July 01, 2023
Get to know the Mount Marathon race
Every 4th of July, people from near and far flock to our town of Seward, Alaska for the famous Mount Marathon race, one of the oldest of its kind in America. Often referred to as “the toughest 5k on the planet,” the Mount Marathon race sees competitors start in downtown Seward, race 2,974 feet up Mount Marathon, and return to town. The average uphill speed for competitors is 2mph, while the average downhill speed is a whopping 12mph. This is an event that shouldn’t be missed!
The origin story of the Mount Marathon race says that it started as a bet made in a bar between two “sourdoughs” – people who have spent several winters in Alaska, making them long-term residents – about whether it was possible to make it up Mount Marathon and back down again in under an hour. One sourdough said it would be possible, the other bet against him, and so the Mount Marathon race was born! In case you’re wondering how that bet played out, the optimistic sourdough lost, with a there-and-back time of 1 hour and 2 minutes.
It’s unclear what year that original bet took place, but the race became officially recognized back in 1915 and has been held nearly every year since then, only being missed in years with groundbreaking or catastrophic events, such as the construction of the Alaska Railroad, WW2, and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Over the years, the race itself has grown and changed – the race now has a clearly defined course; men, women, and juniors all have their own races held throughout the day; and that 1 hour and 2-minute original time has been blown out of the water. The current overall course record was set in 2016 by Anchorage-based competitor, David Norris, with a time of 41 minutes and 26 seconds.
The original bet may have been between just two men, but today’s race sees up to 350 competitors in both the men's and women’s races, and up to 300 juniors (split between boys and girls). Qualifying for the Mount Marathon race is a feat in itself, with more people wanting to run the race each year than there are spots available. As a result, an entry mechanic had to be devised specifically for the race and includes a combination of qualifying times, sponsored spots, lottery winners, and even a raffle.
This year marks the 95th Mount Marathon race, and it’s bound to be another one for the books, with a record number of first-time racers and lottery winners – we can’t wait to see how it’s going to play out!
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