Category Archives: male interviews

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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Susie Kramer


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


Greg Newby

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

This will be my fourth full marathon this year.

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 did a lot more running when I lived in the Lower 48 because the seasons are so much kinder there.  I run more when it’s not frozen out.   I do try to keep up a relatively high level of miles during the summertime, but I have not done a lot of specific training for the Equinox.   BeforeI have never ever run on the course, other than in the woods behind UAF, but this year is the first time I’ve had a concerted training effort.  I did most of the Equinox Training Runs, and now I’m much more familiar with the course.  I’ve done the Dome four or five times this summer.  I think there’s a real advantage to being more visually familiar with the course.  I don’t have to pay quite as close as attention, because I have a tendency of either drifting off and tripping on a root, or I have trouble following the trail.  The Training Runs were very nice in that I did some more interesting runs, and it’s easier to keep up a faster pace running with a crowd.

What are your key workouts in preparation for this race?

I run year round, and I do the elliptical at home.  It’s a beautiful machine.  It costs more than a lot of cars, but we’re on it every day in the wintertime, so we’re getting our money’s worth!

What’s your favorite thing about this race?

I like that there’s a lot of people along the route saying hi and cheering you on.  That people coming out for it is what I find to be most enjoyable.

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

My favorite part is right after the chute where there’s some woods going along Ester Dome.  All of a sudden, it’s quiet.  You just went through this gauntlet of all these passes on the out and back, it’s relatively crowded, and getting onto this little stretch of woods is such a relief compared to what’s been going on the last couple of hours.  

I don’t have a least favorite part. I like going uphill, I don’t mind going downhill.  I don’t enjoy the roads quite as much.  

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

Not really a best moment, but a highlight was the first year I ran it in 2008, it was sleeting and miserable on top of the Dome, and then when I got down to the trail after the chute, it was sunny and 50 degrees.  It was such a physical relief.

I tend to wear the same shoes, but in 2009, I had some shoes that were a little too small.  They got dirty and I washed them, and I didn’t realize they got a little tight.  I went down the chute and jammed my toes. After that, I was miserable.  Every time my toes touched the front of my shoes, it was seriously painful.  I had to stop and retie my shoes.  I finished, but I was very, very slow.  If there was a bus or something there, I probably would have taken it!   Subsequently, over the following weeks, I lost five toenails.  

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

Definitely not competitive.  I don’t have any standing goals, but I try to stay active.  In fact, because we live out-of-town, I haven’t pursued getting involved in any team sports, and running is the logical thing for me to do.  In previous places I’ve lived, I was on a soccer team, played racquetball, went to the gym more often.  It was all just a convenience factor.  I’ve always enjoyed running a whole lot.

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

If you’ve done marathons before, the main thing that’s different is the trail running and the hills.  And running single file on the trail is not something that too many marathons have. Otherwise, I don’t think the overall training regime is that much different than any other marathon.  The unique things are getting used to the trail running and the extreme ups and downs of the hills.

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

Having shoes that were too tight!  And in 2008, I was stung five times by all those wasps, and still had a welt three weeks later!  It was painful.

Interestingly, last year, I got back from traveling around 12:30am, and ran the Equinox that morning, and it turned out to be just fine.  That’s the sort of thing that people would say is important, to have a good night’s sleep, but it was fine.  I haven’t had too many real problems. 

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’ve signed up.  It’s hard, but I think if you maintain a reasonable amount of fitness throughout the year, then it’s perfectly doable.

I enjoy running and I like the crowd.  I really like seeing the fitness community of Fairbanks.  It’s visible if you’re in the right places, but it’s a lot easier to see the not so fit population in Fairbanks when you’re wandering around.  To me, it’s just exciting to see all these people who are putting in a lot of hours keeping fit.  

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David Leonard


Tim Doran

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

I’ve never done the ultra.  I’ve done the Equinox 13 times.  I did the relay once, the last leg.

The idea of running distance is relatively new in the last 12 years.  I walked the Equinox first because it was a great community thing, and I thought, how cool that people do this.  How do people run 26 miles?  The first Equinox, I only walked; the second one, I ran.  I went to Beaver Sports the night before, bought a pair of New Balance shoes, and ran in them at the race.  I finished it in 5:59.  Then I looked at my walking time, which was 6 hours 12 minutes, and I thought, only 13 minutes faster?  Was it worth it?  I thought it was cool, but it took me 20 years to run it again!  Except for the year my dad died, I’ve run it every year since.

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?

Training is not my thing.  I just go out and enjoy running, so I don’t train for it. Training and Tim Doran don’t connect!

What are your key workouts in preparation for this race?

Going out and having fun!

What’s your favorite thing about this race?

I love the start – watching the crowd of people cross that field and go up that hill.  The colors going across that field, the energy there, the sun rising… That is so neat.  And when you come in at the finish, people are there and they’re cheering you on, no matter how long it takes you.

Also, the people along the course.

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

The least favorite, because it’s so challenging is where you start up Ester Dome.

I love the first third of the course, and what I call the Golden Mile, where you come down off the chute and wind your way through the woods.

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

I actually don’t have a least favorite moment.  I’ve enjoyed each one, or I’ve adjusted to make sure I’ve enjoyed each one.  If I walk, that’s okay.  If I’m running, I don’t worry about the time.  It doesn’t have to be a PR.

Probably one of my favorite moments is in retrospect.  A couple of races ago, I was coming in to the chute at the finish, and people were cheering and yelling.  I was thinking, wow, this is so cool!  I was just about to cross the finish line, and this young teenager got ahead of me.  And I thought they were all cheering  just for me!  I didn’t know anybody was behind me.  It wasn’t until I saw the picture in the paper later on that this teenager was working so hard to catch me.  It was beautiful!  When I look at that picture, I see he had to work hard. He was a lot younger than me, but he had to work hard.  I was able to pat him on the back in good sportsmanship! 

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

Ha ha ha!  Competitive runner probably does not describe me!  I enjoy running, and there’s a little competition within myself to push myself as far as I can.

Glenn Hackney is such a wonderful role model.  I’ve looked at him for years, and I want to keep running just like him, and I’m determined to do that. The camaraderie of the running community here is phenomenal. Plus, running gives me an opportunity to see cities while I’m traveling, and enjoy them without all the noise when I go out for a run at 5:00 in the morning.  I can watch San Francisco wake up!  That has given me a whole new entrée to getting to know and enjoy different places.

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

Really enjoy it, and enjoy it for what it is on that given day.  Things might not go exactly as you hoped, but things may go better than you hoped.  I’ve had that happen to me.  My PR was the same year I had open heart surgery in January.  I was just out to see how I’d do, and if felt good.

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

I probably have!  But I think what has made the Equinox so enjoyable for me is I shift gears when I need to.  I might have pushed it a little too hard in one race, so my legs were tired when I hit mile 21/22, and I needed to shift gears.  At first, I was really bummed about it.  I started walking and thought maybe I could still run, but if I finished, I would finish injured. So I decided it was a beautiful day for a walk, and I finished it by walking, and I enjoyed it.

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 plan to do it, but I will not run the whole thing this year.   I will probably run the first third, and walk/run/hike the rest of the race to the finish.  

The camaraderie and the community spirit.  The thing that always crosses my mind is that people are sharing their backyards with us, and that is a motivator for me.  I love going through and thanking them.  And it’s a beautiful course!

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Tristan Sayre


Bob Hildebrandt

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

I have just ran the full marathon 16 times.

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’m retired now, but when I was a runner, I would run year round.  I would run a lot of races Outside.  Specifically, for the Equinox, my favorite areas were the first 10 to 12 miles and I ran that once a week in the summer.  I would only train on the Dome three or four times a year.

What are your key workouts in preparation for this race?

Long, slow runs.

What’s your favorite thing about this race?

Finishing!

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

I call it Sleepy Hollow, it’s the Aspen trail.  And a lot of times, running through the leaves there is like running through a cocoon. The chute is my least favorite.

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

My first years were faster.  Running down the last five or six miles and feeling really good and doing a good job.

My least favorite was dealing with my IT band one year.  I could only run a couple of miles before I had to stop and stretch. That was really challenging.  Allen Doyle lived here then, and he was going by and taking pictures of the race.  I remember thinking about waving him down, getting in his car and calling it quits.

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

I didn’t start running until I was in my 40s, so I was never a competitive runner.  My faster times were in my 40s, naturally.  I didn’t want to be last; I wanted to be in the last half.  My first Equinox was in ’93 and I ran it in 5 hours and a few seconds, and the next year I ran it around 4:50.  

The goal was to just finish the marathon.

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

Steve  had a good Equinox training program where you get to run the whole course.  Start out slow and get a good base to prevent injury.  Get in long, slow runs.  If you’re able to run a 20 miler, you know you can do the Equinox. There were several times, I’d go out for a 20 mile run and be gone for four to five hours, and I would stash water bottles around the route.  You can’t carry that much stuff with you and it’s best to have it along the roadway.

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

None that I can remember.  My wife was always available, so if I wanted to pick up a jacket, or need GU or a fresh water bottle, she was available.  I think my longevity was that I was always planning ahead.  I realized what was going to happen.

There was the time that I had done the out and back and I mistakenly ran through some surveying tape.  I would have been in Minto if the person behind me didn’t yell at me!

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?

No, I don’t.  I had a mild stroke in February 2009.  I would like to run again, but currently I’m not in physical condition. For awhile, I was running a quarter mile.  In the winter, I walk laps in the Big Dipper.  I felt I was gaining a lot of weight, so I started walking in the winter and riding my bike in the summer.  I have a really bad equilibrium problem, so I had to buy a three wheel bicycle.

It was my hometown marathon, and I just enjoyed it.

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Bobbi Jo Katchmar


Patrick Carroll

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

I’ve done it the last two years.  The first year I did it with my son,  and we had never done any kind of long distance race before.  Last year, I did it 50 minutes faster than the year before.

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?

Years ago, a friend of mine and I would run a lot of short races, and never thought much about doing anything over 10K.  I’m a two time cancer survivor, and at some point I figured I wanted to eat right and exercise.  Running seemed like a very healthy thing to do.  I don’t know how I got into this long distance thing.  It was there and I wanted to go for it and do it.  After I did the Equinox the first time, I thought I’d never finish, and when I finished after 7 hours 2 minutes, I collapsed, but immediately afterwards I decided I’d do it again the next year!

What are your key workouts in preparation for this race?

I’m not a cold weather runner, so it’s kinda tough sometimes.  I start off with the short races and build up.  I like running the ski trails around the University.  I don’t have any regimen that I follow.

What’s your favorite thing about this race?

Just doing it!  I just jumped up an age bracket this year, so hopefully I’ll finish better in that bracket.

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

I like the area around the Musk Ox Farm because it has nice views and you can still feel your body at that point in time.

Least favorite is the out and back.  It’s a killer.

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

Favorite part is coming out of the trees and seeing the finish line. 

Worst moment was last year going through the ski trails and I hit some roots and fell twice.  It didn’t stop me from running, but it was a nasty fall.

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

No, the only competitiveness is against myself and to beat my son! I like to beat my time from the last race.

Running has become a fitness goal to me.  I want to run for life.

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

Just do it.  It’s an accomplishment.  Anybody can just go out and do it.  If you want to do it competitively, running is a kind of sport that takes awhile for training, so you want to slowly work your way up to the point to where you can run it most of the way.

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

I should have paced myself better the first time I ran it.  I was running with my son and pushing it at first, and it was killer trying to finish it.  I think if you start off with an even pace, you’ll end up doing a lot better.

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, three years in a row, and I plan on beating last year’s time by a good half hour at least! 

It’s part of my training regimen for staying healthy.

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Mark Wood


David James

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

I’ve completed the Equinox three times, I did the middle leg of the relay before that, and I’ve also done the post-race clean up with the Fairbanks Cycle Club several times (the best part of that is you’re essentially done at mile 17 and spend most of the rest of the way just hanging on to the brakes and grinning).

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 run year round, and because I live near the Dome, I go up and down it quite a few times a year.  Since 2009 I’ve been running the Anchorage Mayor’s Marathon in June as well, so I’ve got the miles in early.  In July I go back to the hill, and by August I’m doing long hauls that include the Dome.  I also do most of the Tuesday Night Mountain Bike Rides, and since many of those run three to five hours with lots of climbing, they’re great for keeping up your stamina.

What are your key workouts in preparation for this race?

Mostly I just keep running.  In August I try to do at least three twenty miles-plus runs that include the Dome and the out and back.

What’s your favorite thing about this race?

There are a lot people I know running, the morning chill is always invigorating, and the scenery is great.  Plus it’s perfect for Fairbanks; this is an extreme town full of extreme people, so it makes sense that we would have one of the most extreme marathon courses in the country.  My friend Tom Clark and I have what we call the “dumb scale” for certain mountain bike rides that are so idiotic they rise above the normal level of fun and become truly epic.  The same scale could be applied to the Equinox.  It has an above average dumb factor, and I mean that in the best way possible.

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

It’s a cliche, but the best part for me is the trail above Ester, after the Alder Chute.  It’s insanely beautiful that time of year.  The Alder Chute itself, however, is a heavy price to pay for getting to that section.

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

The best was my third trip.  I felt like I was finally figuring out how to pace myself, and I got a second wind at the bottom of the Chute that lasted all the way to the finish.  I cut nearly half an hour off my previous time.

The worst moment was on the out and back during my first run.  My calves cramped up solid.  I had to repeatedly stop and stretch while the minutes ticked by.

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

I’ve never been very competitive.  I’m just an old fat guy who shows up.  I ran my first ever marathon (the Equinox) at forty-three, so I’m pretty new to this game.  The combination of inexperience, age, fifteen or twenty extra pounds, and medication I have to take for a heart arrhythmia leaves me at a slow pace.  But I figure while most people never even try to run a race like this, I’ve finished every time I’ve entered, so by that standard, I’m doing OK.

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

Some days you go out for a run and it just doesn’t work.  You bonk long before you should.  I used to get angry and discouraged when that happened, but now I know it means to take a couple of days off, then hit it again.  Invariably the next run makes up for the bad one.

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

The first time I went up the Dome too quickly.  I passed all these people and thought, “Man, they’re slowing down already.”  I didn’t think that anymore after most of them passed me on Gold Hill when they still had mojo and mine was spent.

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 just paid up, so there’s no going back now.  When I first ran the Equinox I looked at it as a one time only thing.  I just wanted to see if I could do it.  Once I answered that question there didn’t seem to be any good reason not to keep doing it.

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Bob Vitale


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