Globetrotting New York runner with Ecuadorian roots takes Anchorage Mayor’s Marathon

The 48th annual Anchorage Mayor’s Marathon on Saturday featured competitors from not only all over the country, but from around the globe.

Diego Vanegas, who won the men’s race, has used his passion for running as a passport.

“I’ve ran in Lebanon, Beirut, Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Spain, Australia, Tasmania, all over the place,” Vanegas said. “I think that’s the best way to get to see a place, city or country.”

Vanegas, a New York City resident, finished the 26.2-mile race with mark of 2 hours, 46 minutes, 10 seconds.

Even though he has run races around the world, this marked his first time in Alaska — and he made the most it by finishing more than eight minutes ahead of the next closest runner, Anchorage’s Pete Pounds. He clocked in at 2:54:28.

“Alaska is something different, so I say to myself, ‘Hey, let’s try Alaska,’ ” Vanegas said. “I’m always looking for random places in the world.”

Although the Mayor’s Marathon route is relatively flat, Vanegas said the area is reminiscent of his home country of Ecuador.

“I’m originally from the altitude in the high mountains of Ecuador so I’m used to this,” Vanegas said.

The 47-year-old began running competitively 25 years ago.

“Maybe 60 (races),” he said. “I’ve lost count.”

He said that he likes that Alaska is much quieter than New York City. He watched several documentaries about the state prior to making the trip up and was excited to finally experience and explore it.

Vanegas was so far ahead of the rest of the pack that he missed the opportunity to see some Alaska wildlife up close: There was reportedly a bear somewhere along the trail between Kincaid Park and the Delaney Park Strip.

“Well, I guess he was behind me trying to chase me but couldn’t catch up,” Vanegas said.

Many runners are solely focused on crossing the finish line when they hit the final stretch of a race, but the only thing that was on Vanegas’ mind during the last leg of the marathon was his late mother, whom he lost three years ago.

“The last mile and actually the whole race was dedicated to my beloved mother,” Vanegas said.

The women’s division of the marathon was won by 26-year-old Ilana Schnaufer, in just her second race since her track and field days at the University of Delaware from 2013-2017.

“The only other one I’ve done was the Hatcher Pass marathon in 2019,” Schnaufer said. “I just kind of ran it for fun, but this was the first time I really trained for it.”

She didn’t realize that she was in first place until she got closer to the end and spectators, volunteers and other athletes who finished shorter races started cheering her on.

“A couple people were yelling it to me, so I had an idea,” Schnaufer said.

Originally from upstate New York, Schnaufer moved to Alaska five years ago and has had several friends participate in the race over the years. The former Skinny Raven employee was motivated to take part to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

“I’ve been seriously training for the last five months,” Schnaufer said.

When she ran the final stretch, the only thing on her mind was reaching the finish line and how she intended to celebrate.

“I’m going to eat a lot of food and take a really big nap,” Schnaufer said.

Her time of 3:22:39 was first among all female participants and the 13th best among all racers.

Mayor’s Marathon

in Anchorage

(For complete results visit the Mayor’s Marathon website)

Men’s Top 10

1. Diego Vanegas, New York City, 2:46.10; 2. Pete Pounds, Anchorage, 2:54.29; 3. James Miller, Anchorage, 2:55.45; 4. Evan Baker, Dallas, 2:56.04; 5. Adam Winner, An charge, 3:06.10; 6. Ian McCarthy, Anchorage, 3:07.33; 7. Devin Brown, Salt Lake City, 3:07.36; 8. Jonathan Macdonald, Cumming, Ga., 3:12.11; 9. Brian Glaspell, Chugiak, 3:14.52; 10. Mark Holman, Anchorage, 3:20.55.

Women’s Top 10

1. Ilana Schnaufer, Anchorage, 3:22.39; 2. Shannon Perrins, Anchorage, 3:23.34; 3. Amanda Cherok, Homer, 3:27.30; 4. Melissa Trammell, Leavenworth, Wash., 3:27.38; 5. Kimberly McNabb, Houston, Texas, 3:29.56; 6. Lisa Joanne Walbridge, Harston, England, 3:33.14; 7. Elizabeth Roedl, Homer, 3:35.38; 8. Nicole White, Cincinnati, 3:36.19; 9. Susan Coleman, La Jolla, Calif., 3:36.53; 10. Arianna Gross, Anchorage, 3:38.10.


1. Zoe Dickens, Anchorage, 4:04.46

Josh Reed

Josh Reed is a sports reporter for the Anchorage Daily News. He's a graduate of West High School and the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.