Rickey Gates June 29, 2014 TWEET COMMENTS 5

(Not) A Runner's Story: Three Miles A Marathon

The author follows in his mother's 1969 footsteps to run Alaska's renowned Mount Marathon Race

Photo by Loren Holmes/Alaskadispatch.com

When telling a story about running up and down a mountain as fast as possible and the matters of both risk and passion are inherent and implied, the question isn’t where to start the story (the answer to where is, and always will be, the mountain). The question is when to start the story.

I could begin this story on Independence Day, 2013. Covered in mud and blood, my race number flapped as I sprinted past Adams on 4th Street through the small, coastal town of Seward, Alaska. The shock and pain of having just dislocated my shoulder was trumped by the shot of adrenaline pulsing through my veins. A white-noise roar emanated from the walls of spectators on either side of me and the Alaskans’ love for the underdog became ever more apparent with every step.

I could also begin this story at the same place over a century earlier when a man walked into a Seward watering hole and bet anybody that would accept the challenge that the, then-nameless, mountain looming 3,022 feet above the town couldn’t be scaled and descended in less than one hour. Al Taylor had been drinking when he accepted the bet. As legend has it, the local sourdough then upped the ante to include a round for the house if he came up short. His hour-and-two-minute trip gave way to a round of beers and six years later, in 1915, three men participated in the first offical Mountain Marathon Race.

Another place to start this story involves skipping over several generations of tough Alaskan legends to the Fourth of July in 1981, when Bill Spencer was coasting in to the finish line all alone. Spencer’s sixth win was also quick enough to break his own course record from seven years earlier. Little could he have known as he made his way to the finish line that it would be over three decades before anybody would match his feat … that the person who would do it would be born the same year he ran up and down Mount Marathon in 42 minutes and 21 seconds.

Though the above are all good places to start a story about risk and passion, the best time to start is on Independence Day, 1969, when a 22-year-old Patricia Schultz is passing Adams on 4th Street, only a block away from finishing the one and only race she would ever run.


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