The running joke for years has been that the only thing more difficult than running the annual Mount Marathon for the first time is actually gaining a spot in the limited-entry race up and down the 3,022-foot beast in Seward.
But the race committee for the storied Fourth of July race has made several changes that may make it easier to get some new blood in the men's and women's fields.
Committee member Lori Draper said beginning this year the men's and women's fields will be boosted to 400 runners each from the previous limit of 350 each.
Also, beginning in 2013, only the top 225 finishers in each field will be granted priority entry for the following year. There are caveats -- anyone finishing in the top 10 of their age group, for instance, would be granted priority status. Previously, any racer who finished before a time cut-off earned priority status regardless of place.
Plus, anyone who enters the lottery for a spot in this year's race and is not chosen will be eligible for two lottery spots in 2013. If they are not chosen in 2013, their name would be on three lottery applications in 2014, and so on.
Last year, so many priority men entered there was no room in the limited field for newcomers until the race committee decided to add 20 lottery spots.
And, beginning in 2013, priority runners will be given the opportunity to skip the race one year and not lose their priority status in the following year.
All those changes were in response to a flood of priority runners who race year after year and thus leave virtually no room in limited fields for new participants.
And the annual auction for 10 spots each in the men's and women's fields has become so costly -- a men's spot has gone for more than $1,000 and averaged $993 in 2007 -- that it is prohibitive.
"People never stop running it,'' Draper said. "It's not just a race, but a social event. People talk about the camaraderie of the race. We were trying to think of lots of different ways to get people into the race.''
The entry fee in the men's and women's race have raised to $65 from $45.
The time between "wave'' starts in the men's and women's races will also be expanded to 10 minutes from the previous five minutes in an attempt to relieve congestion on the course.
For details of all the race changes, go online to Seward.com.
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.
By DOYLE WOODY
Anchorage Daily News