Josiah Martin hiked halfway up Seward’s Mount Marathon on Thursday to cheer for his mom during the women’s race. He gave her some water when she passed him, he waited for her to come back down from the summit, and then he began his descent.
He was just about to the cliffs when he saw a big crowd of people.
“Oh no, there’s a racer down,” he thought.
“There were three or four volunteers around her and I looked at her shorts and her sports bra and I said, oh my god, that’s my mom,” Martin said.
Ronna Martin, a 52-year-old from Kenai, slipped and fell near the end of the steep descent from the 3,022-foot mountain.
Josiah, 24, helped carry her the rest of the way down the mountain and to the nearby hospital emergency room, which gets its share of traffic every July 4th when about a thousand runners take on Mount Marathon’s rugged slopes.
From there Martin was flown to Anchorage with a traumatic brain injury, a fractured skull, a broken ankle and numerous cuts and contusions.
“Her husband said there’s two places the size of his fist that aren’t covered by bruises and lacerations,” said Lara McGinnis, a family friend who is the general manager of the Martin family business. She started a fundraising campaign for Martin, who has faith-based health care but not traditional health insurance.
Josiah Martin said his mother might be able to come home Monday. She was “slow and dizzy” in the hours after the accident, but she has passed cognitive tests, he said. She’s non-weight-bearing for the next couple of months and doctors have banned electronic devices for a couple of weeks to let her brain rest.
People who saw Martin go down told Josiah she was at the cliffs when her foot slipped. She slipped, slid and tumbled about 20 feet, he said.
“She has lacerations all down her back from the slide and big gashes in her head,” he said. “A lot of stitches.”
Josiah said his mother recognized him when he reached her. “She was glad I was there. She said, ‘I just want to finish the race.’ ’’
Mount Marathon is a special race for the Martin family, which owns and operates the Diamond M Ranch Resort in Kenai.
Ronna and Blair Martin are lifelong Alaskans who will celebrate their 30th anniversary next year. She’s part of the Lindeman clan, which came to the Peninsula in 1967; the Martins arrived around 1977, Josiah said.
“Mount Marathon has been a family tradition for the last 30 years,” Josiah said. “My mom did it two or three years in her 20s, then had a handful of kids and she started again last year.”
Martin’s extended family includes brother-in-law Todd Boonstra, a four-time Mount Marathon champion who won three straight races from 1996-98.
Josiah is the second of five children, and all of them are veterans of at least the junior race. The middle child, Matti, was 9 years old when he finished second in the 7-11 age group at the 2009 Mount Marathon junior race.
A few weeks later, he died at the Ninilchik Fairgrounds. He was grazing one of the family’s milk cows and tied the rope to his waist to keep his hands free. Something spooked the cow and it bolted, dragging Matti a hundred yards, Josiah said. He died the same day.
“He beat my time from when I was 14, so he was a little go-getter and an athlete,” Josiah said. “We all made shirts that say ‘Run for Matti’ and we’ve worn those shirts every year.
“… One thing about the Martin family is we’ve gone through so much with the death of my brother and running our own business, we’re sort of a resilient group. My mom’s tough. If anyone’s going to pull through even stronger, it’s my mom.”