After the Maniacs dinner the night before, Jake the news reporter contacted me to ask if he could get some footage of me at the start line before the race to add to the story he was doing. I couldn’t believe he wanted to deal with my shenanigans right before the start of his first marathon, but we decided to meet at the starting line at 7:15, 45 minutes before the race start. AKA basically the earliest I have ever gotten to any race start ever, so I think you can guess how this went.
Amanda and I got ready and then set about making breakfast. The only problem was I could not find a toaster in the house we were staying in for the life of me, which pretty much sent all our plans awry since we rely on toasters in the morning. We decided to run through a fast food place on the way to the shuttle area and grab a breakfast sandwich. Not ideal, but better than nothing. Well, guess where there are no fast food restaurants? If you guessed downtown Anchorage, you’d be correct. There was literally nothing. We drove around and around until we finally came to this little hole in the wall breakfast place and begged for breakfast sandwiches. The guy told us it would be 5-7 minutes and I wanted to tell him that he had less than 2 minutes to make it happen, but I refrained, thankfully.
By this point, I had already texted Jake to let him know I was going to be just a little bit late. By the time we got our sandwiches and sprinted (and I truly mean sprinted) to the shuttles, it was already 7:15. I had confidence that the destination was relatively close. I was wrong. It was about 20 minutes away, and I was now completely panicking and felt terrible. After what seemed like an eternity, we got off the shuttle and again sprinted to the starting line to meet up with Jake. And there he was, totally cool, like he wasn’t nervous or anything. He put the microphone on me and told me to just “do what I normally do” before the start of the race. So essentially, there’s going to be a lot of footage of me running up and hugging random people. Truly newsworthy, if you ask me. Jake told me the only requirement for my story to air is that I beat the Kenyan guy who was lining up at the front of the pack, so maybe you won’t see me on the news after all.
We also were able to track down Carrie, who is a reader that we had met at the expo the day before. We had told her we were planning on finishing around 5 hours and invited her to run with us if she wanted, which she did. I’m so glad we were able to find her, because I would have felt awful otherwise. The race started promptly at 8, and we set off. Amanda and I were running with JC because he was finishing his 50th state that day, and he has been such a great support system for us this year that we decided to drag him down by running with him. I’m sure he’ll thank us later.
It was a nice morning with cool weather, especially compared to the hell hole that is currently Columbia, South Carolina. We very quickly realized that we forgot bug spray (a huge mistake here. The mosquitos here are everywhere. They even live inside. It’s my nightmare.) and I started panicking until I saw that there was bug spray at all of the aid stations! Thank you, Mayor’s Marathon. Seriously. I am the type of person who will go outside for less than 10 minutes and come in with 5-10 mosquito bites while no one else has any. It is insane. With those fears assuaged, we spent the first few miles getting to know Carrie and taking in the scenery as we ran towards the mountains.
Early on in the race, it seemed like the miles were going by very slowly, although I’m not sure why. I remember getting to mile 5 and thinking it seemed like we had been running forever, even though nothing hurt, I was feeling good, and we were enjoying ourselves. Fortunately, from that point on, the race flew by. Nonetheless, we all noticed that it was surprisingly hot, even if the temperature wasn’t super high. I think it was close to 70, which really shouldn’t be bad at all, but it was apparently very humid or sunny or something because we were all sweating profusely and completely dehydrated. Amanda was taking 3 cups of water at each water station. Perhaps we’ve been drinking too much beer on this trip…nah.
Starting at mile 6, the race turns onto a gravel/dirt road, which I had somewhat been dreading because I wasn’t sure what the surface would be like. Fortunately, it turned out to be not too bad, and we kept a strong pace going the entire time. There were of course mosquitos everywhere, but we stopped to apply bug spray several times to keep the little terrors at bay. I think the gravel road lasted to somewhere around mile 13 or 14 (this isn’t the blog to read if you’re expecting hard hitting course descriptions), and after that we ran on pavement for awhile before heading to…you guessed it…trail.
I don’t love trails yet, and I certainly don’t love trails that are giant breeding grounds for mosquitos, but this one was very pretty. We were still keeping a good pace and were on track to finish somewhere around 4:40 without putting too much effort into it at all. I will say that the course was definitely tougher than I expected, with some steep and long uphills. The race runs on a slow incline all the way up to mile 16 or so, and although I didn’t notice it that much, it’s definitely not a flat course at all. Some of the hills we literally laughed at. And then walked up, obviously.
The course also wasn’t necessarily as scenic as I expected, although there were some great spots. I think I expected more mountain views maybe, or more babbling brooks? We mostly ran through forests and along shaded trails, which was very nice, just not what I was expecting. I think Alaska is making me snobby about scenery, because under normal circumstances, I’d say this was a very nice course.
Around mile 18, we saw one of the best race signs ever. Any race sign that mocks Sarah Palin is my favorite. Sorry, Nana.
Just around the corner around mile 19 was an awesome surprise! Carrie and I were running along and chatting and all of a sudden I saw someone up ahead in a lime green shirt. As I got closer, I realized it was a Team T-Rex shirt! Sure enough, Allyson had come out to cheer on the runners (and I like to think she came out for me personally, although this is unlikely). I ran toward her yelling “THAT’S MY SHIRT!” in what I’m sure was not exactly the extremely cool meet-the-T-Rex Runner-moment she was envisioning. She was super nice and it was very exciting to see her!
Around mile 20, Carrie was starting to get pretty worn out, so we happily took more walk breaks. She kept saying she felt bad for slowing us down, but let me go on the record here and state that unless I am trying to PR, I am always game for walk breaks and having fun. And we were definitely having fun! She kept saying how much more fun it was to run with us than to run a marathon alone. Well, DUH. We even got her to drink her first mid-marathon beer! It was Dos Equis, in case you were wondering.
We hit mile 20 with a sub-5 still in sight, but it seemed unlikely as we all kind of stopped caring about the pace. Carrie thought every person up ahead was her parents, so in the span of about 6 miles, we identified her father as a middle-aged woman, a teenage boy, and several other people that ended up looking nothing like her parents. Marathon brain will do that to you, I guess! We walked for long stretches, which was fine by me because the miles seemed to be going by so fast that I was getting sad that the race would soon be over. Who am I and what have I become? I wasn’t really in any kind of pain or particularly tired at all. I was just enjoying the day and I wanted to keep running! When we got to mile 25, sub-5 was long since out the window, but it was time for Carrie’s first ever T-Rex! I explained the rules to her, and in case I never explained them to you, here they are:
- You must run the entire distance from mile 25-26.2
- No walking is allowed
- Stopping in place (to drink water or go to the bathroom) is allowed, but you may not walk. Only run and stop. This ensures that the entire distance will be covered by running.
- It does not matter how fast or slow you go as long as the running motion is occurring. A shuffle is fine. In fact, it’s often the only possibility.
Surprisingly, there were some tough hills in the last mile of the race, but there were also some beautiful views of the lake where I had been interviewed the day before. Jake wasn’t kidding when he told us that it’s really pretty when it isn’t cloudy! As we passed mile 26, a bunch of Maniacs were waiting to run in with JC and they handed him his official 50 States Marathon Club finisher’s shirt to put on before he crossed the finish line. I can’t wait to do that in a couple of years!
Running across the finish was both satisfying and kind of sad. I was sad that the race was over, happy that JC had finished his 50 states, and thrilled that I had just run a marathon in Alaska! We had a great time running with Carrie, and even though she kept thanking us for running with her, we all had a great time, and I have a feeling this was one of those race experiences where we’ll be friends for life.
The medal was pretty big and had a great map of Alaska on the back that probably should have actually been on the front. We went and grabbed our finisher’s shirts and hung out for a bit before deciding to meet over at the beer tent.
For some reason that I cannot possibly begin to understand, there was no free beer at the beer tent. A fairly small cup cost $5! One, I don’t know about you, but I never carry cash when I run a marathon. Two, I don’t expect an unlimited beer supply, but I think one free beer for each runner is nice. So that was kind of disappointing, but oh well. We still got to hang out with all the Maniacs who had already finished, including Eddie, who had also just completed his 50 states! I am friends with such an incredible group of people, y’all.
We said our goodbyes to the group and headed back to the house for some much needed showers and a nap. Well, Amanda took a nap. I wrote my blog post about our Friday adventures, because I’ve got too much to write about and I’ll never fit it all in one post if I don’t break it up. I know this is wayyyy more content than you’re used to seeing from me in a week, but I really need to keep all the details straight so we can remember this amazing trip!
The party for JC and Eddie was set to be at the iconic Humpy’s Alehouse at 7 pm, but we quickly realized that was impossible as soon as we got there. The place doesn’t have a hostess or anything, so you have to find a table and seat yourselves, which is basically impossible when you have 15 people in your group and the place is packed. So instead, we went to a local Mexican place and relentlessly harassed the staff, trying to get them to seat us all at one table. It was quite the production, but we eventually got it figured out. There was some brief discussion about sitting outside, which immediately sent me into panic mode because HELLO, MOSQUITOS, and I have not yet invested in a mosquito net, although I probably should. In fact, I’m beginning to think Muslim women that wear the burqas are really on to something, because that is basically the closest thing you can get to being mosquito proof. I digress.
Dinner was such a blast. We really got a chance to get to know JC’s wife and Peter’s wife, and they are hilarious and so cool. I guess you’d kind of have to be to put up with those two! We all discussed race itineraries and I’m pretty sure Amanda and I successfully convinced JC and Peter to come out to Colorado next month for the Aspen Valley Marathon. What can I say – we’re bad influences.
So, it’s amazing to say, but I can cross Alaska off my list of states now. Whenever I tell people that I am running a marathon in every state, pretty much the first question that they always ask (after “DEAR GOD, WHY?”) is “Have you done Alaska and Hawaii yet?” Now I can answer that I have run a marathon in Alaska and that it was just as wonderful as I hoped it would be. 32 states down, 18 to go!