Featured, Health, Outdoors, Sports

Mount Marathon Race: A Challenge for All Ages

Ellyn Brown
Ellyn Brown

By Millie Spezialy –

The Mount Marathon Race is unique in many ways, one being that it welcomes all ages, from 7 year olds to 80 plus seniors. In 2015, two Alaskan women, Allie Ostrander, 19, and Ellyn Brown, 63, separated in age by over forty years, set Mount Marathon records.

Ostrander, 19, broke Nancy Pease’s Alaskan women’s long standing record of 50:30:00, set in 1990, by a nail-biting three seconds with her finish in 50:28:00. Ostrander is the only woman or man to hold the Alaskan over-all and age-group records in the Mount Marathon Junior and Senior Races.

Ellyn Brown, 63, set a new record in the 60-70 age-group with her finish in 1:08:12. Both women love spending time in the mountains, are fierce competitors, and set high athletic goals for themselves.

Ostrander surprised herself and many others when she crossed the finish line in record time. “I honestly didn’t have any concrete goals for last year’s Mount Marathon race,” she said. “Since it was my first year in the adult race I just wanted to have a strong run and give it everything I had. That way I could get a feel for the race and a baseline to set my goals for future races. I didn’t know I was running close to record time until I saw the race clock, because I didn’t wear a watch and didn’t hear my splits. I thought I was going slow and kept expecting people to pass me.”

Ostrander was just getting over a hip injury and she’d cut back on her training. Her daily schedule consisted of 1-2 hour long fartlek workouts, biking, swimming and using the elliptical. Two weeks before the Mount Marathon Race, she started to add a little running into her schedule, and climbed the mountain three times before race day. “I struggled with hiking all the way to the top, and wanted to cry when I passed the junior turn around.” Three times up the mountain was all it took for Allie to cement her place in Mount Marathon lore. In 2014 Ostrander became the first girl to win the co-ed Junior Race, which turns around half-way up the mountain, in a winning time of 28:54:00.

Allie Ostrander
Allie Ostrander

Looks can be deceiving. Ostrander, five-foot one, petite to the point of looking frail, is a fierce competitor, focused, and well trained. “I realized I had some talent in running when I was pretty young, around fifth grade. But I didn’t realize my true potential until I got to high school and started running against faster competitors.”

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“Running is a priority for me because it’s the sport I compete at most often. Mountain running is awesome and I love it, but it’s more of a pastime.” Ostrander considers running and mountain climbing complementary sports, one builds an aerobic base the other strength. During high school running competitions, Ostrander set many state records, and in 2015 she added two more, with her finish in 10:13:87 in the 3,200-meter race, and then added a personal best in the 3,200 Gig C relay, in 9:59.33. But Ostrander wasn’t done chasing new challenges. She won the women’s junior title at the 31st World Mountain Running Championship in Snowdonia, North Wales, in September.

Blessed with a supportive family, natural talent, strong work ethic, and joy of competition, fans look forward to hearing more about Ostlander’s athletic achievements.

A freshman at Boise State, she qualified for the 2015 Olympic Track and Field Trials, in the 5,000 meter, on July 7, in Eugene, Oregon. Which means Mount Marathon may not be on her schedule this year. But she did sign up for the run, so who knows?

Brown and Ostrander both acquired a love of mountains from family outings. Ostrander hiked with her parents on the Kenai peninsula, and Brown accompanied her father, an entomologist, on hikes into the mountains to gather specimens.

Brown, a grandmother of two, never considered herself an athlete and didn’t start getting serious about competing until she turned fifty. Looking for a challenge Brown entered the Lottery for the Iron man Championship in Hawaii, a 2.4 mile ocean swim, 112 mile bike ride, and 26.2 mile run. Much to her surprise, she got in the lottery and had to complete a validation race, an official 1/2 Ironman in California. After finishing near the end of the pack, she checked herself into the hospital with pulmonary edema.

“Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before you can soar,” she commented after the race. And soar she did, finishing her first Hawaii Iron Man Race in 2002, placing in the top third of her age group. Each year Brown sets athletic goals for herself, and during the decade of her fifty’s she began winning mountain and road races.

Defying all age expectations, Brown has run the Mount Marathon Race 33 times, with her fastest finish at the age of 53, in 1:02:16. A perennial top 20 finisher in the Mount Marathon Race, she also set Age-group Records in six other mountain races in 2015, from the 24 mile Crow Creek Crossing to the Pioneer Peak Climb, a fourteen-mile, 9,000 foot elevation gain race. She’s also won her age-group in every race she’s entered since turning 60, from the 10K classic to the Big Wildlife Run- Moose’s Tooth Marathon.

Brown’s love of running led her to become an inmate coach for the Hiland Correctional Center’s running team. “Exploring the outdoors, learning new things, family and friends, and the freedom to run mountains all give me great joy. Even during a run on a flat trail, there are a million moments where both feet are above the ground and I feel like I’m flying.”

Ostrander and Brown are role models for athletes of any age. It’s never too early or too late to set goals and unleash the hidden athlete inside of you.

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