In our own Backyard

Story last updated at 1:24 PM on Wednesday, April 4, 2012


By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff writer


Photographer: McKibben Jackinsky, Homer News

Mike Illg, Sue Mauger, Bill Steyer, Derek Brynagle and Etta Bynagle (in the stroller) make their way along the Sterling Highway during Friday's kick off of the Kachemak Bay Running Club

When better to kick off the Kachemak Bay Running Club than last Friday, with the sun shining, snow melting and spring in the air?

No one cared that Sterling Highway traffic splashed a little water. And no one cared that not everyone was a runner.

That's the thing about the newly formed club: It's for everyone: walkers; short- and long-distance runners; uptown and backcountry runners; people with dogs; people pushing strollers; people carrying youngsters on their backs.

"We want to have a coordinated central point for promoting running and walking events and obviously promoting healthier lifestyles," said club president Bill Steyer. "There's a menu of races that occur in Homer ... and the running club will be able to help promote them. With members and support, we can make them even better quality races, get greater participation and also, the other key element, we now have liability coverage."


Photographer: McKibben Jackinsky, Homer News

Homer runners and walkers turnout for Friday's kick-off of the Kachemak Bay Running Club.

That coverage is a benefit of organizing under the umbrella of Road Runners Club of America. The Kachemak Bay Running Club is one of seven Alaska clubs listed on RRCA's national directory.

As of this week, the local club boasts 67 individuals who have paid their $5 membership fee.

Friday's event drew a wide age range, from 4-year-old Johannes Bynagle to several gray-haired athletes. Some were training for long distance runs; some were testing themselves after a winter of taking it easy.

"I got in good shape when I was a Peace Corps volunteer because I was in remote, mountainous Nepal, hiking three to four hours a day," said Steyer, Homer High School's cross country and track coach.

Returning to the United States, he became involved with a competitive running club. Working on his speed, Steyer ran a 2:55 marathon, his time qualifying him for the Boston Marathon. He has been running ever since.

Mike Illg, coordinator of Homer's community recreation program, is excited to see the club take shape.

"It's long overdue and being a fellow runner myself and with my work in recreation, it was a no-brainer to get this club off the ground," said Illg.

As a wrestler in high school, running helped Illg stay in shape.

"As I got older, the one thing that made sense was to run," said Illg, who finished the Boston Marathon in 1999 with a time of 3:47. Since then, he has participated in runs of varying lengths. "It's a solitary sport, but you meet so many different people. ... Winning's never been my goal. It's more about the personal challenge."

Coordinator of Friday Night Fives, a weekly 5k event in April and May, Rachel Lord describes running as an activity requiring little more than motivation. She became "addicted" to running while working in New Zealand and running a 5k route every morning that took her to a seal rookery.

It was wanting the company of other runners that led to my first organized run in 1979. My longest distance at that point was six miles. When I saw the ad for that day's marathon, I called the organizers, confessed I was only a six-miler, but was eager to run with others. They encouraged me to sign up.

I called it quits at the 13.1-mile mark, so far behind that I'd lost sight of everyone. My feet were covered with blisters, but I was elated.

Six-year-old daughter Jennifer, now a runner, offered her perspective.

"How does it feel to be last?" she asked.

Throughout the years, whether I'm running or walking, my goal remains self-improvement. The bonus continues to be sharing the journey with others.

"Running can be that, just about you," said Lord of a self-improvement focus.

"To do that with a community of people is awesome. I hope people will be inspired to get out. All you need are shoes and the motivation to get out there."

Kachemak Bay Running Club

Membership: $5

upcoming events (some have fees, entry deadlines):

April/May: Friday Night Fives (5k), Two Sisters Bakery; Rachel Lord, 235-3250,

May 13: Migration Run (5k), Homer; Bill Steyer, 399-1078,

June 9: Run For the River (5k and 10 miles), Soldotna; Rhonda McCormick, (907) 260-5449,, Josselyn O'Conner, (907) 260-5449.

June 23: Spit Run (10k), Homer; Mike Illg, 235-6090,

July 14: Rotary Unity Run (5k and 10 miles), Soldotna; Dale Bagley, (907) 39-1865,, www.soldotnarotary.

July 27: Everything But the Red Run (5k), Soldotna, Laura Pilifant, (907) 262-7740,, Tom Seggerman, (907) 262-3189,

Aug. 19: Breast Cancer Run (1 and 5 miles), Homer; Kachemak Bay Family Planning Clinic, 235-3436,,

Aug. 25: Run for Leo (5k), Homer.

Aug. 25: Lost Lake Breath of Life Run (16 miles), Seward; Patrick K. Simpson, (907) 563-3474,,