SEWARD — There would be no record for David Norris at the 2023 Mount Marathon trail race. Mother Nature made sure of that.
But that didn’t mean Norris would be pumping the brakes too hard along the way in search of his fourth career title.
Norris, who ran the race’s fastest-ever time in 2016, cruised to a victory Tuesday with a time of 44 minutes, 51 seconds.
The 95th running of Mount Marathon was marked by slick and muddy trail conditions. And while the rain that peppered the women’s race had mostly stopped by the time the men’s race got underway, the route was even more degraded.
“It was super tricky,” Norris said. “It’s the same for everyone. For me just trying to stay patient in the muddy stuff below the tree line. The harder you go, the more you rush it. It seemed like I’d just slip more. I just tried to take my time and once I got above the tree line I tried to push it as hard as I can.”
The race winner in 2018 and 2021 as well, Norris said he had aims to break his 2016 record of 41:26.
“All spring I wanted to get my own record,” he said. “In my own mind, I thought there’s no reason I should be slower. But the conditions today were definitely super slow. I got to the top and looked at my watch and I was like ‘It’s behind schedule.’ ”
Norris, who grew up in Fairbanks and was a stalwart on the APU ski team in Anchorage, is now in Colorado full time as a coach for the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club.
He said his training in Colorado isn’t as structured as it’s been in past years when he was training full time at APU.
“The altitude is super nice,” he said. “It’s good bang for your buck but it trains way different. It’s a lot of switchbacks and stuff where Alaska is straight up and straight down.”
Norris has still shown the ability to win top-level ski races — he took first in the American Birkebeiner in February. But he said the Alaska racing community is something special and so is Mount Marathon.
“Even just doing that race (in 2016) and hanging out that night in Seward I got to know all the Alaska mountain runners a lot better and it’s an awesome family to be a part of,” he said.
While Norris wasn’t able to eclipse his own record, one significant mark was toppled Tuesday.
Anchorage’s Taylor Turney ran a 9:54 on the downhill portion to break the previous mark of 10 minutes flat set by Eric Strabel in 2013.
Turney has been hunting the mark the last four years, coming relatively close each time. He thought Tuesday was another effort that fell just short as he checked his watch while crossing the finish line.
“Based on my watch time, I thought I was five seconds behind, but I was actually five seconds ahead,” he said.
Despite the rain, Turney said the trail had some fast portions.
“The rain makes the top three-quarters faster,” he said. “But that bottom quarter is a little more scary and dangerous. I had to be a bit more careful. I have a job and just can’t send it and get myself injured.”
Darren Thomas of Reno, Nevada, was second at 46:35 and Lars Arneson finished third at 46:44. Arneson has been among the most prolific runners on the Alaska trail circuit in recent years and ran third last year at Mount Marathon as well.
“This is the biggest race of the summer,” he said. “It’s fun to come in and put a bigger focus on it.”