On a cool, July Tuesday as the sun grappled with shreds of fog persisting from the previous night’s rain, a thousand runners wended up the slopes of Mount Marathon in search of Alaskan history.
The 90th annual Mount Marathon race persevered through the lingering mists and a hovering biomass of relentless flying insects. Racers from all demographics pitted themselves against the shale slopes of the mountain, against themselves, and against the clock.
The results were fantastic.
The action began with the junior event at nine o’clock in the morning. At the pop of the starting gun, roughly three hundred talented youngsters barreled up 4th Avenue in the heart of downtown Seward through a tube of cheering fans. In the near background, the cone of Alaska’s most infamous racing mountain loomed. Just under half an hour later the leaders returned, draped in mud and sweat, and plowed across the finish line to the ecstatic approval from the crowd.
The winner of the boys division, Luke Jager of Anchorage, claimed his third-consecutive Mount Marathon Junior title. Although Jager’s time of 29:09 was a full minute-and-a-half slower than his 2016 personal record for the course, his Mount Marathon resume is already well-padded. He is the first male in the junior event to three-peat since Rory Egelus (2002-2004). At 17, Jager will be stepping up to bigger things next year when he enters the men’s division for the first time.
The girl’s junior division also saw a repeat winner when Molly Gellert crossed the finish line with a triumphant time of 32:53. Like Jager, Gellert was also the defending champion from the 2016 Mount Marathon race. Her 2016 time of 31:55 was also nearly impossible to top this year due to the slick, muddy conditions on this year’s course.
Although both the girls and boys junior races saw repeat victors, the men’s and women’s events saw new faces atop the podium.
In the women’s event, twenty-year-old Allison Ostrander of Soldotna claimed the top prize with an incredible time of 49:19, making her the fastest Alaskan woman ever on the course. Ostrander’s victory, despite her young age, felt like the coming of the inevitable. As the six-time winner of the junior event, Ostrander posted a finish of 50:28 in 2015, a time that shaved two seconds off the 25-year-old record set by Nancy Pease in 1990. That same year, however, Swedish ultrarunner Emelie Forsberg set the new gold-standard for the women’s Mount Marathon event with a jaw-dropping time of 47:48.
Besides carving her name into history at Mount Marathon, Ostrander has made an enormous splash in collegiate athletics as well. Less than a month ago, Ostrander, who is attending Boise State University in Idaho on a full-ride athletics scholarship, won the Division I 3000m Steeplechase National Championship in Eugene, Oregon with a time of 9:41:31, beating the second-place finisher by more than five seconds. There is little doubt that Ostrander’s performance in the steeplechase, an event which entails not just distance running but navigating obstacles such as hurdles and even short pools of water, was bolstered by her mastery of Mount Marathon.
Runner-up for the women was Idaho’s Morgan Arritola, a two-time mountain running national champion and competitor in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Nordic skiing. This was Arritola’s first appearance at Mount Marathon. Coming in third was two-time Mount Marathon winner and defending champion Christy Marvin of Palmer.
Claiming victory for the men was another new face at the top of the podium, Anchorage-based Nordic ski racer Scott Patterson.
Patterson, a 2018 Olympic hopeful, crushed the competition with a staggering uphill time of 31:40, a full two-minutes and sixteen seconds ahead of the next closest competitor. Though his downhill time was only the 26th fastest on the day, his staggering lead at the turnaround was more than enough to bring him to victory with a final time of 44:30.
This year’s victory for Patterson came on only his second appearance in the race. Last year he finished in 4th with a time of 44:43, a race that was won in record-breaking fashion by David Norris, who opted out of this year’s race with fears of injury.
Runner-up in the men’s event was Seward local Erik Johnson with a time of 45:22. This was the best finish for Johnson ever in his years running the race. Rounding out the top three was Kenneth Brewer of Chugiak, Alaska with a final time of 46:53.
For a full listing of 2017’s results, visit the Skinny Raven 2017 Mount Marathon page and for more in-depth listings of historical Mount Marathon results and records visit Mount Marathon’s race home page.