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Kathy Melling knew the King Salmon Marathon was going to be a small race when she saw on the application that each runner would be accompanied by a vehicle.

Imagine that in any other race. It would be like running down Fifth Avenue in New York City, with perhaps a thousand yellow cabs behind.

But this was Cordova, Alaska, a tiny community near Prince William Sound, where marathon runners were more likely to run past a few moose or bear. You appreciate company at a time like that.

And if you got lost, you might still be running. There's no running to the nearest highway and thumbing a ride somewhere else.

"Sorry folks!" read the application about driving to Cordova. The only major road is the Copper River Highway. It's 50 miles long, but it doesn't really go anywhere.

It was a long way from Marilla for Melling, an employee at Fisher Price. But Cordova is a long way from anywhere. It's an hour flight from Anchorage. Or a ride on the Marine Highway, the ferry that runs from Seward to Valdez.

Melling went to Alaska for the June 9 race to visit her sister, Maureen Knutsen, who's lived there for years, and her daughter, Jennifer, a more recent arrival. They're runners, and when they suggested the Alaska Salmon Runs, Melling, looking for a marathon, thought "Why not?".

"I had no clue," Melling said when asked how small she thought the marathon field would be. Try six people on the starting line. Each with a personal support vehicle. Hers was an old pick-up truck that squeaked. At first an annoyance, it grew into a reassuring presence as the miles wore on.

The course began with roughly 13 miles of gravel, and moved into the final 13 or so miles of paved road. The scenery was to die for. Wildflowers, snow-capped mountains, the Copper River flowing by as they ran through the flat river delta.

Melling ran the first half with another runner, but when her knee starting bothering her, she slowed and ran alone. Every three miles, as she requested, the race director drove up and delivered water to her. The squeaky pick-up stopped or slowed when she did.

As they neared town, the marathoners started seeing other runners from the half marathon, 10K, 5K and mile runs. Despite the growing field, the marathoners kept their personal escorts, hers comfortably squeaking along behind.

She was one of five finishers, three women, two men. After they finished, each had a King Salmon Marathon medal draped around their necks. The real prize was to come.

That night, the race put on a gourmet dinner featuring, what else? Fresh-caught salmon. The next time that salmon is on the menu, Melling and Wendy Mohrman, a Checkers A.C. member who came along and ran the half-marathon, have a story to tell.

Fast times

A week after winning the Buffalo Mile, Lockport's Michael Heitzenrater had a big day last week at the Empire State Games trials. A former college steeplechase runner, he qualified for the Empire steeple, placed in the top five for the 1,500 meters, running a 4:14, and came back to qualify for the 5,000 meters, running it in 15:38.

Heed this warning

How many times have you ever read the release waiver on the back of a race application? It's usually boilerplate warnings.

Not for the Pike's Peak Marathon in Colorado. Hank Humphries, who used to organize the multi-headed serpent that ran for the Army Corps of Engineers in the Shamrock Run and Turkey Trot, sends along an application for the Aug. 19 race. He ran it last year, a mere 13.1 miles to the top, then 13.1 miles back down.

This is a warning to heed: "Course elevations are from more than 6,000 feet to more than 14,000 feet above mean sea level. . . . In general, the weather should be considered variable with rapid and potentially extreme temperature changes, precipitation and wind. The temperature may vary from 50 to 80 degrees in Manitou Springs to 30 degrees and colder above tree line with high winds and the possibility of severe storms accompanied by rain, snow or ice showers (especially above tree line). Ultraviolent radiation exposure should be considered as extreme."

Upcoming races

Bemus Point Fire Department 10K Run, 9 a.m., today, 386-3130; St Teresa's Come Back Run, 2.2 Miles, South Buffalo, 6:30 p.m., Wed., 822-0608; 824-9153; People Inc. Rat Race, 5K, Lafayette Square, 6:30 p.m., Thurs., 634-8132, or; Depew-Lancaster Boys and Girls Club, 10K, (Buffalo News Runner of the Year race), 9 a.m., July 4, number; Dick Bessel Independence Day Run, 2.3 Miles, Grand Island, entries close June 27, 9:15 a.m., July 4, 773-9680; Powerhouse Gym Firecracker 5K Run for the Arts, Batavia, 11 a.m., July 4, 343-9313, 800-774-7372; Andy Run, 5K, Bergholz, 10 a.m., July 7, 731-3481.

Standings after the Buffalo Mile
Pos. Runner Town
1) Jim Dunlop Jr., Orchard Park....34
2) Michael Heitzenrater, Lockport....31
3) David O'Keeffe, Orchard Park....29
4) Matt Glynn, Buffalo....17
5) Pat Leone, Cicero....13
6) Jason Walsh, West Seneca....11
7) Daniel Smaczniak, Hamburg....10
8) Marc Davis, Oceanside, Ca.....9
8) Michael Selig, Ithaca....9
10) Jeff Martin, Huntington Woods, Mich.....8
10) Rick Streeter, Cicero....8
Pos. Runner Town
1) Judy Arlington, Lockport....37
2) Susan Munson, Orchard Park....24
3) Eileen Testa, Buffalo....19
4) Deana Sikora, Amherst....18
5) Brigitte Soltiz, Alden....17
6) Joanne McKinley-Molodynia....15
7) Christine Agnew, Houston, Tex.....10
7) Amy Fakterowicz, Kenmore....10
7) Rebecca Heuer, Forestville....10
10) Linda deBoer, Toronto, Ont.....9
10) Sheena Murphy, St. Catharines, Ont.....9
20-24 -- 1. Michael Heitzenrater (10) 2. Pat Leone (4) 3. Michael Selig, Dan Smaczniak, (3)

25-29 -- 1. Ryan Forrestel, Jason Walsh (7) 2. Joseph Meyer, Thomas Proctor IV (3)

30-34 -- 1. Jim Dunlop (11) 2. Matt Glynn (5) 3. Brian Doyle (4)

35-39 -- 1. Patrick Occhino (4) 2. Gary Addison, David Carroll, David Hawes, J. P. Kennedy (3)

40-44 -- 1. David O'Keeffe (9) 2. Bob Carroll, Dan Essler (4)

45-49 -- 1. Larry Krajewski (9) 2. Michael Rogers (7) 3. Peter Forrestel, Gary Lantinen, Gary Moore (3)

50-54 -- 1. Stephen Forrestel (10) 2. Fran Emmerling (6) 3. Jerry Irving (4)

55-59 -- 1. Samuel Adams Jr. (11) 2. Tom Appenheimer Sr. (5) 3. Robert Bitner (4)

60-64 -- 1. George Markoff (12) 2. Robert Glazier, Michael Williams, Ralph Zimmerman (3)

65-69 -- 1. Joseph Antkowiak (10) 2. Jack Meegan (6) 3. Alan Blakey, Patrick Smith (3)

70-74 -- 1. Jesse Kregal (7) 2. Sandy Bueme, Jerry Magoffin, Richard Sullivan (4)

75-79 -- 1. Charles Bauer (6) 2. John Senneff (3) 80 & Over -- 1. Henry Sypniewski (12), Anthony Napoli (3)
20-24 -- 1. Nicole Ludwa (6) 2. Brandi Blumling, Martha Wilson (3)

25-29 -- 1. Maureen Hamilton (8) 2. Amy Coughlin (4) 3. Lori Abramowitz, Heather Gilbert, Lynda Hogan (3)

30-34 -- 1. Judy Arlington (12) 2. Eileen Testa (6) 3. Amy Fakterowitz (4)

35-39 -- 1. Deana Sikora (6) 2. Joanie Hays (5) 3. Jeanne Chiarmonte, Debra Morris-Allen (4)

40-44 -- 1. Susan Munson (9) 2. Joanne McKinley-Molodynia (6) 3. Sue Devlin (4)

45-49 -- 1. Brigitte Soltiz (9) 2. Diane McGuire (7) 3. Sandra Harmon, Mary Ann Kennedy, Lynn Kobayashi (3)

50-54 -- 1. Karen Wehn (8) 2. Sandi Ludwa (4) 3. Carolyn DeWitt, Virginia McGarry, Peggy Towers (3)

55-59 -- 1. Judy Mowery (12) 2. Joanne Cunningham (5) 3. Kathleen Kreis, Patricia Kunselman (3)

60-64 -- 1. Helen Botti (9) 2. Edye Radice (6) 3. Kathleen Manno (2)

65-69 -- 1. Edna Hyer (15) 2. Shiela Scandurra (4) 3. Marilyn Szafnicki (1)

70 & Over -- 1. Helen Bueme (6) 2. Mary Grace Monaco (3) 2. Jacqueline Auricchio (2)

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