• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
2m 24s

Mount Marathon racers, officials focus on safety

By Emily Carlson Photojournalist: John Thain - 8:08 AM July 3, 2014
SEWARD –

Seward’s Mount Marathon competition is one of the oldest and most challenging foot races in the country.

Most years, racers come away with injuries like scrapes and bruises. But two years ago, one man disappeared, and another suffered a serious brain injury. Now, race officials and elite runners alike are working to make sure everyone makes it up and down the mountain safely.

It was a rainy weekend afternoon about two weeks before the Fourth of July race.

A few dozen racers gathered to tackle Mount Marathon.

Matias Saari won the race in 2009, but he knows if you don’t know the mountain, the mountain can be dangerous.

“It’s always a challenge and every time I get to pavement at the bottom I breathe a sigh of relief that I made it down safely,” Saari said.

On that rainy afternoon, Saari was teaching a group of first-time racers the right way to tackle the rock. He and a few other elite athletes led a run through of the mountain in hopes of escaping injury, or worse.

“You catch one toe and it’s not like stumbling on the street, you start cartwheeling and you go down 200 vertical feet banging into rocks the whole way down,” says race veteran Clint McCool.

Two years ago that happened to Matt Kenney. The elite athlete fell 30 feet down the slippery part of the mountain known as “the waterfall.”

He broke his skull, and suffered a traumatic brain injury. That same year, first-time racer Michael Lemaitre disappeared.

Some runners think his tragic death could have been avoided had Lemaitre known the mountain.

“You don’t want surprises so if you’ve been on the mountain before there’s going be fewer surprises on race day,” Saari said.

To limit those surprises, all runners are now required to sign a pledge that they’ve been up the mountain prior to race day. Saari says with each summit, the mountain becomes less daunting.

“Get comfortable with the route. Know your route and have confidence,” he said. “You don’t want to be thinking about the danger or be afraid running down the mountain.”

McCool climbs Mount Marathon at least 30 times each year before the race. He calls it his choreography sessions.

“You literally have to memorize every step. When I run I can play it in my head like a movie. I can see every step along the way,” McCool said.

While new signs point out the tricky spots, McCool said runners need to know the mountain like the back of their hand.

“Because when race day comes you don’t want to be thinking, you just want to be reacting,” he said.

While no amount of practice can take away all of the danger, runners say the true spirit of Mount Marathon is competition — no matter what place you complete the race.

 

Latest Stories

  • News

    Anchorage man hopes to revitalize Ahtna language with new children’s book

    by Heather Hintze on Dec 17, 21:32

    It all starts with a story. “Ndoxe Tiziyaas?” asked Grant Rebne. That’s half of the title of his new children’s book, with the other half translating to English as “Where are you going?” Rebne hopes the book will inspire people to learn and preserve his native language, Ahtna. “Our language shows our culture,” Rebne said. “It’s who […]

  • News

    Alaska Zoo takes in orphaned bear cubs

    by Bonney Bowman on Dec 17, 21:21

    Two orphaned black bear cubs will have a second shot at life thanks to some TLC at the Alaska Zoo. One of the cubs, a 29-pound male, was found living under a porch in Eagle with an infected bite wound. The other, a 15-pound female, is from Kasilof. She was very underweight, according to zoo executives. […]

  • Weather

    Evening News weather, Dec. 17

    by KTVA Weather on Dec 17, 19:34

    Kenai Peninsula and Prince William Sound Sun starts to peek through towards Homer. Southeast Expect rain towards the south and mostly cloudy skies towards the north. Interior and North Slope In the Interior, skies will be mostly cloudy. On the North Slope, skies will be cloudy with early fog. Mat-Su Valley Sun makes a come […]

  • News

    2 Alaskan women receive Congressional Gold Medal for WWII service

    by Lauren Maxwell on Dec 17, 19:26

    Two Alaskan women share a special honor. Jean White and Jane Soeten were recently awarded a Congressional Gold Medal in Washington, D.C. for their volunteer service in the Civil Air Patrol during World War II. White is 93 years old and has lived in Anchorage for over 50 years. Soeten, 87, moved to Wasilla two years ago. […]

  • News

    200 baby turtles rescued at Anchorage airport

    by Shannon Ballard on Dec 17, 18:24

    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seized more than 200 live, baby turtles that were being smuggled to China for the food and pet trade in September. As the turtles made their way through Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport in September, officials discovered them packed inside boots, according to the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium. As […]

  • News

    Sony cancels Christmas release of ‘The Interview’

    by CNN / AP on Dec 17, 15:59

    WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama says his administration is taking the cyberattack against Sony studios seriously. He says people should “go to the movies.” Sony said Wednesday it was canceling the Dec. 25 release of “The Interview” after many theaters said they would hold off on screening the film. Threats have been made against theaters […]

  • DayBreak

    On the couch with vlogger Cory Williams, Dec. 17

    by Daybreak Staff on Dec 17, 15:04

    Video blogger Cory Williams, better known as DudeLikeHELLA, returned to the original frozen lake that made the “coolest sound ever” when he skipped rocks on it. This time, however, he was welcomed by the scariest sounds ever, he says. “I start walking out and then all of a sudden these crazy noises, like the Loch […]

  • News

    Anchorage police seek help finding 13-year-old runaway

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Dec 17, 15:03

    Anchorage police are seeking the public’s help finding a 13-year-old runaway. Kayleas Gray was last seen at her Chugach Way residence Tuesday night. She was reported missing Wednesday morning around 8 a.m., according to a statement from the Anchorage Police Department. Neither friends nor family have seen or heard from Kayleas since, police say. Kayleas is […]