More than 100 Eagle River and Chugiak-area runners made a strong showing July 4 in Mount Marathon race—the 90th running of the iconic event that each year attracts thousands of spectators to Seward and draws hundreds of athletes from Alaska, the lower 48 and the world.
Overall, more than 845 runners challenged the mountain under partly cloudy skies and generally cool temperatures. Along with the rugged terrain challenges of the 3.1-mile route, with a 34-degree average grade, sharp rocks and a slippery lower trail, runners were plagued by swarms of brown, fly-like bugs.
“I’ve never seen anything like this in my 20 years as a volunteer,” commented Tom Walsh, summit timekeeper.”
According to Derek S. Sikes, University of Alaska (Fairbanks) Associate Professor of Entomology and curator of at the college’s museum, the insect is a fly in the Bibionidae family. The cause of the infestation is unknown, but he reported seeing the fly recently in Sitka.
Men’s Race: While Anchorage’s Scott Patterson nabbed first place in the men’s division and Erik Johnson of Seward placed second, Chugiak’s Kenneth Brewer, 24, came in third with an impressive time of 46 minutes, 53 seconds.
“This year was not as good as the first year I ran the race in 2015,” he comments, “and a little off my time in 2016. My uphill speed is pretty good, but I’d like to work on the downhill portion.”
Women’s Race: In the Women’s Division, with a field of 180 runners, Allie Ostrander of Soldatna won her first adult race crown with a blistering time of 49 minutes, 19 seconds; and Boise. Idaho’s Morgan Arritola claimed second at just over 51 minutes.
But there were respectable times by Eagle River- Chugiak women, including Sheryl Loan, with 1 hour, 3 minutes, Hannah Booher and Rachel Russell, both just under 1 hour, 5 minutes; and Annie Connelly, with 1 hour 7 minutes.
Sara Kennedy, running for the third year, clocked in a time of 1 hour, 27 minutes, which she says is slightly better than in the 2016 race.
“Last year I re-routed around a big snow slide and later realized it cost me some time,” she says. “I’d like to get my time under 1 hour, 20 minutes.”
Sara is entered in the Alaska Extreme Triathlon, scheduled for July 15. The event starts in Seward and includes a 2.6-mile swim in Resurrection Bay, a 112-mile bike ride from Seward to Portage and Bird Creek; and a 20-mile run from Bird Creek to Girdwood, the last seven miles up and down the Alyeska ski hill.
Junior’s Race: The Juniors Race had a field of 280 runners. In the Boy’s Division, Eagle River’s Michael Earnhart pushed hard for a 4th place finish with a time of 30 minutes, 13 seconds. Michael Connelly, also of Eagle River, finished 6th with 30 minutes, 37 minutes and Charlie Latimer came in 9th with 31 minutes, 31 seconds.
In the Girls Division (in the 15-17 bracket), Eagle River’s Adrianna Profffit, 15, clocked in 5th with a time of 37 minutes, 37 seconds. The Girl’s Division race also had about 150 runners, among them 11 from Eagle River and Chugiak.
According to the Alaska Dispatch News, Chugiak’s Annie Connelly ran with the name “JACK” written on the upper left side of her back and “COOPER” on her back to honor Patrick “Jack” Cooper, the 16-year-old from Anchorage who was killed by a black bear in June during the Bird Ridge race. Eagle River’s Christopher Kirk also ran with Cooper’s name written on his arm.
According to the Seward Chamber of Commerce, which organizes the race and other 4th of July events, there were no life-threatening injuries in this year’s race.
Frank E. Baker is a freelance writer and ECHO News team member who lives in Eagle River with his wife Rebekah, a retired grade school teacher.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article stated David Norris (who was the winner on 2016) was the winner of the 2017 men’s race. Scott Patterson was the winner of the 2017 Mt. Marathon Men’s race. We apologize for this error.