We all know what it is like to go on a vacation where we eat, drink, lay around, go to bed, and do it all over again the next day. Fortunately, for those who choose to recreate in and around Alaska, such days are few and far between. Even more so for the 3,000 or so hardy souls that dare to experience the Anchorage Mayor’s Marathon, a 36 year-old fixture among the Alaska running community.
With 26.2 miles of trail and road terrain, the Mayor’s Marathon strives to be Alaska’s biggest and best, with steadily increasing numbers in its Marathon, Half-Marathon, Five Miler, and Youth Cup events. Most runners come for the challenge, but almost all bring entourages with to savor the post-race activities; as long as they’ve come all this way, why not do some stuff, right?
A draw for runners is a unique course that covers all manner of trail and pavement. Starting at the east end of town at Bartlett High School, participants quickly discover that the easy, flat surface they started on was but a tease. Pounding through a rocky, narrow section called the Tank Trail (oh yes, miles 7-15 are through Fort Richardson Army Base training grounds), so-called “city runners” are stymied by softball-sized rocks and uneven ground that has twisted many an ankle.
After the eight miles of forest time, runners begin to emerge into civilization once more, entering Anchorage proper for a lovely run along pathways and creeks to a finish across town at West High School. Of course, there are also the critters to contend with. Last year’s winner of the Women’s division, Annie Thiessen, was thrilled to run almost into a moose. A family of black bears crossed the route just ahead of runners, too, and this year course marshals will be on the lookout, just in case.
Anchorage loves the Marathon; so much so that the city treats it like one big party, and in the summer months, we love to party. Aid stations are decorated, volunteers become cheerleaders for out-of-towners, and even dogs join the fun with costumes and sign-waving masters.
The organizers of the Mayor’s Marathon know a good thing when they see it; the Web site is full of tour options for runners and their friends and family to explore. Discounts abound as well, and anyone thinking of combining a little sweat equity towards a dynomite vacation should consider a little further; it’s a bonus that can’t be beat.