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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