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.