The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Jacquelin Pels
Special to the Seward Phoenix LOG 

You remind me of the former Lieutenant Governor


August 10, 2017 | View PDF

You remind me of the former Lieutenant Governor

Dear Editor,

A friend in Seward, Jeanette Wright, sent congratulations yesterday along with a Phoenix Log story titled “Former Seward woman takes 2nd at Alamo 5K Run/Walk,” and I laughed and blushed and thanked her, in that order, and then thought I’d better fess up. True that I was second in the 80-and-up category, but perhaps someone neglected to mention that there were exactly two people in that group? The first had left for home by the time I arrived.

This is not to be confused with 2016 in Alamo (the California town, not The Alamo), when I was third in the 70-and-up category, coming in just ahead of a 96-year-old woman who had kept the same apparently casual pace throughout. (My rule: Never look back, in case there’s no one there. But I asked at the occasional water station and knew I wasn’t as alone as usual.)

I like to walk. I’m not the least competitive (a good thing, considering), but I do have a history of “events,” starting 10 years ago when another Alaska friend, author McKibben Jackinsky, invited me to walk the Portland Marathon with her and her daughters. I was fairly certain I was never, ever going to walk 26 point 2 miles in one day, but I did sign up for my first 5K and had a plaque in the mail when I got home testifying in fine script that I’d placed first among women 70 to 75. Foreshadowing Alamo this year, a little research showed that I was the only woman 70 to 75 in the 5K; the others were running the marathon.

A banner year was 2011: Walked half-marathons (13.1 miles, but who’s counting) in Carlsbad, California, with my eldest daughter, Leslie; Anchorage, with McKibben; and Portland, with Leslie, although “with” is not quite the operative word. I told Leslie our first time at Carlsbad that I would not take a step unless she promised to go at her own speed. It required some maternal pressure, but I have a series of photos of her disappearing down the track. Which raises a point: Real competitors probably don’t take dozens of photos along the way. I computed once how much time all the photos might have cost. Not nearly enough.

Twice I’ve walked the 10K Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day in the town where I live, and both times the crew has been just ahead of me picking up the directional signs, which I considered a tad chilly. But there’s something to be said for coming in last, or last-ish: The announcers are desperate for something to announce besides the location of the T-shirt table, so you get the full treatment, name, age, place of residence, lots of encouragement, and bless them, nary a word about how they’d really like to pack up and get home.

In my three-state experience, Carlsbad is the most beautiful route, Anchorage is Alaska and nothing more need be said, but Portland has the best music, and the most enthusiastic crowds lining the way. Best poster, too: As we walking dead came lurching toward the finish my first time, one woman held up a big sign that said WORST PARADE EVER. Our eyes met and we both laughed and that was energizing, as intended.

Not that there wasn’t some music at the others. Early on in the Mayor’s Midnight Sun Marathon (half!) in Anchorage were a man on accordion and a woman on violin, playing “Alaska’s Flag.” Of course this music-lover and Benny Benson fan stopped to listen (there goes another first-place finish). When the song ended we all smiled, and I said, having met Loren Leman at a book celebration in Ninilchik a few years before, “You remind me of the former lieutenant governor.”

“I’ve been told that,” he said, and they began another song.

McKibben and her husband, Sandy Mazen, had had lunch (and naps, for all I know) after McKibben finished her version of a half-marathon, but they were cheery when I came straggling in. Perhaps because the announcer had exclaimed, true to late-finish form, “And NOW – it’s Jacquelin Pels, from Walnut Creek, California ...” except that as I walked past the booth I called up to him, “Born in Seward!” and he echoed, “Born in Seward.”

After some mutually congratulatory hugs I asked McKibben if she had seen the musicians and heard the music and didn’t she think the accordion player looked like the former lieutenant governor. “Jackie,” she said. “That was the former lieutenant governor.”


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