Radical Recreation: Rather be in the mountains

Some people like to hike mountains, others like to run on them. Conor Deal, aviation technology major with an emphasis on professional piloting, has been mountain running since the age of 13. Deal loved hiking growing up, so with his competitive personality combined, mountain racing was his calling.

Conor Deal, aviation technology major, is an avid mountain runner. He most recently participated and placed in the top 10 of the Alaskaman Extreme Triathlon. Photo credit: LeeAnne Osgood

“I started just as a cross training for hockey, it was something that benefited me on the ice. As I grew to love the sport and community of mountain running, I began training a lot harder,” Deal said. “Once you set a PR, there is always that drive to beat it, and I think that is why I’ve become so invested in it, because accomplishing a PR, as well as looking back at the mountain you just crushed is the best feeling.”

The way Deal keeps pushing his PR is a quality that is respected by runners in his training groups.

“Conor’s energy for mountain running is contagious. He’s one of the highest energy people I know and isn’t afraid of setting goals high and getting after the training needed in order to attain them,” Ryan Beckett, training partner, said.

The feeling of completing a mountain marathon is an experience unlike any other. After finishing a race, Deal is ready to start training again for the next marathon.

“I think that the stories and what people view of mount marathon turn some people off, but the feeling of accomplishment after finishing a race is something you only can experience,” Deal said. “You get instantly hooked and can’t wait to train again, and that’s where the love of mountain running comes into play.”

Deal trains in the mountains four times a week, sometimes more. But, when the suns out, it’s more difficult for him to stay out of the mountains. Training is important for mountain running and through his training is where his natural talent shines.

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“Conor’s dedication to training, not just mountain running, is some of the best I’ve seen. Conor isn’t the most naturally talented runner out there, he won’t get mad at me for saying that, he would agree 100 percent,” Ryan Cox, training partner, said. “Lots of runners who are naturally talented tend to rely on that talent and in turn, train less. Conor can’t afford to do that, he has to put in the time and effort to achieve his goals. His work ethic is better than almost all runners with that natural talent…and that has gained my respect.”

In times where other runners needed motivation through training or a race, they were inspired by Deal, which kept them pushing until the finish.

“I know personally I’ve thought to myself a few times when I was struggling to find motivation or that desire to put in the extra bit of work, ‘Well, if Conor can do it I know I can do it,'” Cox said.

On July 15, Deal participated in the Alaskaman Extreme Triathlon that consist of a 2.6-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 27-mile run from Seward to Girdwood, according to the Alaskaman website.

“What made me want to do the Alaskaman is the fact that it was the first race of its nature to ever happen in the US, and being from Alaska, I know the course here super well, so I knew exactly what to expect,” Deal said.

Because Deal likes finding ways to push himself even harder, the Alaskaman Triathlon was the perfect goal to pursue. He was able to train all winter to stay motivated, which helped him in accomplishing the race.

“I did do it this year and surprised myself to a ninth place finish,” Deal said. “It was so surreal crossing the finish line with all of the emotions, and the amount of people that came and cheered all day was amazing, at one point my ear drums hurt at a checkpoint because I was running through a huge tunnel of people cheering on the event.”

With Deal’s hockey background, using his lower body leg muscles and going fast downhill is his favorite thing about mountain running, besides crossing the finish line of course. Finishing a marathon with the other racers create a bond unlike any other.

“It’s such an adrenaline rush, I also love finishing the races, there’s the feeling of an amazing accomplishment, but all of the other racers are feeling that same exact feeling, and it’s such a fun time to bond and hang out with everybody,” Deal said. “The mountain running community in Anchorage and Alaska is top notch.”

Deal chose his aviation technology major because of his love for flying. Deal’s father is a captain for Alaska Airlines, which influenced him to eventually join an airline and fly commercially for the rest of his life.

Deal’s goals in the future are to stay in mountain running competitively and to participate in triathlons a lot more, for as long as he can. He also looks forward to his career in aviation because of how much he loves doing it and how appealing of a career it is. is to stay in mountain running competitively and to participate in triathlons a lot more, for as long as he can. He also looks forward to his career in aviation because of how much he loves doing it and how appealing of a career it is.