About 800 racers are expected to race in 93rd Mount Marathon Race, which was pushed back this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The race, traditionally held on the Fourth of July in Seward, will be held on July 7 this year.
That’s according to Mount Marathon Race Director Matias Saari, who provided a race update to the Seward City Council during their Monday night meeting.
The cancellation of the race last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic marked the first time the race had been canceled since 1942, and even the 2021 race wasn’t guaranteed. A press release sent by the Mount Marathon Race Committee earlier this year said that, even with a COVID-19 mitigation strategy planned, the race was not guaranteed, according to previous Clarion reporting.
“We’re thrilled to be back,” Saari told the council on Monday.
The 800 participants expected to race include about 300 in the men’s race, 275 in the women’s race and 225 in the junior race. Racers will begin in waves of 50 at a time every two minutes. That is fewer racers than usually turn out for Mount Marathon, Saari said Monday. He suspects the turnout was impacted both by the COVID-19 pandemic and by the move of the race from the fourth to the seventh.
This year will mark the first time a junior race has been held since 2018. The junior race was canceled in 2019 due to wildfires and in 2020 because of the pandemic.
Efforts are still underway to implement COVID-19 mitigation protocols during the 2021 Mount Marathon Race, though they are not as strict as initially anticipated. Runners will no longer be required to wear face masks at the event, for example. Volunteers at the finish line and people getting treated at the finish line will wear masks.
Saari said no aspect of the race will take place indoors and that race headquarters will be moved from the Seward High School gymnasium to the intersection of Fourth Avenue and Washington Street, near the Alaska SeaLife Center.
Even the change of date is intentional, Saari said. Moving the race from a Sunday, July 4 to a Wednesday, July 7 will impact the number of spectators who are able to attend, while still holding the race around the same time as usual.
“We wanted to keep it in the same general time frame but move it to mid-week,” Saari said. “Really the biggest reason was concerns [about] big crowds and the difficulty of mitigating spectators in particular.”
Seward Mayor Christy Terry, who accepted an offer from Saari to be a starter for one of the races during Monday’s meeting, thanked Saari for their efforts to put on the race this year.
“I’m just very thankful as a town that we can have the race this year and I look forward to next year having it all be on the Fourth of July again,” Terry said.
Saari added that volunteer recruitment efforts have been difficult but that they are still working to recruit. People interested in volunteering at the race and apply online at mountmarathon.com.
Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at firstname.lastname@example.org.