‘Team Ralph’ honors Homer runner’s 40 years in Spit Run

The 10K Homer Spit Run is a magnet for local and visiting athletes. Some dash to the front of the pack. Others resolutely put one foot in front of the other for the pride of finishing. Among the hundreds of participants are stories that inspire, bring a tear and recall a memory.

In 2006, Pascale Boissier of Clappiers, France, claimed runner-from-the-farthest-away bragging rights and placed seventh among the women finishers with a time of 47 minutes, 20 seconds. In 2008, local running legend John Chapple Jr., 86, fired the starting gun before joining four generations of his family in the event. Four years later, runners and walkers observed a moment of silence in honor of Chapple who had died earlier that day at the age of 90. In 2010, Anchorage runner Amanda Fitzgerald was welcomed at the finish line with a marriage proposal from a kneeling Dave Valdez, also of Anchorage.

In 2015, Ralph Broshes of Homer completed his 39th Spit Run, having undergone nerve-related back surgery two days earlier. Thanks to the help of his wife, Deb Lowney, and a wheelchair, Broshes made it to the finish line, which he crossed on his own.

This year marks the 40th Spit Run for Broshes, 71. Thanks to behind-the-scenes work by his niece, Shay Lowney and her children Parker, 13, Thatcher, 11, and Channing, 9, Broshes will be the central figure of a team named in his honor.

“After last year when he wouldn’t miss participating in the Spit Run even though he had just had back surgery, I knew we had to really celebrate this year,” said Lowney of the creation of “Team Ralph.”

“Almost every member of our families — Lowney and Broshes — has participated in the Spit Run at one time or another because of Ralph,” she said of the motivation generated by Broshes’s love of fitness and his commitment to the annual event. “He plans the whole summer around getting ready for the Spit Run and nothing can take place on that weekend. The Spit Run trumps everything else.”

Although there is a competitive aspect to Broshes’s participation, Lowney said he also has been known to hold back near race end, choosing instead to encourage another person to finish strong.

Asked recently by a family member about his fastest time, Broshes said he thought it was in the 41- or 42-minute range, “but that was in my younger days when I was in my 40s or something. Now, I’m just happy to cross the finish line.”

The Homer Spit Run is organized by the Kachemak Bay Running Club, with Bill Steyer the race director.

“This year, thanks to some generous sponsors, which include Haas and Spigelmyer, Best Western Bidarka Inn, South Peninsula Hospital, Kenai Physical Therapy and the Homer News, we have T-shirts back by popular demand,” said Steyer. “That’s included with registration, but there is only a limited supply of 250, so that’s a strong incentive to register early.”

Registration is available online and before the June 25 race starts at Homer High School. Music and a warm-up will get athletes ready for the 9:30 a.m. start for walkers and 10 a.m. start for runners. Mile-marker cheering stations will spur participants on as they leave the school, continue on East End Road to Ben Walters Lane, across Beluga Slough, along Ocean Drive and on Spit Trail to the finish line at the end of the Spit.

Proceeds from the event help sponsor youth running sports.

“The main elements of that are the high school running programs, both track and field and cross country,” said Steyer, who coaches the programs.

The Kachemak Bay Running Club also sponsors youth and adult summer track and field workouts at the high school track at 6 p.m. Tuesdays. Weekly fun runs at 6 p.m. Thursdays that are open to anyone in the community and during June begin at Karen Hornaday Park. During the school year, the club also offers support to elementary and middle school running programs.

Kachemak Bay Running Club has about 150 members, runners and walkers of all abilities, according to Jen Booz, club president. Dues are $25 per person or $50 for a family.

“My goal is to make Homer a destination for runners from all over the state and beyond,” said Booz. “The Spit Run is a perfect destination run. It is a great distance in one of the most beautiful settings in the world.”

Team Ralph reflects that very spirit, with seven local family members plus two from Arizona, one from California, three from Oregon and other non-related runners joining the tribute.

“We are all so proud of him and hope he knows we couldn’t ask for a better role model than Ralph,” said Lowney. “My kids are runners because of him and his influence. They look up to him in every way.”

McKibben Jackinsky is a freelance writer who lives in Homer. She can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@gmail.com.