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An Anchorage man paid $1,600 for a Mount Marathon bib, and things went downhill fast after that

  • Author: Beth Bragg
  • Updated: July 19
  • Published July 13

Runners in the first wave of the Mount Marathon men's race leave the starting line. (Marc Lester / ADN)

Suffice it to say the people who donated to Taylor Turney’s quest to enter Mount Marathon got a solid return on their investment.

After paying $1,600 for a race bib at the prerace auction, Turney cashed in by registering the second-fastest known downhill time in the history of the treacherous Fourth of July race in Seward.

A civil engineer who graduated from Service High and UAA, Turney made it from the top of the mountain to the downtown finish line in 10 minutes and 1 second. He missed Eric Strabel’s much-respected record of 10-minutes-flat by an eyelash.

Turney, 24, passed 15 people after making the turn at the top of the mountain, which rises 3,022 feet from the race’s nearly sea-level start line.

He was the 33rd man to the top and 18th to the finish line to claim a top-20 result in his Mount Marathon debut. He finished seven minutes behind race winner Max King, but he was 91 seconds faster than King on the downhill.

Turney’s swift descent came on a hot, dry day when nearly every racer stirred up clouds of dust as they charged down the steep slopes.

“It didn’t really matter how fast you were going, there was a trail of dust behind every racer,” Turney said. “A little past the halfway mark in the scree where it narrows up and it’s green on both sides, there were a couple guys in front of me and I was almost running blind for a few seconds there.

“I think everyone was getting into that.”

Runners kick up dust on Mount Marathon. (Marc Lester / ADN)

Despite the dust, it was a day for game-changing downhills.

In the women’s race, Seward’s Hannah Lafleur was third to the top of the mountain but first to the finish line, thanks to a descent that ranks eighth on the list of fastest-known women’s downhills.

Lafleur rocketed down in 12:17. As fast as she was, she was 50 seconds off the record of 11:27 set in 2018 by Denali Foldager-Strabel.

Mount Marathon was first contested in 1915, but the list of downhill times dates back just 30 years. Mount Marathon officials started keeping track of uphill and downhill split-times in 2005, but research by Alaska Mountain Runners goes back to the 1989 race.

Brad Precosky, one of the group’s board members and a six-time Mount Marathon champion, hopes split-times from races before 1989 may materialize so the list can be more inclusive. Right now it includes 52 men who have made the descent in 11 minutes or less and 20 women who have made it in 13 minutes or less.

Precosky is on the list a record seven times and Strabel is there six times. Appearing once is Bill Spencer for his 1991 descent of 10:44, which is almost certainly not his fastest downhill. When Spencer won the 1981 race, his record time of 43:21 included what one newspaper account called a 10-minute descent, Precosky said.

“But that's completely anecdotal and doesn't give anything precise between 10:00 or 10:59,” Precosky said by email. “I know that when I first starting running this race, the cliffs were considerably smoother than today, so it may be possible that there were more sub-11 (minute) downhills, but around 25 years ago I scoured and read every paper/article dating back through the history of the race and never came across mention of (downhill) times.”

For Turney, his 10-minute descent followed four years of futile efforts to get into Mount Marathon.

The race has a limited field of 350 men, 350 women and 300 juniors, and it is so popular that first-time runners need to win a lottery or successfully petition the race organizers. If that doesn’t work, they can shell out big bucks at the annual auction the night before the race.

“I’ve been trying the lottery, and this was my fourth year,” Turney said. “When I got the news I didn’t get in again, I was obviously really bummed, but I hadn’t seriously considered the auction option.”

Turney is a serious athlete — he ran track and cross country at UAA and currently competes in Spartan races, a world-wide series of obstacle-course races. One of his sponsors is chiropractor Trevor Tew, who urged Turney to try winning a race bib at the auction.

“He said, ‘I would match whatever you put in.’ I knew the auction would be incredibly expensive, but that put it in my head,” Turney said.

Then his parents and his wife’s parents chipped in some money. And then fellow Service High graduate Max Romey said he would donate three of his limited-edition Mount Marathon watercolors for Turney to put into a drawing for his donors.

“When he did that, I said OK, I’m going for it,” he said.

Max Romey donated three of his Mount Marathon watercolors to help Taylor Turney raise money for the Mount Marathon bib auction. Turney paid $1,600 for his spot in the race. (Photo courtesy Taylor Turney)

Seven men’s bibs were auctioned off. Turney won the third one with a bid of $1,600. The next three all went for more than $2,000, he said.

“My chest was beating during the auction,” he said. “I was more nervous for the auction than I was for the race.”

Come race day, he was ready to attack the downhill.

“I love running downhill so much it’s gotten to the point where I’m actually comfortable with it,” Turney said. “It almost feels safer to let yourself go, because when you’re trying to hold back and control all of your movements, it sets you up for more falls and trips. So I really try to relax and let the mountain take me down.”

Turney finished the race in 50:41. That’s about $31 per minute, based on what he paid for his bib. For the downhill alone, that’s a cool $160 per minute.

“It was worth it,” he said.

Fastest known Mount Marathon downhill times

Men under 11 minutes (From 1989-2019)

1. Eric Strabel 0:10:00 2013

2. Taylor Turney 0:10:01 2019

3. Jacob Kirk 0:10:06 2018

4. Eric Strabel 0:10:08 2012

5. Jacob Kirk 0:10:12 2017

6. Brad Precosky 0:10:15 2001

7. Trond Flagstad 0:10:18 2008

8. Killian Jornet 0:10:21 2015

9. Brad Precosky 0:10:24 1999

10. Eric Strabel 0:10:25 2011

11. Ryan Cox 0:10:28 2018

12. Max King 0:10:29 2018

13. Ryan Cox 0:10:33 2012

14. Trond Flagstad 0:10:33 2012

15. Trond Flagstad 0:10:34 2010

16. Ryan Cox 0:10:35 2017

17. Benjamin Marvin 0:10:37 2016

18. Braun Kopsack 0:10:38 1991

19. Brad Precosky 0:10:39 2005

20. Ryan Cox 0:10:39 2016

21. Ricky Gates 0:10:40 2013

22. Lyon Kopsack 0:10:40 2016

23. Brad Precosky0:10:41 2000

24. David Norris 0:10:41 2018

25. Brad Precosky 0:10:42 2008

26. Bill Spencer 0:10:44 1991

27. Eric Strabel 0:10:44 2016

28. Lyon Kopsack 0:10:44 2018

29. Matias Saari 0:10:45 2012

30. Benjamin Marvin 0:10:45 2018

31. Brad Precosky 0:10:46 1998

32. Braun Kopsack 0:10:47 1996

33. Eric Strabel 0:10:47 2010

34. Lyon Kopsack 0:10:47 2015

35. Nick Elson 0:10:47 2016

36. Brad Precosky 0:10:49 2002

37. Braun Kopsack 0:10:50 1999

38. Brad Benter 0:10:50 2012

39. Ryan Cox 0:10:50 2019

40. Brian Stoecker 0:10:51 2002

41. Eric Strabel 0:10:52 2015

42. Jacob Kirk 0:10:52 2016

43. David Norris 0:10:52 2016

44. Lance Kopsack 0:10:53 1999

45. Darin Markwardt 0:10:53 2001

46. Rory Egelus 0:10:54 2012

47. Lyon Kopsack 0:10:56 2017

48. Lyon Kopsack 0:10:56 2019

49. Matias Saari 0:10:57 2013

50. Braun Kopsack 0:10:58 1997

51. Rory Egelus 0:10:59 2006

52. Lance Kopsack 0:11:00 1997

Women under 13 minutes (1989-2019)

1. Denali Foldager-Strabel 0:11:27 2018

2. Emelie Forsberg 0:11:31 2015

3. Cedar Bourgeois 0:11:48 2010

4. Denali Foldager-Strabel 0:11:51 2016

5. Christy Marvin 0:12:04 2014

6. Christy Marvin 0:12:08 2018

7. Cedar Bourgeois 0:12:14 2008

8. Hannah Lafleur 0:12:17 2019

9. Laura Brosius 0:12:18 2012

10. Allison Ostrander 0:12:21 2017

11. Cedar Bourgeois 0:12:28 2005

12. Cedar Bourgeois 0:12:28 2007

13. Allison Barnwell 0:12:45 2012

14. Cedar Bourgeois 0:12:46 2006

15. Lindsey Flagstad 0:12:51 2005

16. Lauren Fritz 0:12:53 2012

17. Christy Marvin 0:12:55 2017

18. Kikkan Randall 0:12:56 2011

19. Kikkan Randall 0:12:58 2005

20. Christy Marvin 0:12:58 2016

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