Mount Marathon: Over 100 years in the making

Allie Ostrander on the uphill climb during the Fourth of July Mount Marathon event on July 4, 2017. Ostrander placed first with the second fastest race time in history. Photo credit: Anna Berecz

The annual Mount Marathon race is one of the oldest races in Alaska. On July 4, thousands of Alaskans and out-of-staters flock to Seward to witness the enduring 3,022-foot climb and the exciting descent.

Crowd sizes of roughly 40,000 people have come out to Seward during the holiday. Seward’s average population is over 2,500.

Participants are eagerly finishing up their training and preparation before the Fourth of July race day. UAA proudly boasts a large population of annual racers, most who have vastly different methods of preparation and their stories are all unique each year.

UAA student and 5-time racer Lucas Hepler has been preparing extensively for his sixth time racing. He said that he had to put a lot into his training this year, including losing 30 pounds to get back into shape.

Hepler feels that he is sufficiently prepared, especially having the opportunity to run a full-mountain race, one of the last opportunities to get race training in before Mouth Marathon.

“I raced Bird Ridge this last weekend, which is kind of the last barometer for Mount Marathon before the real thing. I’ll be going down to do the mountain this weekend Saturday and Sunday,” Hepler said.

However, nothing can adequately prepare you for Mount Marathon besides actually running the mountain itself.

- Advertisement -

Similar to Hepler, another long-time Mount Marathon competitor Ava Harren is just finishing up her training, which included HITT sprints, long hikes, lap swims once a week and hill repeats once a week.

“[I love] the energy you feel from all the people who come out to watch and participate,” Harren said.

Harren said the worst part of the race is the building anticipation while having to stand around and watch other racers, but that never stopped her.

“I thought I’d be done after one or two years, but for some reason, I keep coming back. This year I would love to beat my record time, but honestly, I just want to get down the mountain with dying,” Harren said.

It might seem like an exaggeration, but Mount Marathon has been repetitious with producing injuries and deaths. The fear doesn’t stop UAA student, Sarah Cosgrave, who can’t be stopped after 13 consecutive years of racing.

Originally coerced into the race by her father’s wishes when she was 8 years old, the race has become a tradition for Cosgrave.

With the increased frequency comes increased risk, as Cosgrave experienced several years ago.

“At the turn around point, so heading down the mountain, there was snow that never melted. My legs were so jelly that instead of running down the snow, I slipped and slid down,” Cosgrave said. “What I didn’t realize at the end of the race was I ripped my entire butt off with the snow, giving me a second degree burn.”

Cosgrave said that for two weeks following her injury, she experienced the worst pain she had ever felt in her life. Now, she knows to be much more careful, especially since she hopes to race it as many years as possible.

For the 2018 Mount Marathon, the traditional Fourth of July race will take place on a Wednesday. The race is broken down into the different age groups, with each group assigned a different start time.

The junior’s race will start at 9 a.m., the men’s race at 11 a.m., and the women’s race at 2 p.m.

For more information, visit