SEWARD — If you’ve ever been to the finish line of the Mount Marathon Race, you’ve either seen or been a part of the carnage, from bloody knees to lacerated hands to grimaces etched by running straight up and straight down a steep, 2,974-foot slab of rock.
There’s a medic tent there for a reason. The mountain inflicts pain.
So imagine making it off the mountains and running the final kilometer or so to the downtown finish line, your legs sapped of energy, and finding yourself in a sprint to the finish line.
Not for first place and the adulation that comes with winning one of Alaska’s most famous and extreme sporting events.
But for, let’s say, 13th place. Or for bragging rights at the next group training session.
Anchorage runners Greg Michaelson and Jeff Levin trained for the race with the Alaska Endurance Project, so when Martinson passed Levin with just a few meters left Wednesday in the men’s race, Levin knew what to do.
“I figured I would sprint, and he would sprint, and we’d see who had it,” said Levin, 30.
Michaelson had it, beating Levin to the finish line by two seconds in what looked like a grueling mad dash.
“It was a solid 10-second sprint,” Levin said. “He earned it.”
Michaelson, 28, said he passed Levin after they were off the mountain and on the road.
“I was dying,” Levin said.
“I just thought of being done,” Michaelson said.
It was Levin’s seventh race and his fourth-best time — 1 hour, 1 minute, 16 seconds, ending a streak of three straight sub-hour times.
Michaelson posted his best time in three races, 59:14. Why did so much time on the clock separate two guys who crossed the finish line two seconds apart? The race began in waves this year, and Levin was in a wave that started two minutes before Michaelson’s.
In the junior race that turns around halfway up the mountain, 15-year-old Skyler Belmear of Eagle River was running toward a big personal-best that got a little bigger when suddenly she discovered someone was right behind her — Hailey Ingalls, a 15-year-old from Seward.
“When I realized she was right there, I was like, I can’t let her beat me,” Belmear said.
The girls finished with identical times — 41:55 — but Belmear grabbed 13th place by a fraction of a second. The time slashed two minutes off Belmear’s previous-best 43:55 from 2018, her only other appearance in the race.
“It was hard,” Belmear said of the effort needed to sprint at the end of the race. “It’s really just the motivation to win, because I’m really competitive.”
Marvelous Marvins; ageless wonders
Four age-group records were set Wednesday.
The Marvin family of Palmer bagged two of them.
Christy Marvin, a two-time champ and the mother of three boys, crushed the women’s 40-49 record with a time of 52:21. She’s 40 so it’s her first year in that age group, and she slashed more than six minutes off Teresa Brady’s 2007 record of 58:42.
Coby Marvin, the oldest son at 14, broke the boys 12-14 record by one second with a second-place time of 28:39. Ali Papillon set the previous record of 28:40 in 2018.
Papillon, a 16-year-old from Colorado, beat Marvin by 23 seconds Wednesday for his first overall junior title after placing third in 2017 and second in 2018 (the 2019 junior race was cancelled because of poor air quality due to nearby wildfires, and all of the 2020 races were cancelled because of the pandemic).
Wednesday’s other records came from longtime Seward runners Fred Moore, 81, and Nancy Osborne, 70.
Moore clocked 1:30:17 to slash more than 22 minutes off Corky Corthill’s record of 1:52:59 set in 2009. Osborn finished in 1:49:51 to take more than seven minutes off Mary Hensel’s record of 1:57:02 set in 2008.
Moore, who in 2019 ran his 50th consecutive race, finished 219th among 255 men’s finishers. Osborne was 220th among 232 women’s finishers.
Signs of the times
Almost every business in downtown Seward has one or both of the following signs in their windows:
Go Lydia Go
A shortage of workers in the Resurrection Bay town of 3,000 is in evidence both by the number of businesses with “help wanted” signs in windows and the number of businesses with reduced hours of operation.
Hometown pride for Olympic-bound swimmer Lydia Jacoby is just as apparent. “Go Lydia Go!” signs with the Olympic rings are everywhere. Jacoby, a 17-year-old Tsunami Swim Club member, is a breaststroker on the U.S. Olympic team.
More hometown pride was on display Wednesday on Jefferson Street, the street that leads runners to the mountain. Huge signs urged on several Seward runners, including Fred Moore and women’s winner Hannah Lafleur.