You could say it takes a certain craziness to hurl your body down a very steep mountain littered with hazards and unforgiving to mistakes. But 35-time Mount Marathon finishers Patti Foldager and Ellyn Brown say they’re not crazy, they’re in love.


“I signed up like an hour before the race and I had no idea what I was doing,” Brown said, grinning as she told the tale of her first race in 1982. “It was raining in Seward. I had never been to Seward, never seen the mountain and the gun went off and I just followed the guys and I was speechless at the end. When I got done I was like, ‘wow that was amazing.'”


Back then, the women raced right along side the men. However, Brown and Foldager said not all of them were gracious. Foldager said some wouldn’t let her pass. So the women started cutting corners and going around the men.


“That was when I first realized if we didn’t have the slow guys in front of us, our times would be way quicker,” she said.


In the early 1980s, women’s mountain racing was just getting started. In 1984, just 26 women competed in Mount Marathon. Foldager theorizes their rude behavior wasn’t ill-willed so much as the fear of being teased by their fellow male racers.


“The thought of being chicked, well, they weren’t going to live that down, so it wasn’t that they were trying to beat us, they were trying not be chicked and if they were chicked, they didn’t want to be chicked by more than one,” Foldager laughed.


Thirty-seven years after her first race, something’s changing that Foldager and Brown said they’ve been waiting decades for: for the first time in its 101 year history, the women will race after the men in the prime race spot.


“We loosen the scree for the downhill portion,” Brown said. “When men get there the is scree all ready. Now the men are going to loosen it up for us so I think more records are going to be broken this year.”


Olympian Holly Brooks said the prime time spot has even bigger stakes. For the first time, the women’s race will be shown live on television and the internet. Brooks said she thinks the exposure will inspire a whole new generation of women competitors.


“In the long term, it’s really important for young girls in Alaska and all over the world to see female competitors running and putting it all out there,” she said.


KTVA 11’s Emily Carlson can be reached via email or on Facebook and Twitter.



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