Of all the races on my calendar, Alaska and Hawaii were the two that had me the most worried. Both require long flights and are expensive destinations, and I hoped that Jim and I wouldn’t have to re- run either. I’ve had some great marathon performances this year, though, so I felt good going into my Juneau race in late July. I wasn’t too worried about hitting my Boston Qualifying time, but as I get closer to wrapping up this 50- state journey, I’ve started to toy with the idea of making 50 sub- 3:30 my new goal. I came in under this time in Hawaii, so Alaska would be a real test of practicality.
This state had more marathons to choose from than I would have thought, but many looked hilly/ challenging with little chance of a potential BQ. I ultimately selected Juneau because it appeared to be relatively flat and it took place over summer break, so we were able to bring the boys along. (My mom and Keith joined us for this first leg of our trip.) After spending four days in Juneau, we set off for Fairbanks and Denali National Park for more adventuring. The trip was incredible. We would go back for a return visit every year if we could. During this first stop, we did some hiking (Jim and the kids saw a bear), rafting, and we took a sea plane over the glaciers to Taku Lodge.
The race, however, was a mixed bag. It is a small event, with less than 100 participants in the full. Race organization and communication were great—especially for an event of this size. The marathon took place on Douglass Island, which is just across the Gastineau Channel from Juneau. Packet pickup was at a local shopping center and was easy to get to, and we had no problem driving the couple of miles from our hotel to the start/ finish line on race morning. The parking lot adjacent to the start line had plenty of room to accommodate us.
The marathon was an out and back along Douglass Highway, which offered some nice views of Juneau, the channel, and even a glacier. It was a pretty run, but it wasn’t extraordinarily scenic. It’s difficult to vary the views all that much when running alongside a body of water. But our roads were all smooth and well- paved, and we didn’t have to concern ourselves too much with possible bear sightings, so no course complaints 😉
I started this race strong, and the first half of the marathon went well. There was a nice man from Tennessee that I ran with for about ten miles who provided some good conversation. The course was hillier than I had anticipated, and we had our largest uphill right at the turnaround point. (The race director compared this course to Boston, but I’d say it was a more challenging course—especially due to the lack of spectators or runners on the course.) Miles 1- 13 were all solidly under 8:00, but I couldn’t get back to this pace on the back half of the race. I started averaging 8:15+ minute miles and realized that I was quickly losing the cushion that I had built. I really tried to push myself during the last few miles, but by then I was really feeling the hills and the humidity was also starting to affect me. (Juneau is in a temperate rainforest, so even though the temperatures stayed in the 60’s all morning, it always felt like it was just about to rain.) I kept feeling like I should be able to run faster, but I apparently didn’t have it in me this morning.
I ended up being the first girl across the finish line, which was unexpected and nice, but I was three minutes shy of my 3:30 goal. I am happy that I was able to nail another Boston Qualifying time, but I will have to return to Alaska if I decide to pursue a 50 sub 3:30 run—not that I’m complaining. Next time, I’ll attempt one of the flatter courses in Anchorage.
A true highlight of this marathon was the post- race party. It was held in the pavilion of the local park which was right off the finish line. For such a small event, the organizers provided a terrific spread. It is virtually impossible to beat fresh caught and grilled Alaskan salmon. I’d recommend this race based on the food alone.
Sub 4 State #43, BQ State #43
Finish Time: 3:33:15
Overall Place Within My Gender: 1/ 23
Favorite Race Day Song: “Me and the Sky” from Come From Away
Total Training Miles: 8,729.5
Shoe Total: 26