SEWARD - A veteran men's runner suffered significant injuries Wednesday in the Mount Marathon race when he apparently fell descending the cliffs at the mountain's base, according to witnesses and a race official.
Lori Draper of the race committee said the injured man wore bib No. 47, the number assigned to Matthew Kenney, 41, of Anchorage, who witnesses identified as the injured man.
Witnesses said Kenney appeared to suffer a broken leg, a cut to his head and possibly a puncture wound from a piece of rock or shale. Draper said she was told the victim had a leg injury, a cut to his head and possibly a puncture wound.
Draper and Kenney's mother, Susan Kenney, said Matthew Kenney was medevacked to Anchorage.
Kenney, a former Service High wrestler and football player who competed in those sports in college, is well known in mountain-running circles. He took up the sport nearly a decade ago and became hooked.
Kenney several times has completed Mount Marathon in less than an hour -- a sub-hour performance is generally considered elite territory for men -- and finished a career-best 35th in 2007, when he clocked a personal-record time of 55 minutes, 15 seconds.
The steep cliffs at the base of 3,022-foot Mount Marathon, which can prove slippery in weather like the light rain that the men's field ran in Wednesday, are particularly tricky to negotiate, even for veteran runners.
Medical personnel are stationed at the base of the mountain during Mount Marathon races and a hospital is located just blocks from the base of the mountain.
Sheryl Loan, best known as the eight-time champion of the Tour of Anchorage bicycle race, proved she's doesn't need wheels to be a force on steep inclines.
Loan, 53, of Eagle River, finished seventh in her Mount Marathon debut, clocking 59:23, which torched the previous 50-59 age-group record of 1:01:28 set by four-time women's champion Carmen Young-Dunham in 2006.
"Running down, I kept telling myself, 'You can do this, you can do this,' " Loan said.
The course on Mount Marathon taxes runner's from the starting gun, beginning with the uphill run on city streets to the base of the mountain. That's right up Loan's alley, thanks to her cycling background.
"I'm used to going hard from the start and going as hard as I can to the finish before I totally blow up,'' Loan said.
Ellyn Brown, 59, of Anchorage, who once held the 50-59 record and Wednesday finished 17th in 1:04:07, was suitably impressed with Loan's debut.
"That's awesome,'' Brown said. "That's incredible.''
Later, Barney Griffith, 54, of Anchorage, busted the men's 50-59 age-group record he set in 2008, racking a 10th-place finish in 48:09 to slice 14 seconds off his previous standard.
And he said he owes it to going vegan beginning four months ago after doing some research prompted by winter training that left him tired and listless.
Griffith said his new diet furnished renewed energy and seems to make it easier for him to recover after hard workouts, hence Wednesday's performance.
"It means a lot to me because I'm not getting any younger,'' Griffith said.
Griffith also limited his beer-drinking to weekends and, in the last month, went beer-free. After Wednesday's record performance, though, he reckoned his beer moratorium was likely to come to an end that evening.
"I might have a few tonight,'' Griffith said with a grin.
Let's go sledding
One section of the snowfield near the top of Mount Marathon provided such a deep trench that racers likened it to being at a water park as they slid down on their butts.
"It was a wild ride up there,'' said racer Arianne Parisi. "The snowslide was like an amusement park ride. The sides were above my head.''
And now let's check the damage
Men's third-place finisher Matias Saari, racing in thin, loose running shorts, slid down some snow near the top of the mountain and paid the price -- he feared he had lost some skin off his booty.
"I never learn to wear bike shorts,'' Saari lamented to runner-up Trond Flagstad, outfitted in said bike-type shorts. "My ass is on fire. I'm afraid to look.''
So, a friend said he'd take a glimpse. Saari raised the back, left side of his shorts.
Verdict: Oh, yeah, that's some race rash.
Corky's still The Man
Corky Corthell, who owns the men's 80-89 age group record, was scheduled to race again this year, but a stroke he suffered this spring derailed that plan.
Still, the man beloved by mountain runners and an inspiration for them, was on hand as a spectator Wednesday, along with his wife, Shirley.
Corthell, 83, said he reckons he's recovered to the point he's at 60 percent of his pre-stroke capabilities. And he's not ruling out a return to racing.
"Maybe next year,'' he said.
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.
By DOYLE WOODY
Anchorage Daily News