SEWARD — Despite being a previous champion at Mount Marathon, Max King didn’t think he’d be viewed as a favorite entering Monday’s 94th running of the race.
The reason? At 42, he figured he’d be swallowed up by a field of talented, hungry young runners.
Instead he crossed the finish in 43 minutes, 37 seconds as the oldest winner in the race’s storied history.
“I knew this is a really good field and I don’t think anybody really counted on me being up there because of my age,” said King, who races out of Bend, Oregon. “At this point, It’s been three years since I’ve been here. Everybody kind of expected a 42-year-old might be slowing down.
“So I mean, I didn’t have that kind of pressure on me. I was just kind of going for that age group record first and then you know, if I found myself in the lead. I tried to be the oldest winner. That’s I think that’s kind of cool.”
King, the 2019 Mount Marathon champ, has run in all kinds of races, from ultra marathons to championship mountain courses. He said mixing it up has kept him competitive this late in his career.
“The love of the sport,” he said. “I love doing it. I love competing. A lot of people will start to lose that motivation. And I can keep that motivation just because I’m always doing something different. And so I find like it just keeps me motivated, to do new things and try new things and then you know, learn from those experiences.”
David Norris, the 2021 champ and men’s record holder, was a late scratch with a heel injury. Norris and King battled in 2018, with both putting up blazing fast times.
Norris won that race but King’s 42:33 was the best time from anyone in the 30-39 age group and was the fourth-fastest overall time in history.
With no Norris, King led the race at the turnaround and cruised to victory.
APU skier Thomas O’Harra finished second, 80 seconds off the pace set by King. It was the first Mount Marathon for O’Harra, who won the Bird Ridge Hill Climb last month.
“It’s funny, I came down last week and ran the full mountain for the first time since I was in high school, almost 10 years ago,” O’Harra said. “It’s scary, it’s steep and there’s cliffs and you’re looking at everything. But during the race, you get this tunnel vision and I was just looking at where to put my feet and going as fast as I could.”
O’Harra said he was happy to carry the flag as the top Alaska finisher.
“I hadn’t even thought of that until somebody else mentioned it after the finish,” he said. “It’d be good to see an Alaskan on the podium, it’s kind of an Alaskan race but it’s great to have competitors from the Outside as well.”
King, who has raced all over the world, said Mount Marathon is one of the most cherished stops.
“This whole thing,” he said, with a sweeping hand motion. “The community, the history behind the race, all of the people who have run it over the years that have such a connection to this race and make it really, really special. And the crowds. I mean, this is phenomenal. You just don’t get this at any other race in the U.S.”
He said at this point he doesn’t plan to defend his title next year, but does plan to return.
“Hopefully I’ll give away my spot next year let somebody else run and have my son come up and run it,” King said. “I talked to him about it the other day and he’s like, ‘I can run that.’ So hopefully we’ll get him up here.”
Marvin sets junior record en route to boys title
Coby Marvin already had an age-group record at Mount Marathon juniors race.
What he didn’t have was a championship. That all changed Monday and the 15-year-old doubled his record count and won the boys division, shattering the previous age group mark with a time of 25:27.
Marvin said the conditions in Seward were perfect for a fast time, but he still didn’t anticipate coming close to the record.
“I didn’t think I could run that fast,” he said. “I was just hoping to break 27 (minutes). I didn’t until I hit the juniors pole that I had even a chance. And I was l looking at my watch running down the road and I was like, maybe.”
Marvin set the 12-14 year old age division in 2021, but the overall junior race was won by Talkeetna’s Ali Papillon.
But Marvin, who attends Colony High in Palmer, burned past Papillon and the rest of the field Monday en route to a race win and a record in the 15-17 year old age group.
Marvin shattered the previous mark set by Miles Knotek in 2011 by 51 seconds. The overall junior mark was set in 1973 by Bill Spencer at 24:30. The junior race started in 1964 but the junior age divisions were formed in 1994.
Papillon ran a strong race for a second-place finish, finishing in 25:43, a mark that also broke the previous age group record.
Marvin joined his mom Christy Marvin as a Mount Marathon champion. She’s won the race twice.
Coby Marvin said the record might be in jeopardy — and from a runner within the family. His brother Isaac is only 10, but is already an accomplished runner.
“I just want to see how long it stays,” he said. “My little brother is coming.”
Anchorage’s Conway wins girls race
Within a few minutes of winning the girls race, Rose Conway said she felt great.
But late in the race the 14-year-old from Anchorage wasn’t quite as optimistic.
She battled back and forth with Tania Boonstra before taking the victory in a time of 33:18.
“I was super happy to be done, mostly,” she said. “I was really happy to have won too, but mostly to be done. I didn’t have anything left.”
Conway had a lead as the racers came off the mountain but vomited in the final stretch, allowing Boonstra to briefly take the lead.
“I didn’t think I was going to pass her because I really had to slow down,” Conway said.
But Conway got back and had a big kick as the final route had more downhill grade.
“I just let the downhill carry me,” she said. “I think I was just taller than her so my strides were bigger.”
Conway, who took third in the 2021 race, will be a freshman at Bettye Davis East High next year.