Events, Featured, Sports

More Than Just a Race, 25 Years of Lost Lake Run

A scene from the trail of the Lost Lake Run. Steve Fink photo.

By Spencer Burgin for SCN –

Some races are just bigger. Not bigger in the sense of distance or difficulty—just in the terms of importance. The Lost Lake Breath of Life Run, is one of those competitions that goes far beyond the traditional realm of first, second, or third place.

When Marsha Vincent was told that her two boys should expect thirteen years of life after being diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis, she knew that she couldn’t accept that diagnosis. She knew that something must be done, but what she didn’t know at the time, was just how large her vision would become.

The Lost Lake Run, like many of the greats in life, had humble beginnings. The idea of the race started over a conversation with Patty Foldager.

“We were sitting on the bench down by the Little League ball field, just having a general conversation, looking up at Lost Lake saying what a beautiful day it was, and how beautiful the trail was up there.”

The two at the time didn’t know exactly what could be done. Patty didn’t have experience in gathering sponsors then, but Marsha had some experience and knew that she could make this vision a reality.

“I had organized several bowling tournaments to raise money for CF and I said why not, I could figure the rest as I go!”

Twenty-five years ago in the inaugural race, there were 50 runners. Now as we look towards the 25th anniversary of the race, it has again maxed out at 750 runners—the max number that the US Forest Service will allow on the trail. These 750 spots, being claimed within moments of the online race registration being opened up. And as of this race, there will have been over 1.6 million dollars raised for Cystic Fibrosis research.

Lost Lake Run Founder Marsha Vincent receives an award from Gary Green of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation in 2014. Between the two is Marsha's son Dan and family, surrounded by some of Team Dan's Lost Lungers.
Lost Lake Run Founder Marsha Vincent receives an award from Gary Green of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation in 2014. Between them is Marsha’s son Dan and family, surrounded by some of Team ‘Dan’s Lost Lungers’.

Putting on a race of this magnitude and garnering this much success doesn’t happen overnight. There are a lot of challenges and difficulties from its inception, to the behind the scenes work that must be done in order to make the race what it is today.

“The biggest challenge in the beginning,” Marsha says, “Is just learning all the aspects of putting on the race.”

Pat Simpson
Lost Lake Run Organizer’s Patrick Simpson and his wife Chrystalyn.

The Lost Lake Run’s race organizer, Patrick Simpson, helps explain some of the logistics behind the race.

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“The two largest challenges,” Simpson explains, “Are parking and trail safety.”

Six buses are rented which will transport the runners and those who are there to cheer them on from the Bear Creek Fire Station, to Primrose.

“We have been very fortunate that two owners have provided us the use of their lots: Bancha Kitchpanich and Tom Tougas. Without their support each year, it would be extremely difficult to find parking near the fire station.”

In regards to safety, there is a ton of help coming from all over, and there are improvements made year after year in order to improve trail safety.

“Each year Providence provides medical support at the finish line,” Patrick says, “We also have a dedicated “red lantern” team that sweeps the trail behind all of the runners.”

These red lantern teams also carry a satellite phone in case of an emergency on the trial. This year there is going to be a new addition from the National Ski Patrol, who have developed a safety plan for their group of eight. These eight will be scattered amongst the trial in order to be the most efficient and effective.

Runners ascend the Lost Lake Trail near the midpoint at about 2,000 feet of elevation.

Patrick and his wife Chrystalyn took over managing the race ten years ago, and was a natural fit for the race as his background includes many different management and entrepreneurial pursuits. His first plan was to organize a team that could execute on race day, which is composed of friends and family, as well as those from the local Cystic Fibrosis clinic, and of course Marsha Vincent. And finally, the dedicated volunteers make the race day possible.

“The success of the Lost Lake Run is due to their dedication and efforts,” Patrick says, “And I am extremely grateful for their service.”

A race like this has all kinds of heroes, many go completely unnoticed, which Marsha Vincent explains perfectly.

“Lost Lake Run is made of all heroes, everybody wins. Cystic Fibrosis earns money for research, the runners get to perform in the most beautiful countryside and the volunteers and organizers get to see everyone having a great day. In the end they know their hard work has paid off. We all have added years to the lives of CF children. What better end could you ask for? My boys are now in their late 40’s and have long-term friends, families and lives that extend into a future they never anticipated. It’s a win win!

For those looking to support the runners and the foundation, there are many ways to do so. Race organizer Patrick, recommends avoiding the trail on race day, as it gets very crowded—as well as the start.
“There are some that hike in the night before and spend the day at the top,” Patrick says, “If you have the time and equipment for this, it would be the best viewing experience.”

The best bet for those wanting to watch would be the finish, as there is plenty of room for all to watch the finishers come in.

For those wanting to donate, you can mail in donations to Lost Lake Run PO Box 241367 Anchorage AK 99524, as well as going on to www.crowdrise.com/lostlakeruninc. You can also go directly to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation online and donate.

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