This is part of a series of posts from my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. Alaska was my 43rd state.
For years when I would tell someone about my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states, often their response would be, “Have you run a race in Hawaii yet?” to which I would reply, “Yes, Hawaii was one of the first half marathons I ever ran, before I had the goal of running a half marathon in all 50 states.” Now that I’ve been to Alaska, I have to wonder why no one ever asked if I had ever run a race in Alaska. The natural ruggedness of the state makes it one of the most beautiful and unique places in the United States.
I certainly wasn’t surprised at how beautiful Alaska was when I got there. Honestly, I had high expectations for Alaska, and it didn’t disappoint. So why did it take me so long to run a race in Alaska then? My daughter. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t want her to get eaten by a bear, and I thought when she was younger and smaller, she would be bear bait. It may sound crazy, but that’s where my mind went as a parent. Now that she’s almost 13, I thought she would be big enough to not be an easy target for a bear.
But enough about bears and back to the race. The Racefest in Anchorage consisted of a kid’s race, one mile, 5k, half marathon, marathon, and 49k. The kid’s race and mile were on August 18 and the other races were on August 19. Packet pickup was August 17 and 18 and was well-organized and easy to get to at the convention center in downtown Anchorage. There were the usual vendors there, some selling things, some giving out information for local running events and other Anchorage-area information. I picked up my bib then got what has to be the coolest race shirt ever.
There was a movie showing of running-related movies on Thursday before the race but I arrived late Thursday night so I wasn’t able to go to it. Although I usually skip the pre-race pasta meals before races, I decided to go to this one, which was on Saturday at lunch. Bart Yasso and Jeff Galloway were speakers at the lunch and I thought it would be worth going to just to hear them speak. I’m big fans of both men and wasn’t disappointed by their talks. The food was good too and not too badly priced at $12 per person. After the lunch Jeff Galloway was holding a running clinic from 2:00 to 5:00 but I didn’t go to that because I wanted to do a little sightseeing in Anchorage that afternoon. After a delicious dinner at the restaurant South, I relaxed in a hot bath with Epsom salts and called it a night.
It was 54 degrees and overcast at 9:30 when the half marathon started. The course very quickly went to running trails and within less than a mile was off public roads. The beginning of the race went downhill, and since it was an out-and-back course, that meant the finish went uphill, but I’ll get to that later. I was hoping for some nice water views near the beginning of the trail, but that was short-lived, as we only got a few glimpses of the water.
The majority of the course went through wooded areas and was relatively flat with the exception of the beginning, end, and a couple of other shorter hills in the middle. Overall I would say the course was average as far as how scenic it was, but the hill at the finish was pretty demoralizing. There were several places along the course where there were entertainers like drum players and other people playing various kinds of music. There were also plenty of aid stations with water and Gatorade. The course was plainly and obviously marked and easy to follow. About an hour after the start it began to drizzle but luckily it wasn’t a downpour. I’ve been told rain in Anchorage is very common in August.
My split times started off really good but my last mile was my slowest by far and even though I didn’t walk, that blasted hill really slowed me down. I sprinted towards the finish line and finished in 2:01:06, 84th for women and 11/52 for my age group.
On par with the coolest race shirts ever, the medals were also super cool. At the finish was water, coffee, hot chocolate, bread from Great Harvest Bakery, oranges from Orange Theory Fitness, and beer at a beer garden. There were also post-race massages but the best post-race perk had to be the free showers at Captain Cook Hotel, a very nice hotel downtown with an athletic club. Since my family and I had to check out of our hotel by 11:00, I couldn’t just shower at my hotel room, and I didn’t want to sit in my sweaty running clothes for the 5 hour drive to Denali National Park. The people at the hotel and athletic club couldn’t have been more accommodating to us runners and I very much appreciated this hot shower in a nice place (as opposed to the local YMCA as I’ve showered at previously after races that offered that to runners).
Overall, I have to say I was a bit disappointed in this race. I wish it would have been more scenic rather than along greenways that could have been just about anywhere in the world if you didn’t know any better, and I was cursing the hill at the end as well. Maybe I’m spoiled by all of the greenways and running trails where I live, and someone else would have found the course incredibly scenic. The shirts and medals were awesome, which is kind of sad that they were the best things about a race in a place as incredible as Alaska. Maybe I had too high of expectations just because it was in Alaska. It wasn’t really a bad race, just not one that impressed me that much.
Have any of you been to Alaska or raced in Alaska? If so, what was your experience?