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Fairbanks’ boldest runners take on grueling, historic Mount Marathon in Seward

Kendall Kramer, of Fairbanks, climbs up the steep incline of Mount Marathon. The UAF Skier...
Kendall Kramer, of Fairbanks, climbs up the steep incline of Mount Marathon. The UAF Skier placed 9th overall in her debut. (Jordan Laker-Morris)(Jordan Laker-Morris)
Published: Jul. 8, 2021 at 8:32 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The Alaska Sports Hall of Fame says, ‘To finish Mount Marathon is victory.’ That would not ordinarily be used to describe a 5-kilometer race, but Mount Marathon is no ordinary 5K.

What is known as ‘the toughest 5K on the planet’, the historic race that dates back to 1915 features a vertical gain of nearly 3,000 feet in just 0.9 miles for an average slope steepness of 34 degrees.

Hundreds of Alaska’s bravest and boldest took on the brutal and backbreaking course in Seward Wednesday for the 93rd running of the famed mountain race.

Fairbanks had its fingerprints all over the mountainside - literally - as competitors often use their hands on both the arduous ascent and the difficult descent.

David Norris claimed the 2021 Mount Marathon men’s title, his third in three tries, with a time of 43 minutes and 27 second, about two minutes shy of his own-record set in 2016 (41:26).

Though he now resides in Anchorage, Norris is from Fairbanks, graduating from Lathrop High School before skiing for his hometown University in the Alaska Nanooks in 2010-11. Now a top skier with Alaska Pacific University, Norris just missed the cut for the U.S. Ski Team to compete at the 2022 Winter Olympics.

“I was just trying to be careful in the spots where the footing wasn’t so good and just let it rip in the good spots,” Norris said after taking the title. “I think that is kind of like any year, there are spots that are fast and spots that are slow and it is the same for everyone.”

David Norris competing for UAF Ski during the 2010-11 season (UAF Athletics)
David Norris competing for UAF Ski during the 2010-11 season (UAF Athletics)(UAF Athletics)

Hannah Lafleur, of Seward, defended her 2019 women’s title by completing the course in 51:24 after the storied race took a pandemic pause in 2020.

The top finisher with an official Fairbanks-tag was current UAF skier Kendall Kramer, who had a Top 10 finish in her debut of the women’s race, clocking in at 56:50 for 9th overall.

“The toughest part was going past the halfway point where I usually turnaround. " Kramer said, as the junior race only goes half way up Mount Marathon before the return. “I was so over it, I had been climbing for so long, and I have to climb double this time and I just kind of zoned out. That is when you just put one foot in front of the other and you just like don’t think about it”

Though it was her first attempt in the women’s division, the former West Valley standout took first in the 2018 junior Mount Marathon and has participated in the race four total times now.

“This mountain has so much symbolism for Alaska and it is so rustic,” Kramer added, noting she hopes to do the race again. “The trail, the entire way up, does not look like something that I would look at on any normal mountain and say people are supposed to go up that, like it doesn’t look accessible. I think that is mostly Alaskans doing it and I think that is just really amazing.”

UAF's Kendall Kramer descends down Mount Marathon Wednesday (Jordan Laker-Morris)
UAF's Kendall Kramer descends down Mount Marathon Wednesday (Jordan Laker-Morris)(Jordan Laker-Morris)

Kramer was joined by UAF teammate Rya Berrigan (1:01:33, 19th) and future teammate Aila Berrigan (1:06:21, 43rd) as many skiers often train by mountain running in the summers.

UAF men’s skier Max Beiergrohslein also took on the grueling mountain, completing the course in 1:11:48. Other Fairbanks runners that finished include Laura Lundell, Steven Tennison and Kurt Blumberg, who clocked in at 1:25:17 at the age of 75. Olivia Soderstrom also represented Fairbanks in the junior race at the 12-14 division.

Chase Resari became the oldest finisher in Mount Marathon history, crossing the finish line at 2:29:23.

Many of these competitors may attempt another historic Alaskan marathon this year, with the Equinox scheduled for September 18 in Fairbanks.

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