I’ve participated in the full marathon every year I’ve lived in Fairbanks except a few years when I was sick, injured, and those years I crewed for friends or took times for the relay- I think I’ve run it 12 times. I’ve never done the relay or ultra.
The Equinox marathon is a very special event for me and has marked every year I’ve been in Fairbanks, starting from when I came up for graduate school and didn’t know anything about the race. My advisor, Ed Murphy knew I was a runner and told me I should do it. I’d never done a marathon, and hardly ran all summer, but I signed up the night before the race. I couldn’t believe how tough the course was and I had many unusual pains during that race. The last six miles my shoulder was too sore to support the weight of my arm, so when nobody was looking I would carry it with my other arm. I still really enjoyed that race- the trails, scenery, and the vibe from the spectators and participants. I was hooked.
At the finish of my first Equinox I was also introduced to Ned, who I later married, and years later for an engagement gift he gave me a lifetime bib. Now we have a 5 year old who’s completed the course 3 years with her father and dog.
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 mid-April. I run on the course a lot, but mainly because I live right on it and I prefer running on trails. I usually run the Dome many times over the summer.
What are your key workouts in preparation for this race?
I’ve been part of John Estle’s running group most years that I’ve lived in Fairbanks, so that’s ensured that I did weekly hill workouts or intervals on the track. I would usually do 3-4, 20+ mile runs, and at least one of those runs would include 5-8 miles and then up Ester Dome.
What’s your favorite thing about this race?
It’s in my backyard, and it always feels like a friendly race even when I’ve been competitive. I haven’t run many other marathons, but this one has many things I like- trail-running, good competition, fall colors, and cool temps. I love that young people, older people, and folks of all fitness levels and abilities come out to run/walk and everyone supports each other. At my house, this has also become a weekend event starting with the Pump House spaghetti feed. We usually host runners from Anchorage or the lower 48, and I enjoy hearing their stories of the race. We haven’t had any visitors who didn’t want to return to run the Equinox again.
What’s your favorite part of the course? Your least favorite part?
My favorite parts are of the trail sections and uphills. My least favorite are the pavement sections and the “back” of the out-and-back.
Describe the best moment you’ve experienced during this race.
I’ve had many great moments during this race, but I remember the year I ran my best time (3:30) I felt good from start to finish. Usually my race is a bit more of a roller-coaster.
Describe the worst.
I don’t think I’ve had a “worst”. One of my more difficult years I had a problem with my hip that I never experienced before or since. The last 9 miles, one hip felt like it was ratcheting up so tight it wouldn’t move anymore and I had to keep stopping and rubbing it. I limped the entire rest of the course. But misery loves company, and fellow runner Karl Olson was having a rough race too -starting when he slipped on ice and I saw him tumble out of sight on the out and back. We leap-frogged that last 3rd of the race with our staggered stops and starts. Jamie Hollingsworth kept my spirits up by running with me for about 3 miles in his logger boots and carhartts.
Do you consider yourself a competitive runner? What are your running goals/fitness goals?
I consider myself competitive. I’m working through an injury that kept me out of running for a year, so my current goal is to try to keep that problem at bay and stay healthy enough to keep running.
What’s the best advice or training tips you can share with others who are new to this race?
If you’re running competitively, run all sections of the course so you know what to expect. Make sure you have a good base of long runs, intervals, hill workouts. Don’t run the course or Ester Dome too much or you might hate it all by race day. Wear layers- it’s always a cold start and sometimes very cold Ester Dome and then a much warmer finish. Drink regularly- that was very good advice someone gave me my first year. Sitting in the Chena River is great post-race recovery.
If you’re not competitive, don’t be afraid to try this marathon. Even if you have to walk parts of it or all of it- it’s still an accomplishment. Its always a beautiful day and you’ll get lots of support along the trail. If children under 10 can complete the course and my neighbor did it on crutches, I think almost anyone can complete it if they want to.
Have you made any big training errors, or race day flubs that adversely affected your enjoyment or time in this race?
One of the years I trained the hardest I wore shorts on a cold morning and my legs were glowing pink and felt stiff the whole race. Another year I entered the race just days after getting over swine flu and had to drop out at the top of the Dome because I was having trouble breathing.
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?
If I’m not away for work I’ll be out there.
I’ve never regretted participating in the race. Even when I didn’t perform as well as I hoped there are always lessons to learn from the experience.