Photo finish for first-time half marathon

By McKibben Jackinsky

For the Homer News

The end-of-the-Spit finish line for the Cosmic Hamlet Half Marathon was a blur Saturday, with only seconds and hundredths of seconds separating the top runners.

Christopher Walker, 38, of Anchorage was the first man to cross the finish line with a time of 1:33:36.01. Homer’s Seth I’Nama, 16, was second, running hand in hand with Lauren Kuhns, 18, of Homer, the first woman across the finish line. I’Nama’s foot hit the timing pad a fraction of a second before Kuhns. He finished in 1:34:30.61; she finished in 1:34:31.16.

Right behind them was Marty Evarts, 49, of Homer, the third man to cross the half-marathon finish with a time of 1:34:56.82. And right behind Evarts was Tamara Schmidt, 26, of Homer, finishing in 1:35:32.15. Ashley Van Hemert, 35, of Homer, was the third-place woman half-marathoner, in 1:43:20.84.

“The entire time we were pushing each other,” said Kuhns of running beside I’Nama throughout the event. “I beat him on the uphills, which was nice, but the entire time, we were like in third and fourth place. At the end of the race he looked at me and it was like no way was he busting past me, so I said, ‘Okay, promise you won’t spring ahead of me and we’ll finish together.’”

Kuhns, who graduated from Homer High School in May, is preparing for a 26.2-mile marathon to be held in Anchorage in August. I’Nama uses running as a way to cross-train in preparation for a wrestling camp he plans to attend in July.

This is the first year the Kachemak Bay Running Club has incorporated a half marathon into the annual 10K Spit Run schedule. The 10K for walkers began at 9:30 at the Homer High School parking lot, with the 10K runners starting at 10 a.m. The half marathon began at 9 a.m. at the end of the Spit, continued to the Homer High School parking lot and then returned to the end of the Spit on the same course as the 10K walkers and runners. That put the incline from the Sterling Highway to the Homer High School at the halfway mark for the half-marathoners.

“(Kuhns) was totally whipping me on that part. It was horrible,” said I’Nama. “But we ran the whole half marathon together, so we might as well finish it together.”

Randy Wiest, member of the Kachemak Bay Running Club and volunteering at the finish line, said, “It was a beautiful day for the race. We’ve had nothing but positive feedback from registrants. It was an exciting finish and there were some fast times.”

The shortage of volunteers resulted in the lack of available water at aid stations, causing nearby volunteers to scramble.

“I feel really bad and want to apologize to the runners,” said Andy Haas, club president. “That is important and we failed to do that.”

There also was a decline in entrants this year. A total 222 runners and walkers registered for Saturday’s events compared to 284 in 2016.

Wiest pointed out the day offered three separate events: a 10K for walkers, a 10K for runners and the 13.1-mile half marathon. However, some runners appeared to use the 10K walking event as an early start for the 10K run. That can have a dramatic impact on recorded finish times.

“If you’re going to run or jog any part of it, you’re not a walker,” said Wiest.

Sunday, the day following I’nama’s fast finish in the half marathon, was a quiet day. Having wrestled for four years and only competitively run in 5K events, I’nama took the day off.

“I was pretty dead,” he said.

Kuhns, who had not competed in a half marathon until Saturday, also felt some exertion.

“We were holding a fast pace the whole time. Afterwards I was like, oh, wow, that kind of hurt a little bit,” she said.

That didn’t slow her from training for the 2018 Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, however. On Monday, Kuhns and two swim coaches preparing her for the Hawaii event did a 2.5-mile open water swim from Bishop to Mariner beach.

“It’s a lot of getting out of your comfort zone,” she said. “That’s what running is. You need to get out of your comfort zone a lot.”

McKibben Jackinsky is a freelance writer who lives in Homer. She can be reached at