Run Like A King

 In Running, Salmon

Mike Towle chases giant bubbles with his daughter, son and father in law at Copper River Salmon Jam’s Small Fry kids’ activities in 2018.

Salmon run in large numbers, sometimes in schools so thick the water churns and boils from their energy.  Each July in Cordova, there’s one salmon run different than the rest.  Whether it’s the marathon or the mile, there is a fun energy to it that relies on numbers to bring the event to a boil.

It was my first marathon (10 years ago) as well as my favorite.  The road stretches out toward the Heney Range, which seems forever away when approaching one step at a time.  But in a small town there is a unique camaraderie out on the course that I rarely find in other races.  It’s more about the fun and the people than how fast you can run and what place you come in.  Competition is always part of the fun, but it is not the reason for this race; it’s the people. I hope to be there (fish allowing) to continue my education/research.

I’ve heard said, “To catch a fish, you need to think like a fish.”  And what is more salmon-like than physical endurance?  They run upstream for days on end, requiring no nourishment and taking little rest.  So, I too run.  Out on the flats along the outer beaches, up the channels at low water, and up into the mountains of the sound: I run as far and long as I can to try and see into the minds of these brilliant fish.

It wasn’t working.  I needed a closer look, so I had a treadmill built into my boat.  ‘Ha ha, I will run with them at sea,’ I thought.  Surely this would unlock their frustrating secrets.  I ran incessantly.  I stopped thinking about anything while I ran except just how amazing this place is to run.  I began to understand why these confounding fish run here.  It’s freaking awesome!  But still they evade me and I run on.

Someone once described me as having “mindless determination”.  If you ask me, so does my quarry.  Determined? Day after day, mile after mile, we just keep going. Mindless?  Sure, why not.  Maybe this helps make it easier in the long run, for the long run.  I feel I’m getting closer to these stupid fish.  Now why can’t I get them out of my head and into my net?

Mike Towle is a commercial fisherman for Copper River salmon and has participated in the Alaska Salmon Runs for over 10 years.

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