The several dozen runners who spent a chunk of their Sunday running in circles at the inaugural Half Marathon at The Dome had to feel pretty good when they woke up on the day of the race. Anchorage went into the deep freeze overnight, with sub-zero temperatures coming to most parts of town.
But inside The Dome, where runners gathered for what is believed to be the first indoor half marathon in Alaska, the temperature was a comfortable 58 degrees and conditions were in many ways ideal: No ice underfoot, no wind in your face, no rain, no snow, no moose.
"It was a great excuse to be inside today," runner-up Jerome Ross said.
It was a NASCAR race without cars: Left turns only, and a whole lot of them. Nearly 60 runners completed nearly 49 laps on the outside lanes of The Dome's 400-meter track to log the 13.1-mile half-marathon distance, and another 20 opted for the shorter 5-kilometer race that required a 12 laps plus part of a 13th on the inside lanes.
"I'm a little dizzy," said winner Jim McDonough, whose time of 1 hour, 20 minutes, 16 seconds represented a personal-best by about 30 seconds.
Ross, who shared the lead throughout the race with McDonough, finished eight seconds later in 1:20:24, and although running all of those circles didn't leave him dizzy, it left an impact. After standing around for about 10 minutes after his race, Ross could bend his right knee and lift up his leg with no effort, but he didn't have that range of motion in his left hip, the hip that bore the burden of all of those turns. "It's tight," he said.
McDonough, 44, and Ross, 39, raced the half marathon as part of their preparation for April's Boston Marathon.
Marcie McNare, the women's winner, did it as a family thing with mother Nancy Alzheimer and brother-in-law Jonathan Hughes. Heather Moon of Kenai, the women's runner-up, did it because her husband Scott needed to come to Anchorage anyway to buy a suit for Friday's Inaugural Ball in Kenai. And Betsy McKitrick, who chose the 5-K, did it for the same reason some people climb mountains: Because it was there.
McKitrick had to be at the multi-purpose Dome for a 10 a.m. soccer match, so what the heck. Why not run a postgame 5-K? Call it a soccathlon.
"I'd call it stupid," McKitrick said.
After playing two 25-minute halves of soccer, McKitrick put on dry clothes and jumped on the track.
"I'm here, I don't have to leave, I don't have to go to the gym," she said. "Given my choice, I'd be outside, but it's too cold. I would've been on a treadmill at The Alaska Club."
McDonough and Ross are regulars at The Dome -- Ross is the coach and McDonough is a member of a running group that trains there -- and on Sunday they came with a plan: they would run together and take turns leading, trading positions after every fourth lap.
Neither had done so many consecutive laps on a track before. Ross, a veteran marathon runner, said the most he's run on a track in one outing is 10,000 meters, or 24 laps.
"That's nothing, considering our good friend Dave Johnston did 2,400 laps or something," McDonough said, referring to the 400 miles Johnston ran in last year's Six Days at The Dome, an event in which runners tried to log as many miles as they could over six days on the indoor track.
Sunday's race was a combined effort between The Dome and Skinny Raven Sports. Computer chips worn by runners provided data for video screens that displayed their names and what lap they were on.
John Clark of Skinny Raven said there's talk of holding a whole series of indoor races next year, with distances ranging from a mile to a half marathon. For many runners, he said, a half marathon in January is too much too soon -- they don't have the necessary training in the dead of winter.
Then there are people like McNare, who doesn't really train at all. Before Sunday, she had competed in only one race, a 5-K leg as a member of a marathon relay team.
"I've never run 13 miles consecutively," she said. "I was worried about it becoming too monotonous, but when there are other runners around you like this, it keeps you going. It boosts your adrenaline."
Another benefit of running 13 miles on a track: "There wasn't going to be any surprise hills, right?" she said.
McNare, 31, played basketball and soccer at Service High and went on to play college basketball at Montana Tech, "so competition is in me," she said. She was Sunday's eighth finisher and the top woman in 1:40:46, about four minutes ahead of Moon.
"What's great about running on a track," Moon said, "is you're catching and passing people constantly. So that made it easy for me."
Runners and walkers of all speeds competed, so fast runners did a lot of catching and passing.
"The biggest challenge was weaving your way through the crowd," McDonough said. "It's hard to get in a good tempo, and you have to watch where you're going."
Alzheimer, who finished fifth among women and 20 minutes behind her victorious daughter, had never been to The Dome before. Running outside is more appealing, she said.
"I miss the scenery. The sky, the elements," she said.
But when the temperature outside is minus-something, running on an indoor track has its advantages.
"I like it," McDonough said. "I find it very hypnotic. You can get into a zone.
"Not everybody knows about The Dome. It's incredible what it's done for the running community. It helps people not let themselves go in the winter. I used to do that -- I would cocoon up and gain 10 pounds."
1) Marcie McNare 1:40:46.8; 2) Heather Moon 1:44:34.8; 3) Mikie Pylilo 1:46:47.2; 4) Bree Witteveen 1:56:37.4; 5) Nancy Alzheimer 2:00:20.9; 6) Kimberly Rogers 2:01:37.2; 7) Andrea Barnes 2:02:36.1; 8) Rebecca Martin 2:04:27.2; 9) Angela Diaz-Ordonez 2:05:56.7; 10) Linnzi Doerr 2:06:50.9; 11) Janelle Sanderson 2:07:29.9; 12) Lisa Jayne 2:07:38.6; 13) Laura Peterson 2:14:12.7; 14) Natalie Bickers 2:14:33.3; 15) Susan Michelle Greer 2:18:19.0; 16) Danielle Mohr 2:19:13.5; 17) Trill Gates 2:25:59.6; 18) Mary Flanigin 2:38:26.9; 19) Kirsten Rasmussen 2:42:34.2; 20) Jean Johnston 2:45:03.8; 21) Nicole Jones-Vogel 2:54:52.9; 22) Heather Cohen 2:55:41.4; 23) Kimberly Gregory 3:03:36.7; 24) Betty Tsai 3:05:24.6; 25) Pamela Doerr 3:06:19.5; 26) Gerri Tokar-hines 3:09:35.2; 27) Rori Van Nortwick 3:18:57.6; 28) Callianne Adkins 3:29:05.7; 29) Jessica Crisp 3:33:42.6; 30) Angie Schleyer 3:33:43.3; 31) Alicia Porter 3:37:10.2; 32) Jaime O'Grady 3:37:10.2.
1) Jim McDonough 1:20:16.3; 2) Jerome Ross 1:20:24.6; 3) Jay Mullen 1:24:04.1; 4) Scott Clemetson 1:27:29.1; 5) Chester Gilmore 1:28:06.9; 6) Jessie Janes 1:37:49.0; 7) Ross Timm 1:39:47.2; 8) John Brewer 1:43:10.3; 9) Michael McKerrow 1:45:09.7; 10) Andrew McCarthy 1:46:15.7; 11) Justin Stennes 1:46:33.4; 12) Alexander Olson 1:47:37.2; 13) Jonathan Hughes 1:53:13.9; 14) James Lesco 1:53:29.2; 15) Bruce Bell 1:53:51.9; 16) Michael Minchaca 1:55:51.1; 17) Caleb Parker 2:04:14.5; 18) Clark Courtright 2:04:18.6; 19) Mark Johnston 2:17:33.3; 20) Jonathan Woodman 2:17:39.1; 21) Richard Schroeder 2:25:59.4; 22) Cris Rogers 2:32:30.0; 23) Douglas Berry 2:33:01.1; 24) James Feaster 2:38:36.5; 25) Bill Kane 2:38:50.5; 26) John Laux 2:49:32.3; 27) Gregg Olson 3:12:21.7.
1) Hallidie Wilt 0:17:36.1; 2) Anna Dalton 0:17:39.9; 3) Aria Thomases 0:26:29.7; 4) June Takagi 0:26:53.3; 5) Jennifer Midthun 0:30:20.8; 6) Amanda Blades 0:30:22.1; 7) Jessica McDowell 0:31:17.9; 8) Courtney Shreve 0:31:37.4; 9) Kari Ryerson 0:35:04.3; 10) Charlyn Monyer 0:37:04.6; 11) Denise Demetree-Trombley 0:43:12.9; 12) Mary Sponcel 0:46:04.2; 13) Betsy McKitrick 0:52:11.3; 14) Diane Little Eagle 0:58:00.3.
1) Dylan Peterson 0:16:04.2; 2) Jeff Young 0:17:18.8; 3) Ian McLeod 0:19:44.3; 4) Ben Michaelson 0:21:59.8; 5) Pete Mauro 0:23:51.3; 6) Daniel Niebles 0:24:34.7; 7) Travis Rath 0:24:35.5; 8) Dean Teeple 0:34:36.3.