
“I was fine until the sixth lap,” Sam chimed in.
“I joked we were going to do it again next week and they both yelled, ‘no!’ So we are happy to do it and are okay to wait a little bit do it again,” Wood said.
“Like a year!” added Jack.
Wood added that they would like to move back to Alaska when ‘military life is over.’
On the opposite spectrum, Michael Hearn, of Atlanta, Georgia, had never stepped foot in Alaska or heard of the Midnight Sun Run prior. At the beginning of 2020, Hearn began a weight loss journey with a goal to lose 200 pounds - which he says he has already accomplished - but as the COVID-19 pandemic took over everyday life, Hearn had to get creative with his activity by searching for virtual races to participate in, coming across the historic Midnight Sun Run.
“I know there were a lot different options around virtual races, but what I wanted to do was kind of focus on races that I thought were interesting. When I found out about the midnight sun race, it was fascinating to me because so many of the races are kind of generic, you go out on the course, you do it and you’re done. But the idea of being able to take advantage of the longest day of the year, some of the YouTube videos I saw of people out at 2 o’clock in the morning after the race and it looks like it is in the middle of the afternoon.”
Hearn plans to visit Fairbanks to participate in the 2022 Midnight Sun Run next summer solstice.
Chuck Lasley, of Little Rock, Arkansas, may not get a chance to participate in the in-person race that features thousands of participates, but he still wanted to be a part of the famed event.
“Last year, I was going to take my kids to Alaska and it was going to be our 50th state,” Lasley said, “We were real excited about that and then this little thing called COVID came along and kind of changed our plans so we put it on hold for this year. I thought well, while we are in Fairbanks, let’s see if there is a race going on. I started looking, went to the Explore Fairbanks newsletter and they mentioned the Midnight Sun Run and I thought, that sounds, really cool, I wish I could do it in person, but since we are not going to be there at the right dates, next best thing, I can do it virtually.”
83-year old Thayer Fanazick, of Trenton, Maine, has family in the Fairbanks-area and has participated in the event twice previously, most recently in 2016. Fanazick took on the Virtual Midnight Sun Run for back-to-back years, using the Witch Hole Pond Carriage Trail as her course. A uniquely Alaskan event, Fanazick shared a memory from the 2016 race.
“I came up with a sort of hat thing that looks like a lobster and I had headbands for my nieces that had claws on them,” she said. “As we walked along, we were called ‘crabs or crabbies’, which was...different, people may not be acquainted with lobsters up there, or maybe they may just thought we could tease her, we could call her crabby.”
Different places and faces experiencing the same race as the 40th annual Midnight Sun Run returns back under the midnight sun in 2022.
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