Mayor's Marathon gets a new finish line

bbragg@adn.comApril 23, 2013 

— The Mayor's Marathon is getting a makeover when it hits 40 this summer.

Because of construction planned at and around West High this summer, the city's oldest marathon will have a new finish line -- the west end of the Delaney Park Strip.

More than 24 miles of the 26.2-mile course will stay the same. Runners in the 40th edition of the marathon will still start at Bartlett High, they will still spend several miles on the military tank trails east of town, they will still follow the Chester Creek trail to the west end of town.

The change comes in the final two miles or so, when runners head downtown instead of to West High. Gone is the Mile 25 steep incline known as Insult Hill, aka Romig Hill, but the new course will still require climbing in the final mile.

"Either way, you're gonna hit hills," said Michael Friess, director of the Mayor's Marathon and Half-Marathon. "The West High hill probably hits you harder, but it's shorter. The park strip's is not quite as steep but it's a little bit longer."

Last year's races drew more than 4,200 participants. With that many people, the biggest impact of the new finish line could be for those looking for a place to park at the finish line. Parking is almost always at a premium downtown, although as Friess noted, parking at West is limited on race day.

"I think it's going to be better," he said. "There's easier access to parking garages, and there's backstreet parking, although people need to be considerate."

Friess, whose 1987 time of 2:24:44 stood as the men's record until Michael Wisniewski ran 2:22.29 in 2010, said the race committee hasn't decided how the new course will impact the record book. The Mayor's boasts some impressive records, including the women's record of 2 hours, 38 minutes, 19 seconds, set in 2002 by Olympic marathoner Chris Clark of Anchorage.

"At the very minimum, we'll have an event record, then a course record," he said. "It is a big change, but we don't want to minimize the history.

"The challenge of the marathon is the same. It isn't faster or slower. I think it's very, very comparable."

The 13.1mile half-marathon course, which used to start and end at West, will start and end at the park strip. And the 5.6-mile race has been shortened to a four-mile run.

Freiss said the race committee hasn't decided whether the park strip finish will become a permanent change or a one-time deal.

"We'd like to keep it there but it'll depend on how things go," he said.

"It's a good thing," he added. "It's not something we feel bad about. There's some positive renovations going on at West High, and they'll have a lot of construction in that area. We thought about what we could do, and I said, 'Well, why don't we do something bold, why don't we go up to the park strip?'

"We took a potentially bad thing -- we wouldn't want to finish our 40th in a construction zone -- and made it a great thing."

Reach Beth Bragg at bbragg@adn.com or 257-4335.

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