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Saari wins Equinox Marathon a record-tying 6th time; Marvin bags 3rd win

  • Author: Doyle Woody
  • Updated: September 17, 2016
  • Published September 17, 2016

Matias Saari, whose history of the Equinox Marathon was recently published, furnished himself material for a second edition in Saturday's 54th annual race in Fairbanks.

The 46-year-old from Anchorage used a late charge to win for the third straight year and seize his record-tying sixth Equinox win, matching Stan Justice and Bob Murphy.

Saari also rewrote his own standard as the oldest men's winner of the punishing 26.2-miler that has been around since 1963.

"This is a special one, No. 6 — I certainly didn't see that coming three years ago," Saari said by cellphone. "(Justice and Murphy) are legends and great champions, and good friends. If I don't get seven — and it's not getting any easier — I'm happy to stay in their company at six."

Meanwhile, women's Equinox record-holder Christy Marvin of Palmer held off hard-charging Katie Krehlik late in the race and capped a remarkable season — 10 wins in 11 races, ranging from Mount Marathon to the marathon-length Crow Pass Crossing and the Equinox.

"It's been great," Marvin, 36, said of her season. "I've felt extremely blessed and very grateful."

Saari, who recently published "The Equinox: Alaska's Trailblazing Marathon," clocked 2 hours, 54 minutes, 27 seconds, on a hilly, unforgiving course that includes a grinding, strength-sapping climb of Ester Dome and a perilous descent of the downhill known as The Chute.

He topped runner-up Chris Eversman, 30, of Salcha, who ran 2:55:31. Early leader Cody Priest, 28, of Anchorage, claimed third in 2:57:48.

Marvin, 36, delivered the third-fastest time in race history with her 3:19:55 — she set the race record of 3:17:09 in 2014 — and she needed all her speed and will to gap Krehlik in the late stages.

With three Equinox wins, Marvin is one shy of the record shared by Tina Devine and Jane LeBlond.

Krehlik, 26, of Anchorage, finished in 3:20:16, the fifth-fastest women's time in Equinox history, and slashed more than five minutes off her time in her Equinox debut last year, when she also finished second. Jessica Vetsch, 31, of Anchorage, earned third place in 3:41:33.

[For complete results, go to equinoxmarathon.org]

Saari first won the Equinox in 2007, when he topped Harald Aas by 45 seconds. Saari's winning gap in his next four wins — 2009, 2010, 2014 and 2015 — ranged from 2:28 in 2010 to 7:16 last year.

His victory by 1:04 over Eversman on Saturday came after the two traded the lead a couple of times inside the last eight miles.

Saari said he made his decisive move on a downhill near Mile 24.

"Usually, by Mile 24, things are sorted out," he said. "But it was up in the air. I knew there is a big downhill at 23.8, so I sat on him and bided my time, and plotted my attack. I literally just started sprinting with all I had for a few seconds, then ran really hard for about 45 seconds.

"I got a gap of maybe seven or eight seconds. I didn't want it to come down to the final hill at Mile 25."

Marvin owned a lead of about three minutes on Krehlik at Mile 17, enduring some stomach issues along the way that required a quick trip into the woods.

Marvin, whose goal was to run in the neighborhood of 3:15, went out at an ambitious pace. Krehlik, who started more conservatively, caught Marvin with a few miles to go.

"I heard this 'patter, patter, patter' of feed on pavement, and I thought, 'Please tell me it's a guy,' " Marvin said. "It was Katie. She's so bubbly — 'Hi!'

"I thought, 'You're a lot more excited to see me than I am to see you.' I also thought, 'This is God kicking me out of my comfort zone.' "

Marvin said she moved back ahead of Krehlik on hills late in the race.

"It was a close one, a nail-biter, but I pulled it off," she said.

[Matias Saari's history of the Equinox Marathon is available at equinoxmarathonbook.com]

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