Posted by: Joe English | June 26, 2007

Race Review: Mayor’s Midnight Sun Marathon Anchorage

Just before 8:00AM, we headed out of a high-school gym on the outskirts of Anchorage into the cool, bright morning. Some scattered clouds hung in the air over small foothills rising in the distance. In the parking lot were assembled almost 2,000 runners and walkers, milling about before their journey. A radio DJ was playing some sort of techno-reggae that seemed out of place in on the edge of an Alaskan forest. A group of soldiers from a nearby base sang the national anthem and then, without much fanfare, the group tumbled forward under a starting banner and off into the morning.

The Mayor’s Midnight Sun Marathon got underway Saturday morning with perfect conditions for marathon running: a cool, windless, day with partially overcast skies. The first four miles of the course took runners along a bike-trail next to a freeway and almost immediately, I spotted a pack of runners standing next to the fence-line taking pictures. A huge moose was standing about 70 yards from the edge of the marathon course in a deep pond, almost blending in to the forest around him. The promise of wildlife along the route was beginning in earnest at mile 2!

After crossing the freeway at mile 4, the course climbed its first low hill and there, much to the surprise of aid station volunteers, was another moose. This second moose had decided to walk along the road next to the runners, seemingly much less interested in them than they were in her.

Ambling along for a few miles, the course then took a turn onto the wild side around mile 7. There the pavement ends and over the course of the next eight miles, it traverses a whole assortment of different forms of unpaved surfaces, including some fairly deep gravel. The runners formed almost a single-file line in places, running one behind the other, in order to stay in the freshly packed gravel of the runners ahead of them. If ever there was a case for wanting to be well back in the pack, this was it.

The forested road ambled along over some fairly challenging rollers and varied in its width from a wide open tank trail to a narrow trail scarcely more than a couple of shoulder widths wide where it crossed a stream on a narrow bridge. At one point an American Bald Eagle stood over-head as if watching for a weak marathoner to drop out of the race and become easy prey.

Around mile 15, the trail ends at an aid station and the course turns onto a quiet forest road descending gradually over the next two miles. Right before mile 17, I spotted a group of runners huddled at the side of the trail, snapping pictures and pointing. As I approached them, I saw the butt of a small bear ambling off into the bushes away from the road. I shooed the runners along on their way and when I told a police-officer a few minutes later about the little bear, his response was quick: “Oh, that’s not good” he said as he took off back up the road in the direction where we’d seen him.

The course then took a hard-downhill left turn and began running along a divided road for the next number of miles, tracking it’s way toward downtown Anchorage in a fairly straight line. In the closing miles of the course, the tiring runners and walkers spotted yet another moose and then found themselves following the edges of a quiet pond, just shy of Cook Inlet. At the end of the pond, after crossing a small pedestrian bridge, the course takes a last left turn up the aptly named “insult hill”, because of its location at mile 25. With the short, but steep, hill behind them, runners traversed a neighborhood and finished on the track of another high-school.

The Mayor’s Midnight Sun Marathon is a spectacular adventure in many respects. It is not only run in the wilds of Alaska, but at the Summer solstice as well. The solstice means long days, people wearing sunglasses on the street at 9:30PM and a funky questioning attitude of: does that sun ever go down?

Although Mayor’s is a mid-sized marathon, with about 2,000 runners in the full, it is extremely well organized. The aid stations were great in that they included food in most of them – not something that we see that often. The start area was well laid-out and offered a gymnasium in which to stay warm before the start. The finish-area was well stocked with goodies and Miss Teen Alaska was even presenting the medals to finishers.

In terms of course quickness, I’d rate this course as fairly tough. Some people liked the 10 mile un-paved section, but others felt that it beat them up pretty badly. The course rolls considerably from mile 4 through 17.5. None of the hills are particularly steep, but there is quite a bit of roll to the middle section of the course. I’d take 10-20 minutes off of goal times in setting expectations for this course, depending on the strength of the runner and their ability to tackle hills and unpaved terrain.

Perhaps the greatest asset of the Mayor’s Midnight Sun Marathon is the incredible location in Anchorage, Alaska. Everyone that I traveled with was very much jazzed by the surroundings and there were many fun excursions for pre and post-race travel days, such as visiting glaciers and jet boat tours of the area.

Overall this is an excellent marathon in a very unique location. Consider putting this one on your schedule.

Related Post: Selected photos from the race. Click here.

Coach Joe

Running Wild with Coach Joe – a blog focused on marathon racing, training and motivation. Bookmark us at https://coachjoeenglish.wordpress.com or use your favorite RSS feed reader to get the latest news and articles. Running Wild is also available on Yahoo! 360 and My Space.

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Responses

  1. I haven’t been reading your blogs too long, but I enjoyed the details you provided from your race. I hope I can do the same come the Richmond Marathon.

  2. […] post: Mayor’s Midnight Sun Race Review. Click here. Filed under: Marathon Race Reports and Reviews, Marathon Running, Running […]

  3. […] are some items that I published from last year’s race, including my course preview and photos taken at the 2007 […]


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