Athletes dash through Chilli Buns Run

Gary Pohl, encrusted in ice, makes it to the top of Miller Hill in the Chilli Buns Race on Saturday, January 24th.

Gary Pohl, encrusted in ice, makes it to the top of Miller Hill in the Chilli Buns Race on Saturday, January 24th. Sarah Manriquez/Photo Editor

Sarah Manriquez/Photo Editor

Early Saturday morning Jan. 23, the sun illuminated the silhouette of the bus transit station across the parking lot across from the Patty Center. Runners emerged from their vehicles, most fashioned in neon yellow attire. Happy voices greeted familiar faces as more folks arrived. They came to participate in the annual Chilli Buns Run held by Running Club North, a local non-profit community club dedicated to the promotion of running and running-related activities in Interior Alaska.

The Chilli Buns Run has never been cancelled due to weather or temperature; in fact, the coldest this race has ever been conducted was at 50 below, according to race director George Berry.

At 11a.m. the 18 participants trotted out of the bus transit station and readied themselves at the starting line.  On the race directors count they were off, dashing out of the parking lot and down the street. They had 6.5 miles of trail ahead of them.

Like most races hosted by Running Club North, the Chilli Buns Run is open to anyone who would like to participate. There is no pre-registration or entry fee.  Runners show up the day of the race ready to run.

Saturday proved to be technically challenging, with a few slick spots to contend with along the trail, according to Berry. Ice accumulated on the runners’ faces with every breath and stride that further propelled them down the trail.

“This is an elite group of runners today,” Berry said. “With these conditions and this temperature the experienced runner might be able to do it in under 40 minutes.”

Berry’s estimate was not far off. First place runner, Patrick Sartz was clocked at 44:14. Second place runner, Tanvir Kalam, came in at 46:23 and third place runner, Nick Shamrell, at 47:24.

Patrick Sartz bounds across the finish line in first place at 44:14 on the 6.5 mile trail for the Chilli Bun Run on Saturday, January 23rd. Sarah Manriquez/Sunstar

Patrick Sartz bounds across the finish line in first place at 44:14 on the 6.5 mile trail for the Chilli Buns Run on Saturday, January 23rd. Sarah Manriquez/Photo Editor

Upon completion of the race, the ice–encrusted runners were greeted with warm drinks and pastries provided by Lulu’s Bakery inside the bus transit station. They were able to relax and defrost as more participants continued to roll in every few minutes.

Ed Debevec takes a breather and sips a cup of warm water after crossing the finish line in 6th place with 49:38. Sarah Manriquez/Photo Editor

Ed Debevec takes a breather and sips a cup of warm water after crossing the finish line in 6th place with 49:38. Sarah Manriquez/Photo Editor

“It’s a great thing to do with a good group of characters,” Sartz said.

Running Club North has been around since 1986, but didn’t become official until 1993 during which time UAF used to run the Equinox Marathon. In 1992 there was an early snowfall and the race was cancelled. A handful of what, Bob Vitale, Vice President of Running Club North described as sturdy and dedicated runners still showed up despite the cancellation and ran anyway. The group then formalized, took over the Equinox Marathon and hosted it ever since.

Running Club North has an active calendar of events. Every Wednesday they meet in front of the Patty Center at 5:45p.m. for what they call their “Fahrenheit be Damned” run. No matter the temperature they set out and run at least 5-7 miles which they cover in about 45 minutes to an hour and half. Anyone can join in these runs.

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