Every Fourth of July weekend, thousands of people flood into Seward to see a 100-year-old bar bet play out on the town’s most famous mountain.
The Mount Marathon Race started back in the early 1900s.
Legend says two sailors made a bet that no man could run up and down the mountain in under an hour. Today, 600 brave runners race the 3.1-mile race straight up and down the rock and many of them will, in fact, do it under an hour.
Meet one of the event’s legendary athletes.
High above the town of Seward a 74-year-old man climbs the bluff of Mount Marathon. Like the brand of his boots, Fred Moore is Xtratuf. He’s a carpenter by trade, but mountain goat by choice. He’s climbed this rock no less than 1,000 times.
“I have a motto,” he said. “Don’t get muddy, don’t get bloody and don’t let them see you looking tired.”
Moore has set so many records on this mountain, he can’t remember all of them. His favorite?
The most consecutive Mount Marathon Races — this year will be his 45th. He remembers every race, including his first in 1969.
“The entry fee was one dollar and that was just a deposit on the cloth number bib you would wear in the race,” he said.
Watching Moore climb the 3,022 feet straight up the unforgiving rock is like watching a gazelle. He knows every root, every rock and every angle of the mountain. And when he descends, his graceful maneuvers impress elite athletes half his age.
You might wonder, while most men his age are just finding they have a favorite chair, what makes Moore run? About 2,200 feet up the mountain, Moore points out his inspiration — a small spruce tree growing up from the side of the rock.
“It’s about 1,000 feet higher on the mountain than any other tree,” he said.
Out of rock and dirt grows this tiny mass of branches. It doesn’t look that impressive, but like Moore, it’s a survivor.
It’s here Moore finds the strength to keep climbing.
It’s not the competition, the race or even the tradition that keeps Moore going.
“I’m not competitive, I don’t even like competition, what really drives me here isn’t the competition,” he said. “It’s just when I do something, whatever it is, I like to do it well.”
The humble climber has one simple reason that keeps him putting one foot in front of the other, year after year, day after day.
“I don’t want to feel useless,” he said.
As if anyone could accuse him of being lazy. Moore knows he can beat just about anyone on the mountain. He’s not interested. Moore is in a race with something intangible. He’s sprinting against time. A race that so far he’s winning.
Moore holds the record for the best time in the 70-79 age group. He ran the 3.1 mile race in 1 hour, 7 minutes and 9 seconds.