Mount Marathon race will include trail sweepers, organizer says

Kyle Hopkins

Organizers of the Mount Marathon race in Seward said they hope to use volunteer "trail sweepers" to ensure everyone makes it safely off the mountain during this year's contest, a committee member said.

A 65-year-old rookie, Michael LeMaitre, disappeared during the Independence Day race last year. His apparent death has prompted a review of race rules for the popular July Fourth event.

Seward Chamber of Commerce director Cindy Clock told the Daily News earlier this month that race directors had not adopted a change that would require volunteers or race officials to walk the trail and search for straggling runners.

Clock later said she was mistaken. Trail sweepers would indeed be used during the race, but the decision had not required a vote by the volunteer committee, she said.

Asked for clarification, Clock referred questions to race committee member Lori Draper.

"(Clock) remembers us talking about some of the reasons sweepers wouldn't have helped this year, and how hard it was to find volunteers," Draper wrote in an email. "We have always had trail sweepers as volunteer spots that we need to fill. (But) the past couple of years we haven't been able to find anyone to do this difficult job."

Draper said she is a former race director who has volunteered with the event since the late 1970s.

"Since the unfortunate events of this past year, we are going to begin earlier, cast our net wider, and ask for more help in recruiting volunteers," Draper wrote. "Already the Alaska Mountain Runners have offered to help solicit volunteers with us."

The Seward chamber hosts the race while a nine-member committee votes on rules changes, Draper said. New this year is a requirement that adult runners make it halfway up the mountain within one hour or face disqualification.

Some changes that don't require a vote are still under discussion, Draper said. The committee has talked about adding fencing along the trail and requiring first-time participants to sign an oath saying they have trained on the mountain before attempting the race, she said.

LeMaitre was making his first trip up the mountain when he disappeared, his family has said.

Meantime, the committee is seeking volunteers to aid in the trail-sweeping effort, Draper said. She urged anyone interested in participating to call the chamber at 224-8051.

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