Saturday 3pm Pacific I’m in SeaTac Airport getting ready to board and it dawns on me “I’m going to miss packet pickup.” Frantically I text and call anyone I can think of. I hadn’t anticipated the degree to which abandoning the Book of Faces would make things like this such a challenge. I checked the Marathon Maniacs calendar to see who might be at Anchorage Runfest who I could beg to get my bib, and Deb gets me the number for Chuck and Sue, who live in Anchorage when they’re not traveling the US. Chuck is kind enough to get my bib, and offers dinner in his home as well. One of the great things about this community is how so many will offer of themselves to help out someone in need. I land in Anchorage to a spaghetti dinner and my race kit, and head to the Fred Meyer to get a few things for raceday, and off to my AirBnB.
I’m up in the morning and headed to the start line of the world’s only 49k, celebrating Alaska’s status as the 49th state in the union. Alaska and Hawai’i officially became American states in 1959. Alaska in January, and Hawai’i in August. At the start area I saw Texan Kiran, who would be finishing her 50th state in Alaska, and Georges and Johnathan, longtime friends from Tampa, and 50 State Marathon Club royalty Steve and Paula before entering the start corral to begin my race.
The 49k took us out of downtown onto the Tony Knowles Coastal trail through Earthquake Park, Point Woronzof Park, before turning around in Kincaid park to follow the same path until we turned east along a greenbelt through town. Just north of UAA we turned back to the coast and headed north along until popping out in downtown again to finish.
The course was mostly flat, the hilliest portions were at the finish headed into downtown off the coastal trail, and at the 49k turnaround, but the biggest challenge was the wind, which picked up sand from the mud flats along the coastal trail and whipped it around for several miles. I swear that I swallowed half a cup of sand, went temporarily blind in spots and the water at water stations couldn’t help but be “seasoned” with dirt, sand, and other debris.
The highlight was a moose right along the trail in Kincaid park watching us go by like she had courtside tickets to the Lakers. It’s actually kind of dangerous to approach a moose as close as she was so we tried to not look directly at her and not seem as if we were running at or away from her, but just able by like it was just another run-of-the-mill day where you’re accosted by a moose on your run.
I got a PR (I’ve never run a 49k before) and I saw Dave Bell, another of the 50 State Marathon Club dream team at the finish.
Afterward there was a little beer tent, but despite my 21st birthday nearly being able to celebrate its own 21st birthday I wasn’t able to enter because I strangely didn’t decide to carry my driver’s license for 30+ miles. I really didn’t want a beer, but it would have been nice to sit down with my friends and chat. I have to admit this frustrated me since I have traditionally seen Alaskans as not falling in for the nanny state mindset. Guys if I were underage (and my grey hairs and bags under my eyes scream that I’m clearly not) I can think of easier ways to get a beer than running a marathon.
Rather than try to get a shower at the Captain Cook Hotel, which was offering free showers at their athletic club, I decided to take my dirty self on the same hike I did in 2015, the Flattop Mountain Trail in Chugach State Park. Fun fact: Afraid of snakes? Both Hawai’i and Alaska have no native snake population.