Nationwide competitors race in Alaska Salmon Runs

Irene Webber’s grandchildren ran in her footsteps during this year’s Alaska Salmon Runs in Cordova.

In 1986, Webber ran the first King Salmon Marathon in Cordova, completing the 26.2 miles alone. Thirty-two years later, the Alaska Salmon Runs features the King Salmon Marathon, Sockeye Half-Marathon, Coho 10K, Humpy 5K, and the Smolt one-mile fun run/walk.

“It just grew from there,” said Cathy Renfeldt, executive director of Cordova Alaska Chamber of Commerce. “It speaks to her personal life and personal experience.”

This year, Irene’s granddaughter, Misa Webber, completed her first half-marathon, running 13.1 miles. Grandson Teague Webber, 4, also participated in the Salmon Runs, running in the Smolt one-mile race.

The Alaska Salmon Runs drew in 188 runners from around the state, nation and world including racers from Florida, Connecticut, Texas and Japan.

Georgia resident Jeff Espy planned his family’s summer vacation around the King Salmon Marathon, beginning his trip in Anchorage and continuing on to Talkeetna, Denali, Seward and other towns before arriving in Cordova.

“Saved the best for last,” he said. “I think (Cordova) was everyone’s favorite.”

Espy has completed a marathon in each state, the King Salmon Marathon being his 52nd marathon and 50th state.

“Of my 52 marathons, the Cordova race, and the course, was far and away the most scenic and most beautiful that I’ve done,” he said. “I really just liked the fact that the course was … off the beaten path.”

He appreciated the intimacy of a smaller race, compared to the Chicago Marathon he has completed twice, which can see more than 40,000 registered runners.

At almost 240 pounds, Espy began running to lose weight. Since then, he has run 15,000 miles, a little over 1,000 miles per year for the last 14 years.

During the race, and time exploring Cordova, Espy made friends, and exchanged Facebook information.

He and his family attended the Copper River Salmon Jam, drove to the end of the road and explored town.

“We had a great time. The music was fantastic and local artists … we’ll be back for sure,” Espy said.

Meanwhile at the finish line, racers swarmed the parking lot, stopping for photos, while race volunteers shouted across the finish line racers’ numbers and times.

Sitka residents Heather Lockwood, Andrea Colvin and Kristine Hole laid on the pavement between the restrooms at the Cordova Community Medical Center parking lot, stretching their legs up and against the brick wall.

Lockwood and Colvin completed their first marathon, and Hole completed her first half-marathon.

The trio, who came to Cordova for the races, recounted trying moments during the race, and the pride they felt as they crossed the finish line.

2018 Alaska Salmon Runs Race Results:

King Salmon Marathon, 26.2 miles – Women:

1st – Naomi Welling, Cordova, AK, 3:37:31

2nd – Tracie Winters, Sanford, FL, 3:51:04

3rd – Kendra Bilo, Rescue, CA, 4:02:41

King Salmon Marathon, 26.2 miles – Men:

1st – Will Graham, Anchorage, AK, 3:11:25

2nd – John Tamplin, Rescue, CA, 3:29:54

3rd – Samuel Beason, Vernon, CT, 3:37:43

Sockeye Half-Marathon, 13.1 miles – Women:

1st – Maura Schumacher, Cordova, AK, 1:51:08

2nd – Emily Motz, Arlington, VA, 1:52:24

3rd – Phoebe Grimwood, Cordova, AK, 1:57:19

Sockeye Half-Marathon, 13.1 miles – Men:

1st –  Sam Snyder, Anchorage, AK, 1:30:05

2nd – Adam Dixon, Homer, AK, 1:39:10

3rd –  Leif Albertson, Bethel, AK, 1:44:45

Coho 10K, 6.2 miles – Women:

1st – Rachel Ertz, Cordova, AK, 0:54:49

2nd – Summer Crider, Palatka, FL, 0:57:42

3rd – Anna Peterson, Anchorage, AK, 0:58:13

Coho 10K, 6.2 miles – Men:

1st – John Ethier, Bellingham, WA, 0:47:08

2nd – Logan Nelson, Vashon, WA, 0:48:26

3rd – Korry Vargo, Lyme, NH, 0:49:12

Humpy 5K, 3.1 miles – Women:

1st – Alana Esguerra, Cordova, AK, 0:24:11

2nd – Danielle Meeker, Juneau, AK, 0:28:04

3rd – Olivia Kelly, Cordova, AK, 0:29:00

Humpy 5K, 3.1 miles – Men:

1st – Gage Frohnapfel, Cordova, AK, 0:22:38

2nd – Casey Davidson, Cordova, AK, 0:23:02

3rd – Rich Wheeler, Ardenvoir, WA, 0:23:04

Smolt Fun Run/Walk, 1 mile – Women:

1st – Elizabeth Baenen, Cordova, AK, 0:07:55

2nd – Anika Witsoe, Cordova, AK, 0:08:42

3rd – Autumn Deaton, Cordova, AK 0:08:59

Smolt Fun Run/Walk, 1 mile – Men:

1st – Kaden Fulton, Cordova, AK, 0:05:51

2nd – Kaleb Carriillo, Cordova, AK, 0:08:35

3rd – Kevin Chung, Cordova, AK, 0:08:42

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Emily Mesner is a staff reporter and photographer for The Cordova Times. Reach her at emesner@thecordovatimes.com. Emily graduated from Central Michigan University, earning a degree in photojournalism with a cultural competency certificate. She first visited Alaska in 2016, working as a media intern for the National Park Service in Kotzebue and Denali National Park and Preserve, and has been coming back ever since. To see more photos, follow @thecordovatimes and @emilymesnerphoto on Instagram.