Johnston finishes 360-mile run to Fairbanks in time for Saturday's Equinox

Alaska's running man reached the finish line of his Anchorage-to-Fairbanks run shortly after 5 p.m. Friday -- in time to secure his entry in Saturday's Equinox Marathon.

Willow's David Johnston finished his long, wet run at 5:12 p.m., giving him plenty of time to make the Equinox's 5-8 p.m. bib pickup.

His how-I-got-here story proved good enough to convince Equinox organizers to allow him to switch his entry from the 40-mile ultramarathon to the standard 26.2-mile marathon. Ordinarily, race organizers are loathe to accommodate such requests on the eve of a race.

"I told him what I'd just done," Johnston said, "and he said yes.

"Then he bought me two beers."

Consider that a well-earned reward.

Johnston, one of the state's top endurance runners, confessed that his 360-mile prerace warmup was just a little tougher than expected. Rain washed away his goal of running 90 miles a day along the shoulder of the Parks Highway.


"The first few days, it poured rain,'' he said.

But he gutted out the conditions and steadily pushed on, making about 80 miles per day as traffic whizzed by.

"They were giving me a shower every five minutes or blowing me off the road,'' he said.

Sometimes, in places where the shoulder of the road was narrow or nonexistent, he stopped and waited out cars, trucks and buses for fear someone might run him over.

"Half of them don't give you an inch,'' he said.

Recovery time was less than ideal too. Johnston slept at night in the back of friend Thomas Burton's pickup. Burton served as Johnston's crew, driving anywhere from five to 25 miles ahead of Johnston and then pulling over to wait for Johnston to catch up, grab some Gatorade and then return to the road. "He did that for five days," Johnston said.

Earlier this year, Johnston set the record for the foot division of the Iditarod Trail Invitational to McGrath -- a 350-mile race on the Iditarod Trail in March. This week's trek began Monday morning on the UAA campus. He reached the UAF campus 4 days, 10 hours and 12 minutes later.

He said he's confident he'll complete Saturday's Equinox, especially since he was able to switch to the 26.2-mile race.

"Mentally I'm fine," he said. "Four more hours is not gonna do anything. I look forward to being out there."

Johnston said his biggest concern about the Equinox was waking up in time. After sleeping four nights in Burton's truck, he was happy to settle into a hotel Friday night.

"I don't have TV at home, so I like to watch hotel TV and see what I've missed," he said. "I'm sure I'll be asleep as soon as I put my head down."

Craig Medred

Craig Medred is a former writer for the Anchorage Daily News, Alaska Dispatch and Alaska Dispatch News. He left the ADN in 2015.