Pease's Mount Marathon record for women among Alaska elite

Beth Bragg
Daily News archive 1989

Record books aren't carved in stone, it just seems that way when it comes to Alaska's most storied mountain race.

Bill Spencer's Mount Marathon record of 43:23, set 30 years ago, isn't the only durable record in the annual Fourth of July race. Spencer's junior record of 24:34 was set in 1973 and hasn't been sniffed since.

And while the women's record isn't as old as either of those, the 50:30 run by Nancy Pease in 1990 has so far been every bit as durable as Spencer's marks.

The closest anyone has come to that time since was Pease herself; she ran a 51:41 in 1992. Last year's race produced two sub-52 times -- seven-time champion Cedar Bourgeois clocked 51:48 and runnerup Holly Brooks ran 51:58 -- and sparked some hope in Brooks that the record is attainable.

"Before last year I thought that the female record was really tough, but then Cedar and I came within a minute and a half," Brooks said. "Before that I thought, wow, that's going to be really hard to beat. After last year I looked at my time and thought, this is attainable."

Matias Saari, the 2009 men's champion, said it will take someone with Brooks' uphill strength and Bourgeois' downhill speed to break the record. The stats back him up: Last year, Brooks made the ascent in 38:06 (Bourgeois did it in 39:59) and Bourgeois made it from the top to the finish line in 11:48 (Brooks did it in 13:52).

"Combine Holly's uphill and Cedar's downhill and it'd be a record," Saari said. "But to find someone with both of those skills currently, it's almost impossible."

Yeah, yeah, nothing's impossible. But the durability of the records at Mount Marathon and a couple of other races make you wonder. Here are a few more of Alaska's so-far untouchable records:

Nancy Pease, Bird Ridge

In 1993, Pease set a record on Bird Ridge that is considered far more impressive than her record in the Seward race.

She won the uphill-only race -- a three-mile run up a mountain that gains 3,500 feet in elevation -- in 42:27. No other woman has broken 43 minutes, and no other woman besides Pease has broken 44 minutes (she won in 43:06 in 1992 and in 43:39 in 1990). The fourth-fastest time belongs to Bourgeois, who took the 2007 title in 45:50.

"The Bird Ridge record, I don't know if that will ever go down," Brooks said. "The Mount Marathon record will go down way before Bird Ridge does. I don't even know if it's human."

Stan Justice, Equinox Marathon

In 1984, Justice won the annual September marathon in Fairbanks in 2:41:30. Since then, no other runner has broke 2:47 (in 1986, Justice clocked 2:45:12).

That's not a state marathon record, but the Equinox isn't your typical marathon. The 26.2-mile course is run on a combination of pavement and trails and features 2,300 feet of climbing and 2,300 feet of descent. It's known as one of the toughest marathons in the country.

Jim Galanes, Arctic Valley Run

In 1982, Galanes -- a world-class nordic skier in the 1980s -- completed the torturous 12.6-mile run up and down Arctic Valley Road in 1:06:44. The part-paved, part-gravel road gains 2,500 feet in the 3.3 miles from the parking lot to the top, and the descent is murder on legs.

Records for the race are incomplete, but the fastest time since Galanes' record run appears to be the 1:10:24 clocked by 1988 winner Eric Day. In recent years, winners have clocked times in the 1:20 range.