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Women put on historic performance at return of Equinox Marathon

Published: Sep. 20, 2021 at 9:14 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Crisp air, autumn colors in full effect and the Equinox Marathon; all ingredients to fall in Fairbanks. With last year’s cancellation, the excitement among the runners and Golden Heart community were evident.

Ahead of the 2021 Equinox Marathon, race historian — and six-time champion himself — Matias Saari, said to keep an eye on the women’s race, with multiple competitors capable of running under 3 hours and 30 minutes and even a few who could threaten six-time champion Christy Marvin’s 2018 course record of 3:15:06.

But he may not have predicted what occured Saturday, when four women crossed the finish line under Marvin’s record time. Anchorage’s Anna Dalton not only broke, but shattered the record, clocking in at 3:07:22.

“It’s a little surreal,” said Dalton, a 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials competitor. “I have so much respect for Christy Marvin and really wish she could have been on the trail today. I can’t believe I ran as fast as I did, I was shocked when I saw the time when I crossed the finish line.”

Marvin, a six-time champion (2013-14, 2016-19) was unable to contend for a record seventh title due to a lingering knee injury.

Soldotna’s Megan Youngren (3:11:57), Fairbanks’ Susanna Rivard (3:13:37) and Palmer’s Meg Inokuma (3:14:35) all went sub-3:15 to rearrange the top of the women’s record books.

“I think it was one of the first marathons to allow women from the get-go, so to be here with the caliber of field that there was on the women’s side and being from Alaska, just so much respected for this course, very grateful,” Dalton said after placing fourth overall in her first attempt at the Equinox Marathon.

In all, a record seven women finished under 3:30, as Anchorage’s Klaire Rhodes (3:16:26), Fairbanks’ Shalane Frost (3:22:53) and Anchorage’s Katie Krehlik all finished under the benchmark, while Fairbank’s Melanie Nussbaumer just missed the cut in at 3:30:01.

Other notable Fairbanks finishes include Jennifer Love (3:52:47), Chloe Conlon (3:56.42) and Anja Maijala (3:58:57), who all finished in the top 15 in the division and top 50 overall.

The Equinox is widely considered as one of the toughest marathons in the United States, featuring an elevation gain of over 3,000 feet, navigating through tough terrain for 26.2 miles.

In the men’s race, Anchorage’s Lars Arneson separated himself from the pack during the second half of the race and cruised to an Equinox title in his first ever attempt at 2:52:23, a comfortable nine minutes ahead of runner-up Tobias Albrigtsen (Fairbanks, 3:01:37).

Though a rookie in the historic and punishing race, Arneson is familiar with much of the course as a former University of Alaska Fairbanks cross-country runner and skier.

“I would train here at the [Student Recreation Center] all through college, I would go up and down this hill to get to my dorm everyday, so yeah it was fun to be on the trails and kind of connect them all,” Arneson, 31, said. “I have ran every part of the course, but I haven’t never run it all at once, so it was great to comeback and put it all together.”

Anchorage’s Allan Spangler (3:03:44) placed third, while Fairbanks’ Max Donaldson (3:07:38) and Anchorage’s Saari, 51, rounded out the top five (3:16:21).

While the men put on a solid performance, it was the women who stole the show.

“It was amazing,” Arneson added of the women’s race. “I saw them on the out and back at the top of Ester Dome, I was just a little worried they might catch me.”

Another record was broken on Saturday as well when Seward’s Fred Moore navigated the course in 6:41:46 at 81 years old, becoming the oldest Equinox Marathon finisher in history.

As the punishing, full-length marathon saw its 58th edition this year, the first-ever Equinox Half Marathon was introduced as well. A once small-town race, co-founded by Nat Goodhue in 1963, the Equinox has flourished into a bucket list event for brave runners worldwide. This year’s race was the first without Goodhue, who died in March.

“He started something that was awesome, but no one would have ever thought it would have ever thought it would have been like this,” Equinox Marathon Race Director Stacy Fisk said. “It has come a long way, he would be very proud.”

With first-time competitors logging first-time numbers and the introduction to the first half marathon, I think it is safe to say it is not the last of the Equinox Marathon - as long as there is fall in Fairbanks.

Correction: This article has been updated to correct the name of Christy Marvin.

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