Saari plays catch-up to collect fifth Equinox Marathon title

A bundled-up Matias Saari of Anchorage captured his fifth victory in the Equinox Marathon, the rugged race in Fairbanks that includes a trek up and down 2,400-foot Ester Dome.

With the win, the 45-year-old became the oldest winner in race history -- breaking the record he set last year when he won at age 44.

The 53rd annual marathon attracted 359 marathoners, 103 teams and 40 ultra-marathoners who battled temperatures in the 30s and ran through snow at the top of Ester Dome.

Saari's latest triumph came with a twist – for the first time in his five victorious runs, he had to come from behind.

Saari had to chase down Ken Brewer of Chugiak, who led the way to the top of Ester Dome. But Saari made up the one-minute gap – and more – by attacking the downhill.

"I love the technical downhill, so I told myself this is it,'' Saari told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. "This terrain suits me and I've got to make my move, and I ran really hard down the chute and through the woods."

Saari won the 26.2-mile race in 2 hours, 25 minutes, 52 seconds to defend his title from last year. His other Equinox crowns came in 2007, 2009 and 2010.


Cody Priest of Palmer placed second in 2:59:42 and was the only other runner to break the three-hour barrier. Tom Ritchie, an assistant wrestling coach at South High, was third in 3:04:14 and Brewer, an Equinox rookie, wound up fourth in 3:04:42.

Erika Burr of Fairbanks won the women's race in 3:24:32, which placed her eighth overall.

Former UAA runner Katie Krehlik, another Equinox newcomer, was second among women and 10th overall in 3:25:36.

Winners of the 40-mile ultramarathon were Laron Thomas in the men's competition (5:50:41) and Shawn McTaggart in the women's competition (6:40:42).

Equinox Marathon

Top 10 men -- 1) Matias Saari 2:52:25, 2) Cody Priest 2:59:42, 3) Tom Ritchie 3:04:14, 4) Kenneth Brewer 3:04:42; 5) Daniel Roy 3:05:45, 6) Sam Herreid 3:18:57, 7) Devin McDowell 3:22:16, 8) Steve Lee 3:25:21, 9) Zachary Schroeder 3:33:30, 10) Tom Moran 3:35.51.

Top 10 women -- 1) Erika Burr 3:24.32; 2) Katie Krehlik 3:25:36, 3) Melissa Lewis 3:39:09, 4) Davya Flaharty 3:39:33, 5) Kinsey Laine 3:41:00, 6) Christi Schmitz 3:47:47, 7) Beth Zirbes 3:48:18, 8) Madi McConnell 4:03:15, 9) Meredyth Richards 4:12:26, 10) Rebecca Rolph 4:12:55.