I first ran the Equinox marathon in 2005 after having wondered about it for several years. I was not very athletic up until that point and I wanted to train just to finish it. I made the mistake that first year of not training very much on the trail itself and on race day it kicked my butt. The thing that amazed me was the great people that come out to cheer everyone on and that is what made me decide to run it again the next year. I’ve run it a total of three times so far.
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 would usually start training as soon as the trails were dry. The summer races in and around Fairbanks are a great way to get into shape for the race. After the first year I started running almost exclusively on the course itself. Some of my favorite segments are from the University to the Musk Ox farm and from the base of Ester dome through the out and back. I found Steve’s Training runs to be key in helping me to be successful in the race. After June, I would always try to run up and down Ester Dome at least once a week.
What are your key workouts in preparation for this race?
My key workouts were just running the course itself while preparing for other races around town, such as the Santa Claus Half Marathon and the Gold Discovery run. I found that these two runs in particular gave me smaller goals that helped me keep motivated through my training.
What’s your favorite thing about this race?
My favorite thing about the race would absolutely have to be the people. I have never participated in another marathon that had quite the same feeling of community as in the Equinox. A close second is the beautiful scenery, especially in the out and back and after the chute. The smell of the fall leaves when the air is crisp and cool can’t be beat.
What’s your favorite part of the course? Your least favorite part?
My favorite part would have to be the out and back. It is probably because I make a point of training on it quite a bit. One great piece of advice that I got from one of the Equinox winners was to be ready for the out and back because it can break you if you are not prepared. The part of the course that I dislike the most would have to be the chute. No matter how many times I tried, I could never go down that section fast. I know that some people were able to literally fly down that steep descent, but I was always the person who slowly picked his way down carefully.
Describe the best moment you’ve experienced during this race. Describe the worst.
I think the best moment that I have ever had during the race was everytime I finished it. Sure I had different time goals as I ran it each year, but ultimately I felt just as successful each year I finished regardless of my time. The worst moment was the first year I ran it in 2005, and I got a big rock stuck in a cavity underneath my shoe coming down the chute. I noticed that my one foot felt differently when it landed but I was so focused that I didn’t slow down to figure out what was different. When I got to the pavement the extra pounding of landing on that rock with each stride basically crippled me, forcing me to walk the last four miles. When I finally finished and pulled off that shoe I saw that rock sticking out about a quarter inch from my tread. I felt somewhat sheepish for not stopping to figure it out, but now I won’t let something like that happen again.
Do you consider yourself a competitive runner? What are your running goals/fitness goals?
I don’t consider myself a competitive runner at all. I run mostly for fitness but I do try to beat my previous times if I can. I usually try to stay fit enough year around so that I can run several half marathons and at least one full marathon each summer.
What’s the best advice or training tips you can share with others who are new to this race?
Get out on the trails. You really can’t prepare yourself for this race with out hitting the trails. So many unexpected things can happen on the trails that it is best to experience most of them before race day. Also, I would highly recommend Steve’s training runs. Such a great group of people shows up and there are runners of all ability levels, so you will always have someone to run with. I think that the cameraderie that develops during the training runs really carries through to the marathon.
Have you made any big training errors, or race day flubs that adversely affected your enjoyment or time in this race?
Well to go back to worst moment answer from before it would be that darn rock! I would just have to say, if something feels wrong while you are running, slow down to figure out what it is. Running a few miles is very different from a marathon and small issues can add up to big issues fast. Now my shoes no longer have big cavities in the soles that large rocks can get lodged in :-)
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 plans on participating this year as I now live in Minnesota, but I hope to be back soon to see how well I can still do. I try to run as many trail races in Minnesota as I can but nothing can really compare. There is one marathon on the North Shore of Lake Superior, called the Moose Mountain Marathon, that comes close so I will have to settle for that. The motivation for races like the Equinox really comes from the people and the great course. They can’t be beat!
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