How the Race Started

According to folklore …

The tradition of the Mount Marathon Race began when two sourdoughs argued about the possibility of climbing and descending the mountain in less than an hour. “Impossible” one said.

To settle the argument, and the resulting wager, a race was held, with the loser to furnish drinks for the crowd. Enterprising merchants put up a suit of clothes and other attractions for the winner and proposed the race take place on a holiday – why not the 4th of July?

The optimistic sourdough lost his bet. The winning racer took one hour and two minutes.

The Mount Marathon Race became an organized run in 1915 and has since become a key part of the Independence Day celebration in Seward. Over the years, this historic event has drawn increased participation and resulted in new milestones.

  • 1985: Women’s Division
  • 1994: Junior Division Age Groups
  • 2005: Staggered Start
  • 2014: Weighted Lottery

One of the Oldest Mountain Races

While the Mount Marathon Race is indeed old, it is not the oldest. Below is a list of older races in the United States (information obtained at There are 12 footraces older than Mount Marathon, which was first raced in 1915. If it must be classified, saying Mount Marathon is “among the oldest footraces” or “believed to be the oldest mountain race” in the U.S. is accurate.

Oldest U.S. Road Races

  • 1896 – Delaware YMCA Turkey Trot 8K
  • 1897 – Boston Marathon
  • 1907 – Jackson Day 9K (New Orleans)
  • 1907 – New Orleans AC Turkey Day 5M
  • 1907 – Yonkers Marathon (N.Y.)
  • 1908 – Run for the Diamonds 9M (Berwick, PA)
  • 1908 – Thanksgiving Day 10K (Cincinnati)
  • 1912 – Bay to Breakers 12K (San Francisco)
  • 1914 – Lexington Patriots Day 5K (Lexington MA)

Oldest U.S. Cross Country Races

  • 1892 – Bemis-Forslund Pie Race 4.3 miles (Gill, MA)
  • 1904 – Schuylkill Navy 5.6 mile (Philadelphia)
  • 1910 – Dipsea Race 6.8 miles (Stinson Beach, CA)
  • 1915 – Mount Marathon Race 5.55K (Seward, AK)