Mt. Marathon as viewed from the slopes of Mt. Eva. The Mount Marathon Race is a mountain race that is run every Fourth of July in Seward, Alaska. The race begins downtown, at Fourth and Adams, in front of the First National Bank Alaska, and ends a block south of where it began, at Fourth and Washington. The halfway point is a stone marker atop Mount Marathon, 3022 feet (921 m) above sea level, and a mile and a half from the finish line. The total race course distance is about 3.1 miles (5 kilometers). Leading racers will typically reach the peak from the starting line in 33–40 minutes, and reach the finish line from the peak in 10–15 minutes. Average speed uphill is 2 mph. Average speed downhill is 12 mph. It is not uncommon for the racers who finish to cross the finish line injured or bleeding and covered in mud.
Due to an interest in limiting the environmental impact of the race, the entrants are limited to 350 men, 350 women, and 200 juniors. In 2012, the field was expanded to permit 400 entrants for the men's and women's races. The slots are filled in the following order:
Veteran racers who have completed the prerequisite number of races
Prior year registered runners who have not completed the prerequisite number of races but have a waiver
Current year special invitation
The remaining slots are filled up by a lottery. Previous winners of any prior year are allowed to enter until the morning of the race. Application fees for the 2012 race were $65 for adults and $25 for juniors. The first race was run sometime before 1915. Various dates have been proposed—1908, 1909, 1912—but there is no evidence to support any specific date. The challenge was to run from that spot, to the top of the mountain and back, in under an hour. Legend says that one runner decided to see if he could do it. He finished in one hour and twenty minutes. Since Seward is a port town, every arriving ship had its challenger who wanted to beat the one hour bet. This may have been how the race evolved.
Mt. Marathon was first run as an organized race in 1915. The 2007 running was the 80th Mount Marathon Race. The Mount Marathon Race is one of a number of races believed to be the second oldest footrace in America. The event was honored in February 2011 with an official induction into the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame.
During the 2012 race, an Anchorage man, Michael LeMaitre, disappeared after last being seen by race officials approaching the summit. It was the first presumed fatality in the history of the race, which normally produces numerous injuries.
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