Frozen few brave the cold for annual run

Fernanda Chamorro/Sun Star Reporter
Jan. 31, 2012

Bruce Sackinger, 41, runs toward the finish line in the Nenana lot during the Chilly Buns Run on Saturday morning. Sackinger finished 2nd with a time of 50:51. "I like running and it was the coldest run this year so I had to show up for it." The official temperature for the race was -49 degrees. Michelle Strehl / Sun Star

Six racers took on the low winter temperatures and icy roads as they ran 6.4 miles on campus, one taking the short cut. The Chilly Buns Midwinter Run is an annual race that began on Jan. 28 at 10 a.m. It has taken place for more than 20 years and the runners understood the reason behind the name. They arrived with their faces covered in frost. 

“My toes are a little cold,” said 53-year-old Paul Reynolds, who works at the Lola Tilly Commons and decided to take the shorter 2.5-mile campus loop called the Beat Beethoven Course.  The temperature dipping to minus 47 caused the host and timekeeper Jane LeBlond, 37, to offer runners a choice between the short or long routes. Five of them took the long way.

Running Club North sponsored the event and was concerned with getting people that were not well-prepared to participate in the dangerously freezing temperatures, according to the club’s president, Bob Vitale, 58. Therefore, the race was not advertised much. It began and ended in the Nenana Parking Lot with the contestants reuniting in the warm hut where LeBlond offered refreshments and treat bags.

No one received prizes; the race was just for fun. “It’s a good excuse to go on a run when it’s this cold,” said first-place winner Dirk Nickisch, 43.

“You gotta take every opportunity you can to get motivated to go out,” he said.

It was Nickisch’s first time participating in this race. He enjoyed the run and mentioned that “it’s actually a pretty nice day once you get out of the ice fog.”

Jane Lanford, 56, and the only woman participating in the run, said that what pushed them through the cold was knowing that it would be warmer uphill. As the runners came down Yankovich Road, the sun came out and provided a sense of warmth with an inversion of about 10 degrees.

“This was an all-time low, so conditions considered, there are more [runners] than I anticipated,” LeBlond said. For four years, she has helped organize and time the race by running it herself. However, she thought that it was so cold this time that she decided not to run and instead followed the participants in a car to make sure everybody arrived safely.

Runners knew that they had to come prepared for the cold, icy and foggy conditions. They wore face masks, many “breathable” layers that would allow their sweat to evaporate, thumbtacks on their shoe soles, and Vaseline around their eyes to protect their skin.

With all the protection, the roads were still unsafe. Bruce Sackinger, 41, slipped on the corner of Yankovich and Ballaine but mentioned that Nickisch was considerate and sportsman-like by giving him a hand and running with him.

One thing is for sure: these runners did not let the cold, slippery path slow them down. The runners came in the following order:

Miller Hill Loop:

  • Dirk Nickisch-  50:14
  • Bruce Sackinger- 50:51
  • Jane Lanford-  57:02
  • Don Kiely-  58:06
  • Bob Vitale- 1:00:52

“People should get out even when it’s cold,” Nickisch said.


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