MMR Committee

Course Condition Update – 7/4

This is a developing issue. Please continue to check this post for additional updates. 

July 4 – 2:05 pm

Air Quality Index to be Updated Hourly; Adult Runners Encouraged to Consider Potential Adverse Health Risks

As of 2 pm, the local Air Quality Index in Seward is 109, which is categorized as “unhealthy for sensitive groups.” 

People with respiratory or heart disease, the elderly and children should limit prolonged exertion.

Since the men’s race is underway, this concludes our hourly air quality updates.


As of 1 pm, the local Air Quality Index in Seward is 147, which is categorized as “unhealthy for sensitive groups.” 

People with respiratory or heart disease, the elderly and children should limit prolonged exertion.


As of 12 pm, the local Air Quality Index in Seward is 160, which is categorized as “unhealthy.” 

Sensitive groups should AVOID prolonged or heavy exertion. Everyone else should REDUCE prolonged or heavy exertion.


As of 11 am, the local Air Quality Index in Seward is 162, which is categorized as “unhealthy.” 

Sensitive groups should AVOID prolonged or heavy exertion. Everyone else should REDUCE prolonged or heavy exertion.


As of 10 am, the local Air Quality Index in Seward is 164, which is categorized as “unhealthy.” 

Sensitive groups should AVOID prolonged or heavy exertion. Everyone else should REDUCE prolonged or heavy exertion.


As of 9 am, the local Air Quality Index in Seward is 168, which is categorized as “unhealthy.” 

Sensitive groups should AVOID prolonged or heavy exertion. Everyone else should REDUCE prolonged or heavy exertion.

Learn more about the Air Quality Index, potential health effects, and cautionary statements here.

July 4 – 8:24 am

Junior Race Canceled Due to Unhealthy Air Quality

As of 8 am, the local Air Quality Index in Seward is 172, which is categorized as “unhealthy.” 

This data is being measured by a new air quality sensor in downtown Seward provided by the Department of Environmental Conservation.

Race organizers previously announced that the Junior Race would be canceled if local air quality on the morning on July 4 exceeded an AQI value of 100, which would be categorized as “unhealthy for sensitive populations.”

Due to the extent by which the current air quality exceeds safe levels, the decision to cancel the Junior Race is final.

We will continue to post AQI levels prior to each race start to make sure that adult racers have as much information as possible to make their own healthy decision.

July 3 – 1:49 am

If Air Quality is Unhealthy for Children and Teens on July 4, Organizers Will Cancel Junior Race 

In accordance with recommendations from physicians and public health experts, Mount Marathon Race officials have decided to cancel the Junior Race if the air quality in Seward is assessed as unhealthy for children and teenagers leading up to the 9 a.m. race on July 4.

Regardless of whether or not the race is canceled, juniors—like all other registered runners—may choose to defer their 2019 entry to the 2020 race.

Children and teenagers—along with older adults, and people who have heart or lung diseases—are more likely to be affected by health threats from smoke, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), air quality is considered to be unhealthy for children and teenagers when Air Quality Index (AQI) values are above 100.

Air quality can change rapidly due to shifts in the wind, so race officials have developed a plan to wait until the morning of July 4 to evaluate the local air quality.

The Junior Race will be canceled if the Air Quality Index (AQI) is determined to exceed a value of 100 in the 90 minutes leading up to the race.

As of July 2 at 8:53 p.m., the National Weather Service is forecasting “widespread smoke, mainly before 10 a.m.” for July 4.

Race Day plan will rely on rapid decision making 

An initial assessment of local air quality will be conducted at 7:30 a.m. on July 4 by a team of experts. If the air quality is determined to be unhealthy, the Junior Race will be canceled by 8 a.m. Juniors would be notified via the public address system, through volunteers stationed at Race Headquarters, and on the race website.

If the initial air quality assessment is satisfactory—with corresponding AQI values below 100—then a second assessment will be conducted at 8:30 a.m. and a final determination on Junior Race status will be announced by 8:45 a.m. via the public address system.

In the event that the Junior Race is canceled, all registrants will receive a full refund of the $25 entry fee and may defer entry to the 2020 race.

We strongly recommend all junior runners and their families review the following documents:

July 2 – 2:41 pm

Mount Marathon Race Offers All Registered Runners Option to Defer Entry to 2020

Mount Marathon Race officials have issued an unprecedented deferral option to all 2019 registered runners due to persistent smoke from wildfires on the Kenai Peninsula.

Dense smoke advisories persist through July 5 

On July 1 at 4 p.m., the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation issued an air quality advisory for Southcentral Alaska through Friday, July 5 at 4 p.m. Key points include:

  • The air quality will vary between GOOD and VERY UNHEALTHY depending on wind flow and proximity to the fires. 
  • Be aware that areas immediately downwind of any fire will experience HAZARDOUS levels of smoke. 
  • Generally, worse conditions occur overnight and during the early morning hours, as the atmosphere cools and brings smoke to the surface. During the day, surface heating will mix smoke and carry it upwards, temporarily improving air quality.
  • In smoke-impacted areas, DEC advises people with respiratory or heart disease, the elderly and children should avoid prolonged exertion; everyone else should limit prolonged exertion.

The National Weather Service forecast for Seward (as of July 1 at 10:53 pm) calls for “widespread smoke” and a high of 84 degrees on Independence Day. 

The Southcentral and Southwest Alaska Forecast Discussion issued on July 1 by the National Weather Service (Anchorage office) explains why wildfire smoke is persisting in the area:

“As far as the smoke forecast for the Swan Lake fire, persistent low level northwesterly flow will carry the bulk of the smoke southeastward across the interior Kenai Peninsula down to Seward and out into Prince William Sound and the northern Gulf. Based on this, have issued Dense Smoke Advisories for the Kenai Peninsula zones through 1pm Wednesday. 

The worst conditions/lowest visibilities will generally be late at night through the morning hours as smoke gets trapped near the surface with night-time inversions. The dense smoke could also become more widespread as subsidence inversions strengthen beneath the upper level ridge

The advisories may need to be extended further out in time, as the pattern and general flow look like it will hold through the remainder of the week.”

A cautious decision that prioritizes runner safety

After carefully reviewing recent weather forecasts, smoke advisories, and public health guidelines regarding the effects of wildfire smoke, the Seward Chamber of Commerce—in consultation with the Mount Marathon Race Committee—has decided to issue a “course condition deferral” option to all runners registered for the 2019 race. This was previously referred to as an “emergency alert.”

Race officials solicited feedback from the National Weather Service, the Air Quality program at the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, the Environmental Public Health program at the Alaska Department of Health and Human Services, and several health care specialists before making the decision. 

The course condition deferral will allow all registered runners to defer their 2019 entry to the 2020 race if they choose not to run due to air quality.

This includes lottery winners, priority racers, petitioners and special invites. Runners with “10-year status” are already allowed to defer their entry without losing their priority status. Runners who have already submitted medical or military deferrals for the 2019 race are not required to take additional action. 

FAQs on the course condition deferral option can be found below.  

All races are scheduled to proceed as planned; volunteers are needed more than ever

The women’s and men’s race will proceed as scheduled on July 4 at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., respectively. Runners who choose to start the race will not be allowed to claim the course condition deferral option if they decide to drop during the event. 

Volunteers are always critical to the success of Mount Marathon, but perhaps never more so than this year. All volunteers will be offered an “N95” dust mask. This type of mask will provide limited protection against the smaller particles found in wildfire smoke.

On-mountain volunteers are encouraged to allow extra time to reach their location, to avoid overexertion in the heat and potential smoke. Volunteers unable to complete their duty for any reason should notify their lead volunteer and the race volunteer coordinator, Marissa Amor, who will be located at the volunteer check-in tent in Lowell Canyon at the base of the mountain. 

Vulnerable populations, including children, should use extra caution

Children and teenagers, older adults, and people who have heart or lung diseases are more likely to be affected by health threats from smoke, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Additional information is being collected and analyzed before a decision is made about whether to proceed as scheduled with the Junior race (ages 7–17). Any changes to the race day schedule will be announced on the race website. 

For now, families are encouraged to seriously consider the risks of allowing their children to participate if the air quality in Seward is moderate or worse on July 4. 

In the absence of an air quality monitoring station in Seward—there are only a handful of these stations across the state—the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation’s Air Quality Smoke Reference Guide illustrates that visibility may be used to estimate air quality levels and potential health impacts.

For example, “moderate” or better air quality equates to approximately six miles of visibility or more. Air quality deemed “unhealthy for sensitive groups” is indicated by visibility of less than five miles. Race officials will rely on real-time observations as well as reported data when evaluating air quality. 

Runners of all ages are urged to consider the potential health risks of wildfire smoke and abnormally high temperatures, along with the inherent risks of Mount Marathon’s steep and exposed trails. 

As always, runners must assume responsibility for their own safety and not expect assistance of any kind from race officials or spectators. 

Course condition deferral FAQs

Q: How does the air quality deferral work? 

A: An online deferral form is now available on the race website. Submit the form by Friday, July 5, at 11:59 pm AK to defer entry to the 2020 race. An approved waiver will be applied to your race record for the 2019 race, allowing you to register for the 2020 race without returning to the lottery. 

Q: Do I need documentation from a medical provider in order to get an air quality deferral? 

A: No. 

Q: Can I still get my t-shirt and swag if I take the course condition deferral option?

A: Mount Marathon Race tradition has been that only runners who receive an official finish time receive a “finisher” shirt. Due to extraordinary circumstances, we will allow runners who defer their entry to claim their shirt and other runner items. Runners may opt to donate their “finisher” shirt. 

Runners who defer their entry must pick up their shirt and swag bag at bib pick-up on July 3 between 5–8 pm at Seward High School, or on July 4 between 8 am – 2 pm at Race HQ (125 3rd Ave). You may designate a proxy to pick-up your items. Race swag will NOT be mailed to runners who live in Southcentral Alaska. If you do not arrange for your shirt and bag to be picked up, it will be donated after the race. 

Race swag may be shipped for a small fee to out-of-state runners who defer and do not travel to the race. Contact the Seward Chamber the week of July 8 to inquire: 907.224.8051 or email r[email protected].

Q: Am I eligible for a refund if I take the course condition deferral option?

A: Unfortunately, no. Because the race is still proceeding as scheduled, your registration fee has already been allocated to runners’ items (shirts, patches, stickers, trophies, medals, etc.) and essential race services. 

Q: What is the latest possible time I can decide whether or not to race?

A: Bib pick-up will be available until one hour prior to each race at Race HQ (125 3rd Ave). This will allow runners to make a decision based on real-time conditions. 

If you pick up your bib on the evening of July 3 and decide not to run, you must hand back your bib at Race HQ at least one hour prior to your race so we can remove you from the roster. 

If you pick up a bib, decide not to run, and don’t return your bib before the one-hour cut-off, you will receive a “Did Not Start” status for 2019 and may be returned to the lottery for future races. 

Q: Will the course condition deferral be revoked if the air improves? 

A: No. Air quality can change quickly with small shifts in the wind, and can worsen as quickly as it improves. Race officials decided to issue the deferral option after learning that widespread smoke is expected through the evening of July 4. 

July 1 – 2:46 pm

Dense Smoke Advisory Extended Through July 3 at 1 p.m.

The National Weather Service has extended its Dense Smoke Advisory through 1 pm on Wednesday, July 3.  Although the  advisory is only issued through Wednesday, there is the “potential for dense smoke to persist through the remainder of the week.”

The Seward Chamber of Commerce—in consultation with the Mount Marathon Race Committee, public safety experts, and emergency management professionals—is continuing to monitor air quality forecasts and may issue an “emergency alert” that would allow registered runners to opt-out of the race without losing their priority racer status. 

Stay tuned for more details.

June 28 – 1:54 pm

Race Officials Continue to Monitor Swan Lake Fire; No “Emergency Alert” for Runners at This Time

Dense smoke from the Swan Lake Fire has drifted SE across the interior Kenai Peninsula, including Seward. The National Weather Service has issued a dense smoke advisory that will remain in effect until 1 a.m. AKDT Sunday, June 30. 

Since the first running in 1915, The Mount Marathon Race has never been canceled due to weather. We do not expect that to change this year. 

Playing the Waiting Game

In the event of unhealthy air quality, extreme heat, or other unexpected circumstances, the Seward Chamber of Commerce—in consultation with the Mount Marathon Race Committee, public safety experts, and emergency management professionals—may issue an “emergency alert” to registered runners, volunteers, and the public. 

An emergency alert has not been issued at this time. The Seward Chamber will likely wait until July 3 at 5 pm to make a determination, since smoke from wildfires can quickly change and we don’t currently have an accurate air quality forecast for July 4. 

Runners Will Be Able to Maintain Their Priority Status if an Emergency Alert is Issued

In the event that an emergency alert is issued, runners may opt-out of the 2019 race while maintaining their priority status for the 2020 race. The specific protocol will be announced on the race website and emailed directly to all registered runners if an emergency alert is issued. 

Medical Deferrals Are Also Available to Runners With Documentation From a Medical Provider

If an emergency alert is not issued, runners may seek a medical deferral for the 2019 race if a medical provider advises them not to race for any reason. To apply for a medical deferral, this online form must be completed. Documentation from a medical provider is required. 

Dust Masks Will be Available to All Volunteers if Smoke is Present on Race Day

All registered volunteers will be offered an “N95” dust mask. If properly worn, these masks can provide some protection but will not completely shield your lungs from the small particulates found in wildfire smoke. The use of dusk masks is at each volunteer’s discretion. More information on using respirators and masks to mitigate the effects of wildfire smoke can be found here

Review This Advice From the CDC on Protecting Yourself From Wildfire Smoke

We encourage all runners, volunteers, and the public to review these recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control on protecting yourself from wildfire smoke. Older adults, pregnant women, children, and people with preexisting respiratory and heart conditions may be more likely to get sick if they breathe in wildfire smoke.

For now, keep your fingers crossed for favorable conditions for the courageous wildland firefighters on the Kenai Peninsula, and keep an eye on the local air quality forecast. Additional updates will be posted here on the race website as we get closer to July 4.

Photo by Casey Lasota/Alaska Division of Forestry

UAA community takes on Mount Marathon


Written by Matt Jardin, UAA Office of University Advancement

Hundreds of Alaskans will converge in Seward on the Fourth of July for the annual Mount Marathon Race. Described as the “toughest 5K on the planet” by Outside Magazine, it certainly takes a special breed to navigate the yearslong waitlist, train rigorously in the preceding months, and scale an actual mountain on a holiday typically reserved for barbecuing. In advance of this year’s race, we asked three UAA alumni and one student about their history with the race, how they train and stay motivated, and for any advice they have to offer anyone daring enough to show up at the starting line.

(Photo courtesy of Peter McEnaney)

Peter McEnaney

Sysco marketing associate Peter McEnaney, B.B.A. Management ’89, came to UAA from Minnesota to play hockey from 1984–89, perhaps giving him an edge on the mountain’s snow fields. If that isn’t enough, he can always rely on his two decades’ worth of experience tackling the race.

Hometown: Owatonna, Minnesota, currently residing in Eagle River

How many times have you run the race?

I’ve never missed a year. This is my 20th year coming up.

Where are your favorite trails to train?

It’s always tough to find the hours, but I train primarily in Eagle River. Back at the end of Highland Road is probably the closest thing to Mount Marathon and that’s called Harp Mountain. Then there’s the popular one which is Mount Baldy, but I try to avoid that one because it can be a madhouse.

What aspects of the race keep you coming back each year?

The competition. It gives you a good goal to stay disciplined and to stay in shape.

(Photo courtesy of Peter McEnaney)

What keeps you motivated during the race?

I don’t really feel like I’m racing against other racers if that makes sense. I know for me, it’s just kind of self-motivating to know a particular time that I’d like to hit. That’s what pushes me.

Do you have a favorite memory from the race?

My favorite memory is when I did the race in 55 minutes. That’s the best time I ever did. My goal is to always be right around an hour. I think that I’ve hit an hour or under five times in 20 years. The last couple of years I feel like I’ve come in a little slower, but of course you can tie that in with age. I should make the goal an hour and 10 — that’s quite realistic! I’ll be 55 this year and I usually am in the top 10 in my age group.

Do you have any advice to first-timers?

Just to know the mountain and respect it for how dangerous it is. Although some first-time Mount Marathoners can get pretty committed and practice on the mountain all the time. For me, I’ve never went down there more than two times in a year. And these last three years, the only time I’ve made it down there is race day.

(Photo courtesy of Ava Harren)

Ava Harren

Even though Ava Harren, B.A. Hospitality and Restaurant Management ’17, lives in Idaho where she runs her own meal prep company, Ava Flava’s, she still makes time every year to come back home for the race.

Hometown: Anchorage, currently residing in Boise, Idaho

How many times have you run the race?

2014 was my first year. It was when I was 17. I got in through the lottery, so I only had to go halfway up that year because it was the junior race. That grandfathered me in. Then you just have to do it every year to keep your spot. This will be my seventh year and then my goal is to at least do 10 years and then get a tattoo of it. I come back every year for the race. It’s just an annual thing. It’s my excuse to go see family.

Where are your favorite trails to train?

I would always train at Bird Ridge at least once a week. I probably hiked that trail at least 50 times. In Boise there’s a hike called Table Rock and it has a cross at the top and I love hiking that one here.

What aspects of the race keep you coming back each year?

One thing I love about it is it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever raced, like mentally and physically. And there’s so many parts to the race. Like technicalities in the waterfalls, is it raining, do you have good grips on your shoes, your uphill climb. So you could be a good athlete and still suck in Mount Marathon. So I love all the challenges it brings toward you and then you just feel so accomplished every time when you cross the finish line.

(Photo courtesy of Ava Harren)

What keeps you motivated during the race?

Every year after I come back down, I eat a whole pack of Double Stuff Oreos. Going up I’m thinking, “Oh, those are going to be so good.” You can hear the announcer going up and that pushes you. And just the energy at the bottom is unlike any crowd. I’ve done a lot of races, I’ve done a lot of half-marathons and 5Ks, but Seward has one of the best community crowds ever. No matter how tired you are, they make you want to make them proud.

Do you have a favorite memory from the race?

I remember one year, my good friend Willow and I, we were out of town, she had just gotten in the race, and it was the only night we were going to see each other. So we had drinks the night before the race and had probably the worst race ever. But we both finished holding hands together across the line and we finished in the last place you could get for priority racing the next year. We literally tied 225th. So we barely made it to the next year.

Do you have any advice to first-timers?

My advice would be to soak it all in, and don’t stress about your time for your first year, because you could always improve. As long as you get up and down safely, then you can focus on getting a faster time. But I would say just soak it all up and enjoy the experience and be proud of yourself for the first year.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I just love doing it every year and every single person who races should be proud of themselves.

(Photo courtesy of Verena Gill)

Verena Gill

Defying the odds, NOAA Fisheries marine biologist Verena Gill, B.A. English ’96, M.S. Biological Sciences ’99, got into Mount Marathon via the lottery on her first try. Her two kids now follow in her footsteps — her 12-year-old does the junior race halfway up the mountain, and her 4-year-old does the mini race around the block.

Hometown: Royal Tunbridge Wells, England, currently residing in Anchorage

How many times have you run the race?

My first time was 2010 and I’ve raced every year since, well, barring two pregnancies.

Where are your favorite trails to train?

Bird Ridge and the backside of Flat Top.

What aspects of the race keep you coming back each year?

There are a couple. The event is so much fun and the best part is probably the training because you get to have a party on the mountain. You see people that you know and you make new friends. It’s like a big social event that you look forward to every year and you try and go down on the weekends and maybe camp and hang out with friends. The other thing is my daughter, who is 12. She does the junior Mount Marathon. This will be her third year. We train together and that’s a fun bonding experience. And the fact that you’re running with elite runners. There’s a lot of races in Alaska where you can do that. But where else can you be an amateur runner and come down a mountain and be greeted by thousands of people cheering for you? You come off that mountain feeling like an Olympian. That’s pretty intoxicating.

(Photo courtesy of Verena Gill)

What keeps you motivated during the race?

Last year I got my best time, and I think my best place ever. I got 24th and 1:04. And last year my mom had died two days before. This will be my eighth race in 10 years and I’m 52 now so I’m getting older. So to get my best time and place that high, I truly believe there was inspiration from my mom. I ran it thinking about my mom the whole time, especially on the downhill. “Do this for mom.” Otherwise, the crowds pump you up. There are crowds are at every part of the race. You think there won’t be, but they’re all the way up the mountain. And then when you come off the mountain and they’re cheering, that is the ultimate pump up.

Do you have a favorite memory from the race?

Probably watching my kid win her age group. Just to see how proud she got and her confidence. She wasn’t scared of the race, but she didn’t think she’d do really well. We’re both really little and she’s a teeny tiny little thing. She got 24 overall in her age group last year and she was only 11. So she’s thundering down the mountain with these huge teenagers and that was just a proud memory for me just to watch this little bitty 11-year-old just rocking and get 24th, and the confidence she got from that. “I can do this, I can do anything.”

Do you have any advice to first-timers?

Definitely go up there at least once, but don’t stress about going there. When I first started doing it, I went there all the time. But over the years I realized the top of the mountain changes every week, sometimes every day. You can save a lot of gas and a lot of time by training around your hometown wherever that may be. And then the last couple weeks focus on going down there and learning how the mountain is because if you go a month before and don’t go again, that mountain will have changed incredibly. It’s going to be so different at the top, and you won’t know that until you get down there right before the race.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

People go, “Wow, I can’t believe you do that. I could never do that.” No, anybody can do that. That mountain is not as scary as you think. I’d say try it. You’d be surprised at what you can do and at the confidence you get when you realize you can do more than you realize. With enough perseverance, anybody can do that race. Even if you do it once, I think it’s the ultimate Alaska experience.

(Photo courtesy of Klaire Rhodes)

Klaire Rhodes

You could say that Environment and Society major Klaire Rhodes is already entrenched in Alaska’s running community. As an employee of Skinny Raven Sports, she helps customers who are looking to be fit for running shoes and assists at the many events and races hosted by the company. It was only a matter of time before she made her own way up the mountain.

Hometown: Anchorage

How many times have you run the race?

Last year, 2018, was my first year competing in Mount Marathon. I was one of the crazy people to actually auction in for a spot the night before the race.

Where are your favorite trails to train?

Mount Marathon can be tricky to train for, since the steepness and terrain is hard to replicate on other trails. If I’m not training on the mountain itself on the weekends leading up to the race, I love to train on Bird Ridge and Peak 2. In addition, I run lots of flatter trails like Powerline Pass and Turnagain Arm Trail to build that base level of fitness required for the race.

What aspects of the race keep you coming back each year?

My first year at Mount Marathon was an amazing experience. The race fosters a sense of community that I’ve yet to find in any other race. While there’s definitely the competitive side of me that wants to do well, I’m equally just grateful to be able to race alongside so many other amazing women. Every year the bar gets raised, the ladies get faster, and it is really motivating and empowering to be a part of that.

(Photo courtesy of Klaire Rhodes)

What keeps you motivated during the race?

I went into it with little experience on the mountain, but surprised myself with a 26th place finish. I felt like I was smiling the whole race, despite the burning in my legs, because that mountain was filled to the brim with people cheering me on and pouring water on me in the intense heat. Unlike during a training run where you let yourself stop or slow down when you’re feeling tired, I like to say there’s no other option on race day other than to keep pushing on. In reality, the race is short. Despite the challenge of the race, it only took two minutes after being done that I was getting excited about next year.

Do you have a favorite memory from the race?

My favorite memory from my first year at Mount Marathon was seeing friends around nearly every corner on the course. Having people there taking pictures, cheering me on, playing music, giving me ice cubes in the hot sun — it took my mind away from the challenge of the climb and kept me pushing harder.

Do you have any advice to first-timers?

My advice for any first-timer would be to not overthink the race. Go out to have fun — only so many people will ever get to have this experience. At the same time, physically prepare yourself for a climb that steep and understand the technical terrain so you can feel confident on race day.



Runner Spotlights Presented by Altra

Founder of Altra, ultrarunner, and fly fisherman extraordinaire

Alaska was a place I’d wanted to visit since I was young. My favorite book as a child was Where the Wild Things Are…so no surprise I was drawn to Alaska with its rugged mountains, expansive views, eclectic residents and wild animals galore. Obsessed with fishing, running, and outdoor adventure throughout my life, I packed up my car and drove to Seward, Alaska early May 2003 to work for the summer.  Within days I was in love!  As an avid runner, everyone asked me if I was going to run Mt Marathon.  I didn’t know what it was but decided to check out the course.  Talk about a shock to the system!  And then I watched it occur in glorious fashion on July 4th 2003 as well as 2004.  I knew that I had to run this race. Having done hundreds of races in 10 states and 9 countries over the last 20 years, I’ve never seen anything like it before or since! 

And finally, after 15 years of dreaming, I got into my first Mt Marathon.  Not only as a runner but the presenting sponsor equipped with my own shoe company started 7 years earlier in my basement and a shoe that was built to spec for such a course, the Altra King MT.  The race was everything I dreamt it to be!  The lung sucking uphill, the quad busting downhill, and a bloody fall to boot, I finished with a smile on my face.  Ya, I’ll be back in 2019 and beyond.  Like a fish, hooked for life to Alaska, Seward, and Mt Marathon.

Altra Elite Team

Who wouldn’t want to run Mount Marathon? Mount Marathon brings out all the emotions in one short but extremely steep and technical mountain race. It brings a sense of excitement, fear, love for the mountains, toughness, pain, freedom, and much more. It is my kind of race! I have always had a love for the mountains and have excelled in mountain races. I have run and won numerous VK mountain races around the world and also won a World Championship at the 2016 World Mountain Running Championships in Bulgaria with the USA national team placing 4th individually. This is how I got my start with ultra and mountain running. My first trail race was, in fact, the US Mountain Running Championships at Loon Mountain Race in New Hampshire in 2016 where I qualified for the US mountain running team! Not only do I have a lot of connections with mountain running but I have a lot of connections in Alaska! My wife and I have family that have lived in Wasilla, Alaska for many years. We have made trips to Alaska to visit them, run, and fish over the years. We fell in love with Alaska and is our favorite place to travel in the entire world! Not only do we love the mountains and wilderness of Alaska but we really enjoy the people!

Mount Marathon will be my second race in Alaska after running and winning the 2015 Anchorage Mayor’s Half Marathon in my road running days. I hope to have a similar result at Mount Marathon this year, but also have mad respect for the local athletes that dominate this race every year and of course a lot of respect for the mountain! I hope to use my climbing ability to make it to the top in a fast time and then hold on for dear life for the ride down on some of the most technical terrain that I have ever experienced! It will be a fun but challenging race and a dream come true! I plan on taking it all in and enjoying the experience with my shirt off at the start and finish line! See you soon Alaska! 

Altra employee and ultrarunner

My history with Mount Marathon goes back to 2010. Following my junior year of college, I spent a summer working in Homer, AK. For July 4th some fellow coworkers and I made the trip to Seward and I was immediately captivated by Mount Marathon. This race was like nothing I had ever experienced—from the crowded streets of town to the rugged, snowy, rocky mountainside it was such an incredible feat of human strength and grit. First place finished with seemingly barely a scratch, then second place (not far behind) rolled in bloodied, battered and passing out from exhaustion. I was hooked. “sign me up!” I decided I would return in 2011 and complete this race. I waited 7 years before my name was drawn in the lottery! Although my dream of running this iconic race was on hold, my love for Alaska grew, I returned the next 3 summers to work in this beautiful state, each time falling deeper in love with the beautiful land and community.

When I was finally chosen in the Mount Marathon lottery in 2017 the experience truly was a dream. I pushed hard, sweat and blood dripping, I ate up the sprint through town, the grueling climb, and screaming descent. I finished with a kick through the streets of Seward, collapsing at the finish from sheer exhaustion and joy. I wore the Altra King MT this first year and will never wear any other shoe for this race—it is simply made for the mountain!

In 2018 I raced Mount Marathon on the worst ankle sprain I’ve ever experienced, setting a PR on my uphill time and hanging on for dear life in a jolting descent. I have to give a huge shout out to Advanced PT in Seward for their incredible taping job prior to the race- go see them while you’re in town! These days I run a lot of ultras (mainly 60-100 miles) so Mount Marathon is a fun, tough short adrenaline rush for me! This year, I could not be more stoked to return for my 3rd year toeing the line. I can already see the incredible community of Seward Alaska lining the streets, hiking up the mountain to douse me with water, pour beer into my gasping mouth, and cheering me in with the most incredible enthusiasm only this day can bring. See you on the mountain!

Race Safety Tips for New and Returning Runners

The race committee would like nothing more than for everyone to have a safe race. This event is inherently dangerous, and it’s important to remember that your safety is 100% your responsibility. The following safety tips were developed with first-time racers in mind. We encourage all racers to spend time thinking about how to stay as safe as possible on race day. 

Tip #1: Spend as much time on the mountain as possible prior to race day.

The race rules state that you have to have trained on the mountain at least once prior to race day. The more time you spend on the mountain, the safer your race day experience is likely to be. We can’t stress this enough.
On race day you will be tired and more fatigued than in your training runs. It will be harder to remember your exact strategy as there will be more runners on the course than you’ve experienced in training, and more spectators.
Familiar landmarks might be hidden. Repetitive training in the more technical areas is recommended. Spend some time at the base of the mountain picking your route up. Spend some time in “the gut” mapping your way down the waterfalls.
Interested in learning from race veterans? The race committee hosts two “mountain previews” in June where experienced runners lead groups of new runners up the lower third of the mountain. Junior runners must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Click here for more details on 2019 dates.

Tip #2: Consider taking a few things on the race course with you.

  • The snow shoot at the top is not likely to melt away between now and race day. A nice pair of gloves would be nice as you try and slow yourself down at the end of the snow slide.
  • Some of the top runners wear ankle braces. They have concluded that the benefit of running all-out down roll with the support of a brace outweighs the weight of a brace.
  • Scree in your shoes makes for painful running on the downhill. Whether it is a pair of shoes that have scree guards, racing gaiters or old fashion duct tape, it is something to plan for. Nothing like rocks in your shoes to make for a bummer day.
  • If you are not competing for a podium spot, you might consider the extra weight of a water bottle or hydration vest. On a hot day, it’s hard to rely on spectators providing enough water along the course to help everyone.
  • Bears are spotted on the mountain every year. Bear spray has proven to be an effective deterrent. While there will be hundreds of people on the course, and lots of noise with the spectators, helicopters and announcing systems, recent tragedies remind us that we would be remiss to not tell you that this race goes through bear country.

Tip #3: Be prepared for any weather.

We have had days where folks are experiencing heat stroke and we have had days where folks are experiencing hypothermia. Make sure you plan for both extreme heat and cold. On hot days, veterans have been known to take a dip in a stream to lower their core temperature before racing. On cold days, leggings might help keep some of that heat in.
We wish all runners the best of luck. Don’t forget that ALL first-time runners are required to attend the safety meeting on July 3 at Seward High School. See you then!

Earn a Race Spot Through Our New Online Auction

Hoping to still claim a spot in the 2019 Mount Marathon Race? You can now bid for a spot in the race via an online silent auction that will take place April 23–April 25.

The top three bids for the women’s race and men’s race will gain a race spot.

The online auction is a perfect opportunity for those who would like to secure a spot in the race with plenty of time to train and make arrangements before participating. Revenue from the auction helps keep registration costs reasonable for everyone else, and it helps cover our expense for the race.

Outside Magazine calls Mount Marathon the “toughest 5K on the planet.” Here’s your chance to join one of the most challenging short-distance mountain races in the world, and the biggest Fourth of July celebration in Alaska!

Help us get the word out by sharing the link to the online auction! The auction closes at 11:59 pm AK on Thursday, April 25.