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Meet Fred Moore, the Energizer Bunny of Mount Marathon

  • Author: Beth Bragg
  • Updated: July 4
  • Published July 2

Fred Moore leads a group of runners down Mount Marathon in the 2018 race. This year will mark Moore's 50th straight race. (Loren Holmes / ADN archive)

It’s impressive enough to know this: Fred Moore plans to race Mount Marathon for the 50th year in a row Thursday.

It’s flabbergasting to think what else you could say in that sentence.

Fred Moore plans to race Mount Marathon for the 50th year in a row, and in each of his previous races he has won an award for a top-five finish in his age group.

Fred Moore plans to race Mount Marathon for the 50th year in a row, and in his previous races he has broken the one-hour barrier 27 times.

Fred Moore plans to race Mount Marathon for the 50th year in a row, and he can’t wait until next year, when he’ll be 80 years old and will have a chance to set his fifth age-group record on the famous mountain in his hometown of Seward.

“I’m still stuck with those 70-, 71-year-old kids. They’re tough,” Moore said. “It’s the toughest age-group competition I’ve had since my 40s.”

Moore is to Mount Marathon what Mick Jagger is to rock ’n’ roll and Betty White is to TV. He’s always there, and he always puts in a quality performance.

Born in September 1939, Moore is 79. Born in 1915, the Mount Marathon race will be held for the 92nd time Thursday, barring a cancellation due to smoke. Not much math is needed to realize Moore has raced more than half of the races.

A little more math is required to determine that since he turned 55, Moore has run his age or beat his age in 16 of 24 races — meaning his time in minutes was the same or less than his age. The last time he did that was 2017, when he was 77 and finished the race in 77 minutes and change.

Fred Moore watches a runner negotiates a rocky section of cliffs during a course inspection held for rookie runners. Moore was among the veteran runners showing the best ways to ascend and descend the tricky race trail. (Matt Tunseth / ADN archive)

Moore said he climbs the mountain every third day or so. Early during his Mount Marathon love affair, he climbed it at least once a month for 89 straight months.

“Back in my 30s, one year at the end of the ’70s I went up the mountain 29 times in the month of June,” he said. “Nowadays I time it. I don’t time the downhill — I’m not pushing the downhill hard — but I do keep track of the times it takes to go up.”

What’s his best time this summer on the 3,022-foot ascent?

“I’m not going to tell you that,” he said.

Moore and his wife, Phyllis Shoemaker, live about 3 miles from Mount Marathon, and for many years Moore’s workouts included running from home to the mountain and back.

Shoemaker raced Mount Marathon 20 times, the last time in 2006, before she got both knees replaced. She still climbs the mountain but she doesn’t race it because of the punishing pace of the descent.

Shoemaker is the reason Moore wears pink shorts, his fashion choice long before it became de rigueur for many women. Moore is a veteran of the Equinox Marathon in Fairbanks, and the first time he ran that race Shoemaker had a tough time picking him out in the crowd. The next time Moore ran the Equinox, he wore pink shorts to make it easy for Shoemaker to spot him.

Mount Marathon organizers are encouraging this year’s runners to wear pink in honor of Moore’s milestone run, said race organizer Jen Leahy of the Seward Chamber of Commerce.

“I stopped at Value Village and I have a pink ensemble,” she said. “We’re hoping the spectators will get in on the fun too. Maybe this will be the first year it will be hard for Phyllis to spot him because there will be so much pink.”

Fred Moore started wearing pink shorts decades ago to make it easier for his wife to spot him. (Loren Holmes / ADN archives)

Shoemaker will have a busy day Thursday. She’s a sweeper for the women’s race, and she’ll be tracking four generations of the Moore family who plan to celebrate the family patriarch’s big 5-0 by running the race — daughter Bonnie Moore, son Walter Moore, grandsons Charles Moore and Curtis Silook and great-grandson Prestin Wahlberg.

“I was looking at the (bib) numbers,” Shoemaker said. “Fred has No. 50, and Prestin in the junior race has 250 and Charles has 350. Walter in the senior race has 450, Curtis has 550, and Bonnie has 450 in the women’s race.

“So they’re all getting on this 50 bandwagon.”

The bandwagon started rolling in 1970, when Moore finished his first Mount Marathon in 1 hour, 3 minutes, 20 seconds at age 30.

“It was early June and I was out of work and had plenty of time on my hands, and the mountain is just sitting there,” he said.

He broke the one-hour mark for the first time in 1973 (54:42), recorded his personal best in 1976 (53:23) and cracked the top 10 for the first and only time in 1987 (ninth place in 53:56; he was 47 and had a hernia). His streak of sub-60:00 finishes ended in 2000 at age 60 (1:00:56).

Moore said preserving his longevity streak became more important when he became the race’s all-time leader with his 27th straight race in 1996. He surpassed Ed Schuster, who did 26 in a row before calling it quits in 1994.

The streak has helped push him past pain on a couple of occasions, Moore said.

“One year I started running and got maybe a block and something popped in my knee. I didn’t know if I could go on or not, but I slowed down and pushed on my knee and it went back in place,” he said.

“One year well into the streak, my back went out two days before the race. I was in my 60s by then so I wouldn’t stop (the streak) no matter what. With some brandy and pain medication and plain guts I got through it. The next day I hiked Exit Glacier with my wife.”

Fred Moore keeps on eye on racers during the 2006 women's race. (Stephen Nowers / ADN archives)

Moore is the Energizer Bunny of Resurrection Bay, and he keeps going in part because people in his hometown expect him to. Once summer hits, just about everyone he sees asks the same thing: “Are you running the mountain this year?”

“It’s just something I have to do now,” Moore said. “I don’t mind that. A person has to have something to do when they retire.”

Moore owns the Mount Marathon age-group record in the 70-79 division (1:07:09, set in 2010 at age 70) and previously owned the 60-69 record (1:00:56 in 2000 at age 60), the 50-59 record (54:18 in 1990 at age 50) and the 40-49 record (53:56 in 1987 at age 47). He finished last year’s race in 1:20:40, his slowest time yet.

Moore said the toughest part of Mount Marathon is the part spent running on pavement — a few blocks from the Fourth Street start line to the mountain, and a few blocks from the mountain to the Fourth Street finish line.

“I’m so damn slow,” he explained.

Moore starts in the first wave of men’s runners along with Mount Marathon’s fastest racers, but he said he’s usually one of the last to reach the mountain. He said he reels in some runners on the climb up to the cliffs and gets a few more on the way down.

When he gets off the mountain, his pace slows.

“You know how a baseball player hits a home run, and you know how he rounds the bases kind of slow? That’s kind of how I go down the street, because I don’t want to get to the finish line looking tired, so I really don’t push myself down the street,” he said. “The street isn’t my thing.”

Ah, but the mountain is.

Fred Moore plans to race Mount Marathon for the 50th year in a row on Thursday, and he hopes in another decade he’s still running it.

“I wouldn’t mind being on the mountain when I’m 90,” he said.

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