Mount Marathon News

MMR Race Guide – read all about it!

The Mount Marathon Race Guide is a long-standing tradition.

It includes race previews, race rosters, feature stories, a schedule of events, Fourth of July Festival info and more.

Every racer will receive a print copy in their race bags. They are also available for race fans at the Seward Chamber and multiple spots around town in Seward. Spectators can also pick up a copy at Race Heaquarters (the Flamingo Lounge parking lot, 208 Fourth Ave.) on July 4.

Here is the digital copy:

Race Email #4 – Final Info!

Racers of the 96th Mount Marathon Race:

Please read the important final information below!

  • July 3 SCHEDULE, Seward High School, 2100 Swetman Ave.
    5-8 p.m. — Bib Pickup– Bring ID; Juniors must be accompanied by parent
    5-8 p.m. — Pasta Feed, $15 – benefits the Seward HS athletic booster club
    6 p.m. — Auction & Raffle – 14 total auction spots awarded and 1 raffle spot drawn
    6:45 p.m. — Safety meeting – First-timers must sign off that they’ve completed the full course in training (Parents must sign for juniors); bib pick-up for first-timers immediately after
  • July 4 Race START TIMES
    Juniors— 9 a.m. (boys and girls start together)
    Men — Wave 1 at 11 a.m., Wave 2 at 11:03 a.m., Wave 3 at 11:06 a.m.
    Women  — Wave 1 at 2 p.m., Wave 2 at 2:03 p.m., Wave 3 at 2:06 p.m.

NOTE: As usual, RETURNING racers may pick up their bibs on Race Day July 4 beginning at 8 a.m. at Race Headquarters in the Flamingo Lounge parking lot, 208 Fourth Ave.; bring ID.

    See our updated rosters HERE
    Participant Tracking —
    Live Results — Link will be posted here July 4:
    Spectator Info HERE. Please let your supporters know that for safety reasons the pen is for Racers and Officials ONLY and this will be enforced.
    Merch is now available with our new permanent logo created by Sarah Glaser! Find some at the Seward Chamber, bib pickup, race headquarters and the awards ceremony.
    Showers are available FOR RACERS ONLY from 1-5 p.m. July 4 at the AVTEC Student Center, 519 4th Ave.
  • AWARDS CEREMONY at AVTEC (with Door Prizes!)
    6 p.m. AVTEC Gymnasium, 519 4th Ave, Seward AK 99664
    Include a chance to win great DOOR PRIZES for all attendees!
  • GRANDSTAND Podium Awards
    Brief Top 5 overall awards on the grandstand just north of the finish line for Juniors at 10 a.m., Men at 12:15 p.m.and Women at 3:15 p.m.
    Parking may be easiest to find a few blocks from the race course. Note that Fourth Avenue from Washington to Jefferson Streets will be CLOSED beginning at 2 p.m. July 3 for course set-up.
    Flying drones along all race trails and throughout downtown Seward is prohibited. Also please keep dogs off the race course and in the crowded downtown area.
    The Livestream Broadcast will be cool! Find all links HERE. There will also be separate Finish Line Feeds showing all finishers.Have a memorable experience,
    The Mount Marathon Race Committee

(Featured photo of Taylor Turney running a 9:54 downhill, by Todd List)

2024 Mount Marathon — JUNIORS’ Preview

(Originally published in 2024 MMR Guide; updated July 2)

Juniors: Boonstra and Marvin Seek to Defend Titles

By Matias Saari
MMR Race Director

Tania Boonstra’s recipe for success is to climb as fast as possible and then hold off her pursuers on the downhill.

It worked for the Kenai runner last year when she built a 2 ½-minute lead on the next-best climber (her sister Jayna) and then coasted to victory over Rose Conway of Anchorage. That flipped the script from 2022, when Conway won after chasing down Tania and Jayna Boonstra on the downhill.

“It was really awesome (to win) after being so close the year before,” Tania said about 2023. “I just really tried to push on the way up because I’m not as strong as the downhills. … (The downhill) is a little intimidating sometimes.”

After a successful high school track season, the 16-year-old took a couple weeks off and then participated in the Lynn Canal Training Camp in Juneau, which includes hiking, running, and other recreational activities.

With Jayna aging up to the women’s race this year, Tania will lose the comfort of sisterhood in the junior event.

“It’s fun to warm up with my sister,” she said. “But I’m excited for her to do the full course.”

Pint-sized 12-year old Wren Spangler took third last year and appears in good form again after placing eighth at the Government Peak up-and-down race on June 1 ahead of several women assigned to the adult first wave at Mount Marathon.

The top Seward junior is Olive Jordan, 14, who placed fourth last year after posting the fastest downhill split among 124 racers.

Hannah Bodkin of Eagle River (fifth last year) and Aubrey Virgin of Palmer (sixth last year) will also be pushing for the podium.

One potential advantage for Boonstra is that her father, Todd, is a three-time Olympian in Nordic skiing who won the Mount Marathon men’s race four times. Presumably Tania can glean a few training and racing tips from him.

Boys race challenger Vebjorn Flagstad is in a similar boat as Tania Boonstra: his Norwegian father, Trond, is a two-time MMR champion.

“My dad has helped me a lot with this race,” Flagstad said. “Last year I was able to use his routes to get up and down the cliff pretty fast and I’m hoping this year we will go out and do some of the workouts he did to train for Mount Marathon.”

Flagstad’s goal is to stay close to Coby Marvin, whose mom Christy has won Mount Marathon three times while father Ben has placed as high as fifth.

“It would be great to be able to hang with (Coby) for at least part of the race because last year I didn’t see him at all on the uphill section,” said Flagstad. “I definitely think if I have him in sight it would be a lot easier to keep with him rather than just chasing someone way ahead of me.”

In last year’s mudfest, Marvin built a lead of 1:41 over Flagstad on the climb to the halfway point and wound up winning by that exact margin.

In 2022, Marvin posted the second-fastest junior boys time in race history at 25 minutes, 27 seconds to become the first boy within a minute of Bill Spencer’s storied record of 24:30 from 1973. That’s believed to be Alaska’s longest-standing running record.

“It would be great to run fast and get close to Bill’s record again,” Marvin said. “I think it’s going to depend on conditions.”

This will be Marvin’s last chance to chase Spencer before he graduates to the men’s race in 2025. Spencer, 68, is entered again in the men’s race and plans to watch the junior event to see if this is the year his record finally falls.

Marvin said his training has changed this year for two reasons: he’s busier now after beginning work at AKtive Soles Performance Footwear on April 1, and he’s becoming addicted to whitewater kayaking.

“I try to go (kayaking) 3-4 times a week, preferably more,” Marvin said. “So I try to usually get a (running) workout in before I go kayaking.”

Other names to watch in the boys race include 15-year-old Raven Spangler of Palmer, the fastest downhiller in the field who placed fourth last year; talented skier Hatcher Menkens, who’s making his MMR debut; up-and-comer Corbin Wilson of Palmer; and Robbie Annett, a state champion track runner who will likely lead the race to the base of the mountain.

The junior field of up to 300 runners — boys and girls run together but are separated in the results — also features four quartets: the Rubeos from Wasilla, Shahas from Eagle River, Sensabaughs from Palmer, and Mehls from Eagle River all have four junior racers entered.

2024 Mount Marathon Race – WOMEN’S Preview

Fierce and Friendly Defines Women’s Race 

(Originally published in the MMR Guide; Updated July 2)

By Matias Saari
MMR Race Director

Can the Palmer power trio sweep again?

Christy Marvin, Meg Inokuma and Denali Strabel pulled off a 1-2-3 finish in 2023, but a repeat of that performance from the little town in the MatSu Valley seems unlikely given the strong competition and an injury to last year’s champion.

Last year, Marvin overtook Meg Inokuma on Jefferson Street for her third win and 10th Top 3 finish in 10 attempts. At 42, she also became the second-oldest women’s champion, denying the 43-year-old Inokuma of that honor. Strabel, 34, a Seward native and new Palmer resident, placed an emotional third.

But this year may be different. In early June, Strabel was confident in her fitness after a runner-up performance at the Turnagain Arm Trail Run and Inokuma was coming off a strong ascent at the Government Peak Climb. But Marvin was sidelined with plantar fasciitis (a foot injury) and two types of tendonitis.

“I do plan to race MMR even if I have to take the week before and after off,” Marvin texted June 6 while camping in Seward. “I’ve been doing a lot of biking, some slower hiking, and a few other random cross training options.” (UPDATE: Marvin confirmed on June 30 that she intends to race, but added that she did almost no running in June).

Marvin, who trained regularly with Strabel this winter, thrives on the female camaraderie so evident in mountain running these days.

“I’m beyond excited to be a part of a group of ladies who are chasing records and breaking down barriers in women’s mountain running. We can do great things alone, but incredible things together,” Marvin said.

Top 5 in 2023. From left, Sophiew Wright, Denali Strabel, Meg Inokuma, Klaire Rhodes and Christy Marvin. Photo by Matias Saari

Strabel echoed the “stronger together” sentiment.

“It is an honor to be part of the group building this example of loving and supporting other women. It’s magical to bring women along with you and generate this sisterhood in the mountains,” Strabel said. “I also don’t limit this supporting mindset to the ‘top’ women. I want to create a space where everyone feels supported.”

A three-time winner of the junior race at Mount Marathon, Strabel has seven Top-5 finishes in the women’s race but has yet to join her mother, Patti Foldager, on the winners’ list. Holder of the women’s downhill record, Strabel believes she can improve on her personal best of 52 minutes and would no doubt be in the mix if she accomplishes that.

Meanwhile, Inokuma says she simply enjoys spending time in the mountains. She doesn’t train specifically for races and rarely wears a watch in competition. Although she was first to the top of Mount Marathon last year and nearly held off Marvin, she’s not driven to try to win races. “As long as I push myself as much as I can, that’s my personal win,” she said.

There is no shortage of other contenders.

Two-time champion Hannah Lafleur of Seward missed last year’s race due to pregnancy and is now racing again while mother to an 8-month old daughter.

Klaire Rhodes crests Race Point in inclement weather in 2023.

Klaire Rhodes was fourth a year ago shortly after competing at the World Mountain and Trail Running Championships in Austria; she has been racing throughout the U.S. in recent years and claimed the Knoya Ridge Run in Anchorage on June 6.

Eagle River newcomers Shauna Severson and Campbell Peterson could make waves along with Rosie Fordham, a standout skier and runner at the University of Alaska Fairbanks who hails from Australia.

Speaking of the land Down Under, Jessica Yeaton — the 2018 Mount Marathon champion — twice represented Australia at the Winter Olympics in Nordic skiing. She graduated high school in Anchorage and now works as a physical therapist in Steamboat Springs, Colo. Unfortunately, her participation in Mount Marathon is doubtful due to serious injuries sustained in a snowmachining accident in early April.

“I wasn’t able to train or work for about six weeks,” Yeaton said, adding that she’ll only race, despite lacking peak fitness, if she’s fully confident that won’t cause a setback in her recovery. (UPDATE: Yeaton confirmed on June 30 that she will NOT be racing).

Also signed up yet again are Patti Foldager of Hope and Ellyn Brown of Anchorage. They were the first women to complete 40 races in 2023 and that accomplishment will be recognized at this year’s awards ceremony. They will also be the honorary starters of the women’s race and fire the start pistol for Wave 1.

“My mother has always been a pioneer in my eyes. She won the first women’s only race in 1985,” Denali Strabel said about Foldager. “(She) has always shown me what patience and determination can produce. I’m honored to run alongside her.”

Also worthy of celebration is Tali Novakovich, who will be the youngest possible age to participate in the women’s race: her 18th birthday is on the Fourth of July.

The 2024 races also marks the launching of a non-binary division. Zoe Dohring of Anchorage and Madi Sudweeks of Utah will participate among women while Heath McTee of Texas will race with the men. The non-binary entrants will have their own results and receive the same awards as the men’s and women’s divisions.

2024 Mount Marathon Race – MEN’S Preview

Men’s Preview: Can King Keep Up With Norris?

By Matias Saari

(Originally published in the 2024 MMR Guide; Update

Max King and David Norris have dominated Mount Marathon since 2018, but King says it’s time for a new King of the Mountain.

“My hope is that we’ll see a few other young studs up there giving Norris a run for his money,” said King, the two-time champion from Bend, Ore. “It’s pretty cool that Norris or I have won the past 5 years it’s been held, but I’d love to see someone new take the crown. We’re not going to make it easy, though.”

Despite their dominance, Norris and King have only gone head-to-head once, in 2018, and that duel produced the third- and fourth-fastest times in race history (42 minutes, 13 seconds for Norris and 42:33 for King).

“A lot has changed since then, as in I got old,” quipped King, now 44.

Age is hardly an impediment for King, who earned not only the 40-49 age group record in 2022 but the win with a sterling time of 43:37.

“As I’ve aged, I’ve noticed that recovery is slower so getting the consistent hard workouts in to get really fit is just more difficult,” said King, who must drive two hours just to climb a 3,000 vertical foot mountain.

Norris, a Fairbanks native who lived and trained in Anchorage with the Alaska Pacific University Nordic Ski Center before moving to Steamboat Springs, Colo., has a similar challenge.

“Steamboat is a great location to train in, but it is really tough to find the steep terrain that is the norm in southcentral Alaska,” he said.

Any lack of vertical training, though, doesn’t seem to be adversely affecting the pair, and Norris is looking forward to racing King again.

“I think a great battle would be good for both of us, but I haven’t put too much thought on my competition,” Norris said. “My main objective is to pursue a personal best time on the course.”

A new personal best would mean a new race record. Norris achieved legendary status with his record run of 41:26 seconds in 2016, when he returned the record to an Alaskan a year after Spanish star Kilian Jornet had swiped it.

Norris knows good conditions are necessary for record-challenging times, and last year’s mud and rain slowed most everyone down. A large snowfield near the top can also help produce fast times as racers butt-slide down the snow at breakneck speeds while giving their legs a short break. Most of the snow near the top has melted and only a short patch of snow will likely remain on July 4.

Though Norris has moved to Colorado, where he coaches Nordic skiing and works as an accountant and banker, he relishes returning most years to Mount Marathon.

“It is easily the gnarliest mountain race I have ever done, even though it is only a 5 km!,” Norris said. “The other big reason I come back to Seward is because it’s an amazing excuse to spend time with my family in Alaska and to stay connected with the running community in Alaska.”

David Norris leads the pack near the start of the 2023 race


Norris, who is also training for a high-profile 50K in Chamonix, France, in late August, seems in good form. He won the 32-mile Bighorn race in Wyoming and took second on June 29 at the Brighton (Utah) Cirque Series behind a Kenyan professional runner.

Darren Thomas of Reno, Nev., is also back and seeks the top step of the podium after placing second last year and third in 2021.

Last year’s third- through fifth-place finishers in Lars Arneson, Michael Earnhart, and Lyon Kopsack, respectively, also return. Arneson, a four-time champion of the Alaska Mountain Runners’ Grand Prix series, continues to excel with wins this season at the Bird Ridge Climb, Crazy Lazy and the Turnagain Arm Trail Run and a runner-up result at the Knoya Ridge Run. Earnhart, a 21-year-old elite skier, made a huge leap from 14th in 2022 to fourth last year.

Further intrigue in this year’s field comes from no fewer than half a dozen racers who missed the 2023 event.

That group consists of past junior champion Michael Connelly of Eagle River (fourth in 2021); Jessie McAuley of British Columbia, Canada (sixth in 2019); Ali Papillon, now of Manitou Springs, Colo., who holds the third-fastest junior time in history and will be making his men’s race debut; past record-holder Eric Strabel, 42, who simply aims to break 50 minutes this year; University of Alaska Anchorage All-America runner Cole Nash; and Christopher Brenk, a speedy marathoner from Sitka who deferred his entry last year due to injury.

Those who have dropped from the race include Taylor Turney, who placed 9th last year after running the downhill in a record 9 minutes, 54 seconds; Zack Bursell of Juneau (10th last year); and Bayden Menton of Oregon (8th last year).

Being speedy is not a pre-requisite for being notable, however.

Visually impaired runner Rennick Heatwole, a seven-time finisher of the junior race, will run his first men’s event this year.

Tyler Johnson, an Inupiaq runner from Nome, is back for the second time.

New to Mount Marathon as a lottery winner is Cam Stones, who won a bronze medal for Canada in the four-man bobsled at the 2022 Winter Olympics.

But the longest applause at the awards ceremony will likely be reserved for octogenarians Fred Moore and Chad Resari. Moore, an 83-year-old from Seward, returns for his 54th consecutive race, an astounding record that may never be broken. And last year Resari finished as a “Golden Racer” by completing half the mountain in under two hours; he’s signed up for another attempt this year, tackling one of the country’s most difficult mountain runs — at age 88.

Of the 1,015 runners still entered on the 9th of June, 874 of them hailed from Alaska (86 percent). The rest came from 28 states in the U.S. along with a handful from Canada, Norway and the United Kingdom.

2024 Racers’ Email #3 – Schedule/Bib Pickup/Course/Raffle

MOUNT MARATHON RACERS: The 96th running is just 3 days away!

Please read the following important announcements.

  • SCHEDULE ON JULY 3 at Seward High School, 2100 Swetman Ave.
    – Bib pickup 5-8 p.m., bring ID – Juniors must be accompanied by parent
    NOTE: returning racers may instead pick up bibs ON RACE DAY beginning at 8 a.m. at Race Headquarters next to the Flamingo Lounge; bring ID
    – Pasta Feed 5-8 p.m. – Fuel up for $15!
    – Auction & Raffle 6 p.m. – Watch the bidding war!
    – Safety meeting 6:45 p.m. – First-timers must sign off that they’ve completed the full course in training (Parents must sign for juniors); first-timer get bibs right after meeting.
    – Bib Pickup Beginning at 8 a.m. at Race HQ; bring ID
    – Juniors 9 a.m.
    – Men 11 a.m.
    – Mini Mount Marathon 11:08 a.m.
    – Parade 1 p.m.
    – Women 2 p.m.
    – Awards Ceremony (AVTEC) 6 p.m.
  • COURSE CONDITIONS – The snowfield at the top is small but may still be tricky on race day. A little recent rain has knocked down some dust. There is no shortage of racers still scouting and practicing the mountain. But make sure you rest up, too!
  • RACE GUIDE – Find yourself in the race guide roster HERE and read the race previews, other articles and Fourth of July Festival info!
  • LIVESTREAM – Find Livestream broadcast link of the adult races plus separate Finish Line feeds of all three races HERE
  • MMR NEWS – Locate MMR news past and present HERE
  • SKINNY RAVEN EVENT – On July 2, join MMR Record holder David Norris and race champ Jessica Yeaton for a shakeout run at 6:30 p.m. following by a mountain running “Shop Talk” at 7:15 at Skinny Raven, 800 H St., Anchorage.
  • ALASKA AIRLINES RAFFLE –2 plane tickets go to one lucky winner. Tickets available for $20 at the Seward Chamber, bib pickup, race headquarters and the awards ceremony.

Stay tuned for a final race message on July 3 and good luck dialing in your preparations!

The Mount Marathon Race Committee &
Matias Saari, Race Director