When I first heard about the Mount Marathon Race after moving to Kenai, I was ignorant to its heavyweight status.
I hadn’t explored the state too much yet, just driving down from the airport in Anchorage to Kenai on dark and snowy roads, as I moved my life across the country. I took the Sterling Highway straight to the Kenai flats, not stopping to see the mountains along the way.
I started my new job, and celebrated my first week with a drink at The Back Door Lounge, where I heard all about the tough 5-kilometer race.
I wasn’t a runner, but a 5K didn’t sound daunting to me. I thought, “I should try it one day,” and I said, “Oh, well. Maybe I’ll sign up if it’s so special.” This was met with a round of chuckles, and a detailed explanation of the lottery system.
Over time, I drove away from the flats and saw just how quickly mountains tend to rise. I made it over to Seward and was able to hike the jeep trail on Mount Marathon until I was winded, exhausted and still so very far from the race point. I even returned on the Fourth of July, my first summer in Alaska, to watch the race, cheering as racers took their spot on Glory Rock before hitting the hard pavement.
Seeing the race for myself, I doubled down on my thoughts. “I should run this one day.”
Eventually, work took me to Seward to stay, and the Mount Marathon Race took on an even bigger meaning. It was the locals’ race, the biggest day of the year, and the highlight to a crazy summer season.
Just a few weeks before the big day, I randomly put my name into a hat during a walk downtown. And, in turn, my name was randomly drawn, securing a bib for the 2018 race in a roundabout and surprising way.
I had just a few weeks to train, and taper, and had to start by making it to the race point for the first time.
And so I did. And since then, I’ve visited the rock at the top of Mount Marathon time and time again, with different people, in different weather, and over the course of three races. The most recent was this Wednesday’s, where I pushed through mud and rain alongside 232 other women to finish the 93rd running of Seward’s Mount Marathon Race.
Now it’s Thursday morning, and I’m sitting in bed with my coffee, sore legs, a bit of a headache and a buoyant mood. I’ve shed the bundle of nerves that I clung to before the race. I always fall victim to pre-race jitters, but revel in the post-race euphoria.
And revel I shall, until next year when the days start getting longer and the mountain starts beckoning racers to toe the line on Fourth Avenue.
By KAT SORENSEN
For the Clarion