Alexis De Leon for Seward City News -
The Fourth of July goes a bit harder in Seward, Alaska, than the average lower 48 states. In a state of epic proportions it follows reason that even the holidays and races would be larger.
July 4, 2014 marked the 87th annual Mount Marathon race. The sun was out in an uncharacteristically hot fashion as the juniors lined up on Fourth and Adams St.
The junior’s race accommodates both males and females ages 7 to 17. Juniors are only required to complete half of the mountain-race but that does not mean the race is any less intense.
This year’s junior race winner 17 year-old Soldotna local, Allie Ostrander, dominated her age bracket (15-17) the junior’s division and her record finish set last year. This marks the first time a female has finished with an overall faster speed than any of the males in the junior division.
Ostrander not only holds six consecutive wins in the junior’s division but she also fufilled her goal of beating her record time (00:30:32) that she set when she was only 14 years old back in 2011. Finishing with a time of 00:28:54 Ostrander placed first overall for the juniors out of 215 competitors.
Coming in a close second overall in the junior’s division was 17 year-old, Michael Marshall. Marshall’s finish time 00:29:36 placed him first of the males out of 112 and first for his age bracket (15-17) out of 39 runners.
The Seward local accepted his award on a limp.
“I came down off the mountain first, and then as soon as I hit the road my leg just cramped up and I’d gotten a huge blood blister around the gully so it was pretty rough. I didn’t expect to be in the first place, and you know, Allie is an animal so it wasn’t a surprise,” Marshall said. “I was really happy with it. I didn’t really come in expecting too much from it. I haven’t been training too much for it specifically. I’ve been injured in and out this summer so I kind of went into it chill and ended up doing alright.”
The day had progressively been warming up as the women took their starting places. By 11:15 a.m. the wind had fallen flat but the adrenaline was pumping in full. Within seconds of the starting siren the women became a blur of sweat and determination.
Only 52 minutes from the start two women came bursting around the home stretch. Christy Marvin and Holly Brooks. Those watching the race watched with unblinking eyes as the winner 32 year-old Brooks finished only two seconds faster than the 33 year-old Christy Marvin from Palmer, Alaska.
Brooks, originally from Seattle, Washington, uses races like Mount Marathon to stay in shape for her Cross Country skiing which she competes in at the Olympic level.
“You know in a way it’s a little bit like redemption. I‘ve had a hard year. Things didn’t turn out like I wanted or like I had planned. And I came in today thinking if I could win Mount Marathon that would really help me have a more positive spin on the year after such a hard year. I’ve been second so many times it’s really nice to turn it around,” Brooks said.
Brooks finished with an overall time of 00:52:49.
Rookie runner for this year’s race Najeeby Quinn also impressed bystanders with a sly 3rd place finish with an overall time of 00:56:17.
“Najeeby has been fired up for this race for months and I think next year she will have a lot of experience to call upon and she’s going to be difficult to compete with,” Brooks said.
By the time 3 p.m. rolled around the men’s division was warmed up, the crowd was beyond excited and the breeze had blown back in. Onlookers roared as the men sprinted toward the mountain.
44 minutes later last year’s champion Eric Strabel came bounding around the corner causing the crowd to frenzy. Blood streaming from the runner’s knee was visible as he crossed the finish at 00:44:46.
Close behind Strabel was Matias Saari (00:45:53), Matthew Novakovich (00:45:59), Ricky Gates (00:46:49) and Jim Shine (00:47:12). Gates was Mount Marathon’s 2013 2nd placeholder.
“Coming off the mountain where downhill meets flat ground I had some G-forces that didn’t agree with me, caught a toe and went down. Luckily it was more of a roll and back up sort of thing so I didn’t even really stop,” Strabel said.
Strabel has been running since he was 11 years old and competing for some time now. Last year Strabel broke Bill Spencer’s Mount Marathon record (43:21) with an overall time of 00:42:55. Though Strabel’s time this year did not break any records he still proved to be the fastest man on the mountain.
“Managing such a daunting task is difficult, and I think watching how much the mountain took out of the women really started me off afraid. I just had to refocus, buck up and get it done,” Strabel said.
This year’s Mount Marathon race got underway thanks to over 350 volunteers, dedicated athletes and a city of cheering hearts.