Category Archives: 2011 interviews

Stian Stensland

Describe your experience with the Equinox.  Have you participated in the full marathon, the relay, and/or the ultra?  How many times?

I’ve run it twice.  The first time was in 2009 – I was over here for a year of my Ph.D., and this year I’m back to prepare for my post-doc., and when I’m here (Stian lives in Oslo,Norway) I run the Equinox.

This year, we ran out as a group. I was feeling pretty fast in the beginning there.  Some people pulled away at the top of Ester Dome, but I was able to pick up the speed and catch Matias and Chris during the last part going down Henderson and Gold Hill Road. I was a couple of minutes faster in 2009, but I just pounded the ground and messed up my legs.   It was more of a positive feeling this year. It was two different experiences.

When do you start training for this race?  How much of the course itself do you incorporate into your training?  How often do you incorporate the Dome into your training?

In 2009, I started training on the course a month prior to the race.

I’ve had this year’s marathon in my mind for three months, so I started doing some longer runs in June after I finished my dissertation.  I was following a marathon schedule up until this last month when it got pretty busy at work, and then I got sick when I got over here from Oslo two weeks ago.  I was on the out and back a couple of times, and also, had a long run up Ester Dome and back.  I’ve been on every part of the course this year.

What are your key workouts in preparation for this race?

Get two to two 1/2 hour long runs in with varying speed, with about one hour of this at threshold or marathon pace.  Run your last one a couple of weeks before the race.  And I try to do general threshold runs two to three times a week for 30 to 40 minutes.  Sometimes I train more than once a day so I get eight to nine workouts in a week.  I ski a lot in the wintertime, and don’t run that much during the winter.

What’s your favorite thing about this race?

It’s the atmosphere.  All the people along the course cheering you on even though I’m from Norway.  Even though my support group wasn’t able to get to the top in time, there were other people there feeding me, and that was nice!

What’s your favorite part of the course? Your least favorite part?

I probably have to work more on the hill section, especially the downhill.  When it’s so steep and you’re running on trails… that’s pretty technical, and you have to be able to let go.  If you break too much, you cause a lot of harm, and that really gets to your quads.  My best parts are the flat parts because I’ve been running a lot of track.  

Describe the best moment you’ve experienced during this race. Describe the worst.

Best moment was getting out to the forest after the chute, and getting onto Henderson and Gold Hill.  I was feeling pretty good because I moderately went down the chute, was able to pick up speed, and surged by Matias on the downhill section.  Two years ago, I went pretty fast down the chute, and then cramped up when I got down to the road.  My legs were toast and I wasn’t able to catch anyone that year.  

Do you consider yourself a competitive runner? What are your running goals/fitness goals?

Yes!  Back home, I’ve been running track.  I competed in Nationals a few times.   I want to keep up my running ability.  This year, a lot of my emphasis was on finishing my Ph.D. in June.  I’ve been training fairly well, but focusing on my Ph.D. was a load on my mind and body.  If you work a lot, you can’t train as much.  Rest is something more than not training.  You need to rest your head, too.  

What’s the best advice or training tips you can share with others who are new to this race?

Many people are going too fast.  If you’re a beginner and you’re breathing really hard, that might be an efficient workout, but psychologically hard because you’re pushing it.  So the workout feels hard, and I think that many people feel it’s too hard to go running.  So if you start moderately, then you may feel better about it.  If you walk a little bit, you’re still moving.  You need to pick it up gradually.  When you’re able to run for awhile, like up to an hour, you should also do some threshold work.  Try to run 30 to 40 minutes at threshold level – 25 to 35 heartbeats below your max. Many people go too hard on that. 

Have you made any big training errors, or race day flubs that adversely affected your enjoyment or time in this race?

I was teaching a field course back home and that was quite a lot of stress getting that finished before getting over here.  So I got sick traveling.  I shouldn’t have pushed it too hard before traveling. That was a mistake.  

Any plans on participating in the Equinox this year? This race has been described as one of the most grueling marathons in the country!  What keeps you motivated to participate in this event?

Right now, I cannot promise that because I don’t live here.  It’s pretty far away – a 10 hour time difference!  I know it’s the 50th anniversary.  Never say never!  In 2013, my wife and I plan on coming back for a year for my work, and I’ll run it then.

Well, I’ve been 2nd place twice!  It’s the main event of the Fairbanks running community.  This if my fifth time in Alaska, and it feels a little bit like home.    

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Stan Justice


Tim Middleton

Describe your experience with the Equinox.  Have you participated in the full marathon, the relay, and/or the ultra?  How many times?

I’ve participated in the marathon about nine times, starting in 1997, and I did the relay (leg 3) in 2002. I worked on the trail with Nat Goodhue in 1963. This year’s Equinox was my first marathon since 2000.  My best marathon time is about 3:41.

When do you start training for this race?  How much of the course itself do you incorporate into your training?  How often do you incorporate the Dome into your training?

I don’t run the course because I live in Anchorage now.  We have a lot of hills in Anchorage.  My age and injuries have set me back the last six to seven years, but I’m finally healthy, and I run three days a week.  All these runs are hard; no junk miles.  I would do some interval work, and hard mid-distance over hills in Kincaid Park, and then a long run up in the mountains.  I try to avoid asphalt.  And I bike two days a week for two 1/2 to three hours.   I train on skis in the wintertime.

Last year, both Nat Goodhue and I turned 70.  I talked him into coming up here.  For three years, I nagged him to come up here.  He had to perform emergency surgery on my stomach on August 13 of last year so I couldn’t come. No matter what I was going to do it this year.

What are your key workouts in preparation for this race?

Workouts on the track or repeats of half-miles on the bike trail.  The second workout is a six or seven mile hard run, maybe even longer.  And a 14 to 16 mile trail run up in the mountains.

What’s your favorite thing about this race?

Oh, don’t get me started.  I get emotional about this… I love the whole thing.  It’s hard!  But it’s fun.  

What’s your favorite part of the course? Your least favorite part?

My favorite part is getting off the chute and running down those hills on the dirt road.  I love running downhill; that’s where I gain my time over other people.  I also love the first leg.  If there’s a least favorite, it’s probably the out and back.  

Describe the best moment you’ve experienced during this race. Describe the worst.

I’ve had faster times; this was the slowest one I’ve ever ran, but today when I crossed the finish line was my best moment.  

Worst moment?  When it’s 24 degrees and snowing up on the hill! But those types of things you have to experience.  

Do you consider yourself a competitive runner? What are your running goals/fitness goals?

My friends would all say that I’m really competitive.  If somebody’s in front of me, they’re there for me to catch, even at my age!  I want to keep staying fit.

What’s the best advice or training tips you can share with others who are new to this race?

Train on hills – uphill and downhill.

Have you made any big training errors, or race day flubs that adversely affected your enjoyment or time in this race?

I can’t think of any. I tend to come prepared.  I can go the distance.  I don’t tackle these things lightly.

Any plans on participating in the Equinox this year? This race has been described as one of the most grueling marathons in the country!  What keeps you motivated to participate in this event?

I want to participate since it’s the 50th.  I’d like to get Nat Goodhue back and do a relay with him.  

The community aspect of it, and the camaraderie is just amazing.  The scenery and the variation of the course – you’ve got trees, stumps, roots, rocks, gravel, mud, asphalt… The genius of this thing was unrecognized.  

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Mark Simon


Andrea Swingley

Describe your experience with the Equinox.  Have you participated in the full marathon, the relay, and/or the ultra?  How many times?

My first experience was the 3rd leg of the relay, and I dragged my sister up here from D.C. to do the first leg, and that was the year of the yellow jackets.  She got stung by them; I didn’t.  She said it made her run her last mile faster because of all the adrenaline!  This year will be my third full Equinox.

When do you start training for this race?  How much of the course itself do you incorporate into your training?  How often do you incorporate the Dome into your training?

I’ve only done it with Team in Training, so I start when Team in Training starts in the spring, usually in May.  I was never a runner before, and I still do a lot of walking.  I start training late spring when the dog mushing season ends because I’m also a dog musher.  I run the Dome whenever the team runs it, and we cover the entire trail through the course of our training, so we have seen every bit of it.  I live off of Miller Hill, so I tend to run those areas of the trail.  And working on campus, I’ll often go over and try to torture myself with the hill at the start, and run that whole first part of the trail when I can.

What are your key workouts in preparation for this race?

The Team is out there a lot on the trail and getting familiar with it, making sure we do the out and back at least once if not more than that.  Having enough trips up Ester Dome is how you get a feel for what you’re doing and how long it will take you to do it.  We usually do an 18 to 20 mile peak workout.

What’s your favorite thing about this race?

The people.  Everybody says that I know, but it’s the people.  It’s just a Fairbanks event and it makes it so special.  I just love it.  

What’s your favorite part of the course? Your least favorite part?

My least favorite part of the course is the out and back, but the good thing about the out and back is you see all these people.  That’s the redeeming factor.  That, and the cookies! 

My favorite part of the course is the trail right after the chute.  The trees, and the smells, and the rotting cranberries, and the leaves turning golden… The peacefulness and the beauty of it.  There are such interesting smells: rotting cranberries; somebody mowing their lawn; someone having their wood stove going…

Describe the best moment you’ve experienced during this race. Describe the worst.

Yes, and they’re kinda the same.  It was finishing my first full Equinox; it was my first marathon ever, and it didn’t go as planned.  And that was because I stopped on top at mile 12.5 and used the Porta Potty up there which I will never ever do again.  After that, my right IT band gave me trouble and in force.  So I hobbled the remaining 14 miles of the marathon.  It was extremely painful, but still extremely amazing because of all the support I got from my team, the coaches, the people that I knew out on the trail.  Ned Rozell ended up passing me.  His wife, an old friend of mine, would drive past and check on him and then come back and check on me, and then go check on him.  I was in such pain, but all these people were doing what they could to encourage me to the finish, and be there at the finish some eight hours 40-something minutes later.  It was amazing.  

I’m going to try to find a tree to lean on instead of squatting so it doesn’t happen again!

Do you consider yourself a competitive runner? What are your running goals/fitness goals?

No, not in the least.  I still have to be talked into calling myself a runner.  My fitness goals are to stay healthy, and to have fun doing it.  Make the load a little lighter for my dogs if I can.  In terms of my running goals, keep getting out there and having fun.  I’m a big advocate of the Team in terms of what we do and why we’re out there doing it, and that’s what got me to finally get off the couch in the first place.

What’s the best advice or training tips you can share with others who are new to this race?

Enjoy the beauty; enjoy the people.  Stay on the trail!  Don’t go off the trail!  That’s how the yellow jackets got stirred up!  Enjoy the whole community and the Equinox atmosphere.  It’s so special.

Have you made any big training errors, or race day flubs that adversely affected your enjoyment or time in this race?

It’s hard to make training errors when you’ve got the Team coach looking out for you.  Race day – not yet, but there’s still time!

Any plans on participating in the Equinox this year? This race has been described as one of the most grueling marathons in the country!  What keeps you motivated to participate in this event?

You bet!

It’s hard, but if you know that and train on it, it makes it easier because you know what to expect.  I keep coming back because it’s beautiful and fun.  I like the challenge.

This interview was conducted on September 16, 2011, the day preceding the 2011 Equinox Marathon.

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Ashlee Homan


Julia and John Mayer


Describe your experience with the Equinox.  Have you participated in the full marathon, the relay, and/or the ultra?  How many times?

Julia: I’ve run the relay three times (the last leg), and I ran the whole thing last year.  

John:  This will be my 11th Equinox in a row.  

When do you start training for this race?  How much of the course itself do you incorporate into your training?  How often do you incorporate the Dome into your training?

Julia: I ran up the Dome once this year, and I run on the trails by our house.

John:  We run hills.  If you don’t do hills, then you’re just not going to do well in the Equinox.  Unfortunately, we do soccer four times a week in the summer, so we can’t make it to a lot of the Thursday night Equinox training runs.  I’m the soccer coach so I have to show up.  Before the soccer years, I used to run pretty regularly with the running group, but now I try to run the Dome a couple times in the summer. Like Julia was saying, we run a bunch of trails around our house, and it’s hilly. 

What are your key workouts in preparation for this race?

Julia:  Trails, mainly.

John:  I think her big workouts are the soccer games and the practices.  I wore my GPS one time for practice and it came out to 4 1/2 miles of running, and that’s four times a week.  My key workouts are to get the distance in.  This year, we managed to do the half marathon and the Gold Discovery run together.

What’s your favorite thing about this race?

Julia: Saying I ran a marathon.

John: Being out there.  It’s such a huge running community here in Fairbanks and being out there with people I’ve seen for years, and being able to run with Julia the last few years.  It’s a rite of fall for Fairbanks. It’s wonderful.

What’s your favorite part of the course? Your least favorite part?

Julia:  The last part because it’s mainly down hill.  The middle part, running up the Dome and the out and back is my least favorite part.

John: My favorite is the bottom of the chute to the road.  The least favorite part is coming out to the road at mile 23.  You have those last few miles that seem to stretch out forever.  

Describe the best moment you’ve experienced during this race. Describe the worst.

Julia: Hitting the wall at mile 18 is my worst, but crossing the finish line is my best.

John:  We were both sick last year.  It was pretty awful.  She had to stop and actually vomit at mile 22 or so!  My best experience was my first Equinox in 2001 which was my very first marathon, and I never ran any part of the Equinox before.  I was a total fool and didn’t know what I was doing!   The next one I ran was in ’07.  Julia was nine then and ran with two of her friends in the relay and that was a wonderful experience, and a perfect day.  It’s humbling to see what an awesome runner she is.  

Do you consider yourself a competitive runner? What are your running goals/fitness goals?

Julia:  I’m not competitive.  The farther I run, the better.  My goals are to run a lot.

John:  Julia’s competitive.  She’s won her age group for forever!  I am not a competitive runner.  I rapidly realized that I’m not going to win any age group awards in this town because there are so many superb runners, but I just love running.   I want to be Corky - I want to run until I can’t run anymore, and I want to run with my grandkids like he does.  

What’s the best advice or training tips you can share with others who are new to this race?

Julia:  Just enjoy it.

John:  That’s kind of our philosophy when we run together.  

Have you made any big training errors, or race day flubs that adversely affected your enjoyment or time in this race?

Julia:  No, I was just sick during it.

John:  It takes awhile to learn how to eat properly – not overeat the night before, and have a little nutrition and hydrate along the way.  It took me quite a few marathons to figure that out.

Any plans on participating in the Equinox this year? This race has been described as one of the most grueling marathons in the country!  What keeps you motivated to participate in this event?

Julia:  Yeah, and I’m doing the Portland Marathon.  It’s fun.  I’ll probably do it for years to come.

John:  I hope to keep running until I can’t move anymore.  We’re doing the full marathon.  Maybe some day I’ll be crazy and do the ultra!

This interview was conducted on September 16, 2011, the day preceding the 2011 Equinox Marathon.

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Jim Decur

Describe your experience with the Equinox.  Have you participated in the full marathon, the relay, and/or the ultra?  How many times?

I started running the Equinox in 1994, and I’ve run the marathon up until two years ago when the ultra started.  Although I missed the marathon in 2008 due to a bike accident.  I live down in Denali Park and while commuting to work on my bike, a tour bus turned out in front of me.  I didn’t have a enough time to stop and I ran into the bus. Fortunately, I don’t remember a thing about the accident, but I was in the hospital for two weeks and in a neck brace for six months.  The doctors wouldn’t let me run, although I really wanted to.  I did walk the first eight miles of the Equinox that year.  

I’ve done the ultra the last two years, and I’m hoping to finish the ultra tomorrow.

When do you start training for this race?  How much of the course itself do you incorporate into your training?  How often do you incorporate the Dome into your training?

I feel like I’m training year round.  I don’t really do anything specific to train for the Equinox, I just continue to run.  I just enjoy running, and I live in such a beautiful area. We have so many great trails down in Denali.  There have been a few times where I’ve come up to do Steve’s training runs, but generally, I don’t do any Equinox training on the trails or on the Dome.

What are your key workouts in preparation for this race?

Just running.  I enjoy running, and I do a lot of long runs.  I’ve done 26 to 30 mile runs several times this summer. 

What’s your favorite thing about this race?

When it’s over!  The whole atmosphere, and getting to see so many old friends who I generally only get to see at the Equinox.  

What’s your favorite part of the course? Your least favorite part?

My favorite part of the course is the trail from the start of the race to the bottom of Ester Dome.  Least favorite part is the pavement on Gold Hill Road.

Describe the best moment you’ve experienced during this race. Describe the worst.

I don’t have any bad moments at all.  My best moment would be the year I managed to finish in the top 10.  Every Equinox is special.

Do you consider yourself a competitive runner? What are your running goals/fitness goals?

I don’t consider myself to be a competitive runner.  I just go out and run how I feel, and I’ve been fortunate enough to stay in pretty good shape, and I’ve felt well enough where it’s produced some pretty good results.  I want to keep on running.  I’ve really gotten into running ultras, and I hope to be able to keep progressing and going farther.

What’s the best advice or training tips you can share with others who are new to this race?

Do your training runs and make sure you do your long runs.  I think it helps to do hill workouts, even if you’re not running up Ester Dome.  Try to duplicate as much as the Equinox trail as you can no matter where you live.

Have you made any big training errors, or race day flubs that adversely affected your enjoyment or time in this race?

I don’t think so.  Everything has always seemed to work out fairly well.  There’s always the dilemma as to what to wear the morning of the race.  Sometimes, I tend to overdress or under dress, but I make do.

Any plans on participating in the Equinox this year? This race has been described as one of the most grueling marathons in the country!  What keeps you motivated to participate in this event?

Yes, I am.  I’m going to do the ultra again tomorrow.  I’ve never run 40 miles, so we’ll see how it goes, but I think I can just keep putting one foot in front of the other, and persevere to the end.

The challenge to see if I can keep doing it.  I’ve never really felt it was that hard.  I just did a 50K run down in northern Michigan that I thought was much tougher than the Equinox.

This interview was conducted on September 16, 2011, the day preceding the 2011 Equinox Marathon.

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John Lyle

The Equinox Bug hit me hard in 1985 when I moved from a small rural Yukon River village to the big city of Fairbanks. It was at running races that I met Corky Hebard, Stan Justice, Bob Murphy and several others who encouraged and inspired me to give the marathon a try. In the past 25 years I’ve participated about a dozen times and I must admit I enjoyed the ultra the most. For me it’s more a spiritual pilgrimage than a race…the awesome setting and transitional time of year; the camaraderie of runners regardless of ability or performance; several hundred participants starting in one chaotic bunch, panting and plodding up that steep sledding hill; catching your breath and finding a comfortable pace as you funnel into narrow forested trails. The Equinox has often been billed as one of the toughest marathons in North America. That may well be, yet regardless of the physical toughness of it, I think it’s got to be one of the most moving, inspirational marathons anywhere.

For me the Equinox is also one of the most humbling races I’ve run. I’ve made the mistake of going out too fast, only to have a sobering reckoning with reality at the base of Ester Dome. The steep downhills have also been tough on my ankles and knees. I love the uphill but the downhill really tears me up, so I typically take baby steps down. The power line along Gold Hill and on to the finish has always been a powerful time for me emotionally, especially with the ultra. I often move into an altered state, back and forth between bliss and pain. Most of all while running the Equinox, I’m filled with powerful memories of times with friends and family which always seems to pull me along through the tough parts like a bungee cord.

I suppose I’ve been training for the Equinox since I was four years old, though I didn’t realize it at the time. My mother had stories about me running barefoot as a young child in SE Texas in +100 degree heat for extended periods of time. She worried and took me to a child psychiatrist for an examination, fearful I was terribly deranged. As the story goes, the doctor returned me to my mother and said, “The boy likes to run. Let him run”. Bless his heart. The doctor was spot on. As a kid in school, I was easily distracted and couldn’t keep still. I loved sports but being quite small I was trampled. It soon became more clear that the thing I could do well, and really love was to run.  It seemed the meditative, rhythmic pace and breathing calmed and comforted me. Running made me feel good about myself and the world. I found that running as part of a team made it all the more rewarding. And running the Equinox along with such a good-natured, extended family of runners–aided and cheered on by an even larger extended family of supporters–is about as good as it gets.

In the mid 80’s I was a very competitive runner but starting in 1987 I’ve been dealing with one major injury after another, unfortunately missing more Equinox Marathons than I’ve run. In the last 10 years I’ve felt blessed to be able to just enter the race, regardless of whether or not I’m able to finish it. Given the state of my knees, it’s not a sure thing if I’ll run another Equinox. But I’ve always realized, even as a little kid running barefoot in Texas, that running was a blissful, sacred thing and not to be taken for granted. This year I had another knee surgery the day before the Equinox. When I watched the seemingly endless stream of runners from the window by the bed I was so happy for them all, doing this incredible thing together on such a beautiful day.

In many places people run on  busy roads but we’re really spoiled here in Fairbanks with such an incredible variety of trail systems on which to run, ski, bike, walk or snowshoe. Fairbanks also has a huge number of runners (and bikers, skiers, etc) for a small city its size. Most people are able to train on the Equinox course which is great. We learn our challenging places, our dark places, where we shine and where we hurt bad. And we make peace with the hills, knowing we play by their rules.

I’ve run several marathons and ultras in Hawai’i and unfortunately most are not run on terrain anywhere as diverse or pristine as the Equinox. Two exceptions are the Hilo-Volcano Ultra, starting at sea level and climbing to 4,200’ elevation, and the Volcano Wilderness Marathon which, like the Equinox, is largely off-road and quite diverse in terrain. But honestly, there’s something very special about the Equinox. Whether one’s an elite marathoner or a casual jogger/hiker, it’s an event which brings out the best in people regardless of how fast or far they go.

My advice to runners is pretty simple. As my old mentor Richard Frazier use to say: “Start off slow, then ease way back”. It’s easy to start too fast, then realize the tank’s half empty before the big climb begins. There’s more than enough time to make up at the end. Unfortunately, I’m very familiar with over training and running on legs that haven’t fully recovered, which makes it a bit of a slog. I guess I’d say that for me training begins the day after Equinox and continues to the start of the next race. Lots of hill work, cross training and hiking have helped me. And yoga has been a wonderful thing to incorporate… my wife, Susanne points out that I could always do much more of that.

As time passes I’m all the more in awe of the record times that individuals have set in this race. Susan Faulkner’s 3:18 and Stan Justice’s 2:41 are both phenomenal. Hot shot relay teams are hard pressed to beat these record times. And all the runners right on their heels shows what a historically talented community of runners we have right here in Fairbanks. It’s true in Fairbanks and it’s true almost anywhere you go: if you want to connect with engaged, happy, talented people, show up at a running event. The rest will be history.


Nat Goodhue

Describe your experience with the Equinox.  Have you participated in the full marathon, the relay, and/or the ultra?  How many times?

My first experience was UAF ski coach Jim Mahaffey asking ski team mate Gail Bakken and me to hear athletic director Bill Ordway ask, “Do you think we should hold a marathon?” I was about to express my doubt about participation based on how few people entered our pre-ski season 10 K races. But instead I recommended we hold a marathon on cross-country trails — an opportunity to double the length of the University’s Skarland Ski Trail system.

I predicted that the autumnal equinox marathon would last about 3 years, but with hard work we would have the lasting legacy of a permanent increase in the university community trail system. Most of the Equinox Marathon is on trails and we now have one of the oldest marathons in the country!

I have run the Equinox Marathon about a dozen times, including the first one (one of two that I won) and the last one (2011).

When do you start training for this race?  How much of the course itself do you incorporate into your training?  How often do you incorporate the Dome into your training?

For the first Equinox in 1963, most of the training was building the trail with fellow UAF students Gail Bakken, Tim Middleton, Cathy Love Seims, and a score or more weekend volunteers.

For subsequent Equinoxes, most of my training was commuting to and from work at Alaska State Parks in Anchorage (10 to 20 miles per day) on foot in summer and on cross-country skis in winter.
For the past two decades I have been training from my Goodhue Land Design studio in Stowe, Vermont, with weekly ascents of Vermont’s highest mountain before breakfast (on foot in summer and on snow shoes in winter) and cross-country skiing and NO running from December through March.

What are your key workouts in preparation for this race?

The 2300 vertical feet ascents of Mt. Mansfield.

What’s your favorite thing about this race?

The glee with which the community embraces this event.

What’s your favorite part of the course? Your least favorite part?

My favorite part of the course is on the summits of Ester Dome where there are views of Denali, the tallest mountain of North America. My least favorite parts of the course are on roads.

Describe the best moment you’ve experienced during this race. Describe the worst.

Best moment was my children, Laura and Jake, participating in the Equinox relay!

Worst moment was when stricken by hypothermia while descending from falling wet snow at the higher elevations. One moment I was closing on the third place runner. The next moment I wanted to lie down and go to sleep on Henderson Road.

Do you consider yourself a competitive runner? What are your running goals/fitness goals?

Design and build trails that are safe, environmentally sensitive, educational, and fun in all seasons, such as a trail that would connect the Wood Center, the Recreation Center, and the West Ridge warm-up hut.

What’s the best advice or training tips you can share with others who are new to this race?

Taper off training gradually for the 3 weeks prior to the Equinox. Mostly ski through the winter and GRADUALLY increase running in spring in order to avoid over-use injuries that afflict so many runners.

Have you made any big training errors, or race day flubs that adversely affected your enjoyment or time in this race?

Partway down Ester Dome where I was leading the pack, I followed trail markings that veered sharply to the west and in what turned out to be the wrong direction — the work of pranksters! I led the lead pack through Ester, from where we turned east onto the Old Nenana Road and back to the correct course at the Henderson Road intersection where we continued to be in the lead pack.

Should those of us who were misled have been awarded our winning places, which we were, or should we have been disqualified?

Any plans on participating in the Equinox this year? This race has been described as one of the most grueling marathons in the country!  What keeps you motivated to participate in this event?

I wish I were there for another Equinox, breathing in the autumnal fragrance and being stirred by the sea of smiling faces at the awards ceremony. It’s Equinox Marathon time in Fairbanks.

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Teri Langton

Describe your experience with the Equinox.  Have you participated in the full marathon, the relay, and/or the ultra?  How many times?

This is my first relay (first leg) I’ve ever done, and the first time I’ve participated in the Equinox. My best time in my practice runs was two hours 12 minutes. and I was hoping to do it under two hours   I did it in 1:58!!

When do you start training for this race?  How much of the course itself do you incorporate into your training?  How often do you incorporate the Dome into your training?

I trained during the summer. I had six weeks where I couldn’t train due to a little injury, but after that I trained pretty hard.  I did Ester Dome two or three times and decided that I didn’t want to do that leg.  I did the chute, and decided that I didn’t want to do that leg either.  I wanted to the first leg, and it was a good fit for all of us team members.

What are your key workouts in preparation for this race?

I did a lot of running.  Even though I didn’t do the 2nd leg, I think running the Dome helped me a lot.  I also worked out in the Rec Center.

What’s your favorite thing about this race?

It’s such a community event.  People don’t care if it takes you four hours to do one leg.  They’re just so encouraging, and there are so many inspiring people out there who say, “good job” while you’re dying!

What’s your favorite part of the course? Your least favorite part?

I think the chute is really hard, but it’s all hard.  Even with the first part, there are so many roots that you really have to concentrate.  And then of course, the Dome is hard.   Running in the woods is my favorite part.

Describe the best moment you’ve experienced during this race. Describe the worst.

When I got to mile 5 and knew that I could make my goal… That was awesome!  No bad moments today!

Do you consider yourself a competitive runner? What are your running goals/fitness goals?

I’m not a competitive runner.  I’m slow.  I used to be able to do a 9:45 minute/mile.  I haven’t been able to do that for a year and a half, but I would like to get back to doing a 9:30 minute/mile. I’d like to lose another 10 pounds, and I think that would help me to reach my running goals.

What’s the best advice or training tips you can share with others who are new to this race?

Get out and try it!  The training runs were wonderful.  The people are wonderful, and no one cares how fast you do it.

Have you made any big training errors, or race day flubs that adversely affected your enjoyment or time in this race?

Doing more hills would have helped.

Any plans on participating in the Equinox this year? This race has been described as one of the most grueling marathons in the country!  What keeps you motivated to participate in this event?

I think so!  I don’t know if I’ll do the whole thing, but I was thinking of maybe trying two legs.

Meeting my goal has really motivated me!

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Susanne Lyle

Describe your experience with the Equinox.  Have you completed the full marathon, the relay, and/or the ultra?  How many times?

I’ve run this marathon three times, I believe. In the last couple years I’ve really enjoyed running as part of a team on the relay.

What does your training schedule look like to prepare for this event? When do you start training? How often do you run on the course, the trails, and the Dome?

To be honest, I’ve never trained for any of the marathons I’ve run.  Although I try to maintain a good base by staying active with running, swimming and biking, I have never even looked at a training schedule.  In fact, my husband John always says that I could “do so much better” if I were more serious about training.  For some reason I’ve never had that kind of ambition.  I usually wait until the last minute before signing up, depending on how I feel.  

The closest I’ve gotten to a training regime is participating in the women’s running group with Bruce Miller and Steve Bainbridge’s Equinox training runs.  I’m not disciplined enough to do interval or hill training by myself.  Every year is different and I’ve been traveling quite a bit in the summers, so unfortunately I don’t get to attend these training runs religiously.  I’m lucky to live right on the Equinox trail and I run on it a lot, either connecting onto campus trails or roads up and around Ester Dome.  I hardly do any running on roads and feel grateful for all the great trails we have in Fairbanks.

What’s your favorite thing about this race?

It’s such a community event.  Whether you race, jog, or walk, hike, volunteer or cheer on the sidelines, it’s always felt to me as if the whole community is out to support each other.  It brings people together and celebrates everyone’s capabilities, efforts and accomplishments equally as we collectively appreciate the beautiful surroundings in which we live.

What’s your favorite part of the course?  Your least favorite part?

This relates mostly to the degree of difficulty.  It’s sometimes hard to remind yourself why you’re doing this when the alarm clock goes off early in the morning and you know it’s dark and chilly out and really, you’d much rather stay in your warm, comfortable bed. Then there’s the anxiety of not knowing what your race is going to be like.  I’m happy to get the first steep hill at the SRC behind me because it’s such a bottle neck, but once I find my pace and stride, I shift into the moment-by-moment, one-step-at-a-time mode.  Of course I dread the steep up-hill sections, but each Equinox is different and the same course section can feel easy one time and then really hard another.  I like the section where the trail meets Henderson Road.  Naturally, crossing the finish line is one of the best parts because you get to see all the smiling faces and cheer on the ones yet to cross…plus there is always the sauna afterwards.

Describe the best moment you’ve experienced during this race.  Describe the worst.

I’ve been lucky to have never experienced “hitting the wall” or injuring myself during the run but again, I don’t “race”.  I’m happy if I can just go the distance.  I’ve always been challenged staying warm and look forward to many cups of hot tea from the thermos during the race.  Psychologically one of the best moments is always reaching the top of Ester Dome and enjoying the view from up there.  It’s a great reminder what a magnificent place we live in, and a relief that the toughest (meaning up-hill) part of the race is over.

Do you consider yourself a competitive runner?  What are your running goals/fitness goals?

Like most runners know,  running a marathon is very humbling.  I lack the ambition to be competitive and besides staying healthy into old age, I never really had a “goal”.  If I know for myself that I did the best I could out there that day, I’m satisfied.  Running is only part of the activities I enjoy.  My first love is yoga and running is secondary.  It’s my yoga practice that has allowed me to continue running as much as I do in the first place.  Personally, I’ve found cross training to be beneficial.  I tend to alternate running and swimming days, once in a while combining both for a double workout or throwing in a bike ride.  In the winter I switch to cross country skiing.  

As I’ve gotten older I’ve learned to appreciate being able to run no matter how far or slow.  I don’t take my body for granted and try to take care of it by finding the balance between keeping fit and allowing it to rest.  My long-term goal is to be able to keep running as long as possible.  For me, that can sometimes mean running less (and doing more yoga) in the short term. 

What’s the best advice or training tips you can share with others who are new to this race?

We only have this one body and the better we care for it the more we’re able to enjoy life.  It is a skill to stay tuned-in to your body at all times and know what it really needs.  I’m sure every runner has over trained or pushed themselves too much, too far or too fast at some point and then paid the precious price.   Yoga teaches to give 100 percent and then let go of the outcome.  I think running is a little like that:  we can prepare for the course as best we can but we never really know what will unfold on race day.  We can’t control all the factors.  There are too many. The only thing we can really control is our attitude.  So my advice would be to not take one’s self too seriously and remember to have fun. Enjoy yourself. Pause and notice the smell of the cranberries and soak in the fall colors. Most importantly:  smile, greet and thank those who pass by.

Have you made any big training errors, or race day flubs that adversely affected your enjoyment or time in the Equinox?

I’ve never really worried about training by the book.  If anything I could have probably put in more training miles, fueled more smartly, as well as allowed for more rest days prior to race day.

Any plans on participating in the Equinox this year?  Why do you participate in this event and what keeps you motivated?

Never say never.  The marathon distance is kind of hard on my body and at this point in my life,  not what I personally need.  But I’ll definitely consider the relay any year and would love it if the Equinox race would offer a half-marathon distance option.


Ed Debevec

Describe your experience with the Equinox.  Have you participated in the full marathon, the relay, and/or the ultra?  How many times?

I first did the Equinox in 1998. Since then, I missed one year due to an injury and did the relay one year. If my math is right, that means I’ve done the marathon 11 times. I guess I’d describe it as a love-hate relationship.

Sometimes I’ve done the marathon with my wife, Jackie. One year we put on our hiking boots, loaded our day packs, and enjoyed our 9 hour hike, complete with a lunch at mile 15. A couple other years we did a mix of walking and running together. We were even immortalized with a picture in the paper as we walked hand in hand down the chute. The point is, there are many ways to “do” the Equinox. Go with what fits you at the time.

When do you start training for this race?  How much of the course itself do you incorporate into your training?  How often do you incorporate the Dome into your training?

I used to stop running in the winter and then have to start my training from scratch every spring. I finally got smart and now I keep running throughout the year, whatever the weather. In addition to shorter runs, I try to do a weekly 10 mile run through the winter so that the 15 to 20 milers in the summer aren’t so intimidating. I try to get on the trails as soon as the snow melts and they’re reasonably dry. I work on campus and do a lot of mid-day runs on the first 8 miles of the course out to Ann’s Greenhouse. I try to plan several longer runs on the rest of the course throughout the summer. It’s a treat to run the difficult portions without the race day pressures. The out and back can actually be enjoyable.

What are your key workouts in preparation for this race?

One year, a few of us continued to meet every Wednesday during the summer after the Fahrenheit Be Darned runs ended. Dave Leonard, Roger Topp, and I ran up and down Ester Dome so many times that I lost count. We ran other sections of the trail as well, but Ester Dome was the focus. It paid off because on race day, the climb up Ester Dome and the out and back were just like another Wednesday. That’s not to say they were easy, but we knew what to expect and we just did it.

What’s your favorite thing about this race?

The time of year is ideal for this. It’s a bit on the cool side at the start and (usually) a crisp autumn day. It’s a seasonal ritual, the culmination of months of hard work before settling in for the winter ahead. I bet they had something like this at Stonehenge.

What’s your favorite part of the course? Your least favorite part?

As with many people, I enjoy the section just after the chute. After the previous 7 miles, you get to relax with a slight downhill through the woods. You want this to continue forever, but it only lasts about half a mile and then comes my least favorite part. About half way between the chute and Henderson Road, there is a very short uphill stretch. It’s over in less than 10 seconds, but it’s steep enough and long enough that your momentum won’t carry you through it. You have to totally shift back to your uphill mode of running. If I can get past that without cramps starting, then I’m happy.

I also have to mention the out and back. It’s one of my least favorite parts because of the ups and downs and the difficult rocky terrain, but it’s also one of my favorite parts because it’s like the social section of the course. You get to say hi to friends, cheer on those ahead of you, and give encouragement to those behind you.

Describe the best moment you’ve experienced during this race. Describe the worst.

I’ve had a few not so good moments. One year as I was nearing the top of Ester Dome, I had a migraine start. I get the visual auras so I can’t see very well. I didn’t have my meds with me so I just walked the entire out and back, hoping by then I’d be feeling good enough to finish. Well, I wasn’t, so I didn’t. I guess that means I’ve only done the marathon 10 times. See how you block these things out.

Another year, I came down the chute a little too fast and by the time I got to Gold Hill, my right knee was screaming. I limped in the final 5 miles. Now I take it easy going down the chute, figuring that any time I lose there can be made up later with healthy knees.

One of my best moments was the year I failed to achieve my goal of finally breaking 4 hours. I got to mile 26 and knew I wasn’t going to make it. Just as I came out of the woods at the top of the final downhill to the finish, I could hear it in the distance. Was it, could it be? Yes, indeed, it was the sound of bagpipes calling forth in me the determination to finish strong. I had mentioned my 4-hour goal to fellow piper Dennis Stephens and he came and gifted me and many others that day. Cracking the 4 hour barrier would have to wait another year, but it didn’t matter. I had finished and that was cause enough for celebration.

Do you consider yourself a competitive runner? What are your running goals/fitness goals?

I’m competitive with myself. I always have a goal in mind and, so far at least, my times have been getting faster. I’ve also become more competitive within my age class and I don’t deny I like to get a medal now and then. I suppose everybody thinks theirs is the toughest age class, but ours is pretty tough. I have 2 or 3 years in an age class before people like Wayde Leder, Roger Sayre, Andy Holland, and Bob Baker take over. And then there’s Greg Finstad. We’re about 3 months apart in age so I’m pretty much doomed to be chasing him until I can’t run anymore. But in all honesty, it’s a pleasure to participate with these guys.

What’s the best advice or training tips you can share with others who are new to this race?

Get involved with a group to train with. Even if it’s only one or two other runners, if you’re training with a group, you’re much more likely to get out and run when you don’t really feel like it. Running with someone faster than you will do more to improve your time than running twice the miles on your own. I run with the Fahrenheit Be Darned group through the winter and usually continue with some of them through the summer. I’ve also been running 2 or 3 times a week with the West Ridge Runners. Join a group or form your own. You’re going to be running a lot of miles and I’ve found that it helps to do them with a good group of people.

Don’t forget to practice going up the sledding hill at the start of the course. On race day, try to get up the hill and through the gap in the fence quickly. That’s a bottleneck that will set you back a little bit of time and put you behind a lot of people. After that, take advantage of the first mile and a half of fairly wide trails. Once you pass Ballaine Lake, the trail narrows so try to be in a position where you won’t mind it if you can’t pass at will. Also, bring lots of Gu. I carry a little water to supplement the water stops so I know I can grab a sip when I need it. Be aware that weather on top of Ester Dome can be very different than at the start.

Have you made any big training errors, or race day flubs that adversely affected your enjoyment or time in this race?

Some years I’ve suffered from cramps in my calves during the final 6 miles. I’ve had the strength to finish strong, but the legs just weren’t working. I’ve tried hydrating and electrolyte replacement, but they still persist. Perhaps I need to incorporate more 20+ milers in my training. I’ll keep working on it until I find something that works. It’s frustrating to watch 5 or 10 minutes tick away because you have to stop and stretch a few times.

Any plans on participating in the Equinox this year? This race has been described as one of the most grueling marathons in the country!  What keeps you motivated to participate in this event?

Unfortunately I’ll be sitting this one out. Runners aren’t always willing to rest when they should and I found myself with a stress fracture in my left foot. After almost 8 weeks, I’m finally back to running, but there just isn’t time to get ready for the Equinox. I will be there, though, maybe helping with the timing or whatever else needs doing. It’s an autumn ritual.

There is a strong camaraderie among all the runners. Oh sure, there are the friendly competitions at all levels (I’ll catch you someday, Greg!), but at the heart of it, everyone is pulling for each other. We all want each other to do well and be pleased with our accomplishments. If you fall short of your goal, you’ll find understanding because we’ve been there too. If you surpass even your wildest hopes, then we’ll be cheering for you because we recognize what it took to get there. It’s one race, but it’s measured on many clocks.

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Andy Sterns


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