Mount Marathon Race Recap!

I am so excited to have Jenn share her race recap from Mount Marathon. She inspires me in so many ways, and I am so grateful we found each other through running! Enjoy!

We’ve been planning a trip to visit family in Alaska for years, and when it landed over the 4th of July, I was told I HAD to enter the lottery for the Mount Marathon race. The race started when two Alaskans bet on the possibility of climbing and descending the mountain in less than an hour. “Impossible,” one said. To settle the argument and wager, a race was held on the 4th of July with the loser buying drinks for the crowd. The optimistic Alaskan lost the bet with the first race taking one hour and two minutes. My 16-year-old son, 14-year-old niece, and I all got entries into the lottery. 44% of women who entered made it into the race. After getting accepted, I watched lots of youtube videos. They scared me enough that I added more elevation gain into my regular trail runs.

I climbed the face of Baldy and Mogahany in Utah County which were the closest trails I could find to mimic the elevation gain of Mount Marathon. One was 3200’ of climbing in 2 miles, and one was 4000’ of climbing in 2 miles. I wish I could have found trails even steeper because the race was a hands and feet climb a lot of the way. Mount marathon gains around 3000’ in less than a mile.

A few tips my niece gave me before the race were really helpful. One, wear a double layer of shorts to help with padding WHEN you fall, which you absolutely will fall coming down the mountain. Two, wearing gloves is a must, both for grabbing roots and trees while climbing and also for preserving your hands when you fall. 

The afternoon before the race my brother-in-law, son, niece and I all hiked the junior race course, which turns around halfway up the mountain.

First time racers are required to complete the course at least once prior to race day because it is dangerous and you absolutely must know what you are doing.

This rule was instituted when a racer disappeared after reaching the top and was never found again.

For the course preview, I wore one Hoka Tecton shoe and one Brooks Cascadia. They felt similar in the mud so I chose the Tectons because I like their responsiveness on the road more than the Cascadias.

On our practice run, part of the course was closed because a runner had fallen down the waterfall portion of the course and had to be transported by ambulance. She was being taken off the mountain when we were trying to go up. 

A surprising difference between this race and others I’ve done is the expo. Some expos will feature a motivational speaker or running celebrity. For first-time racers, this expo included a mandatory safety meeting which felt very much like them trying to convince you not to race! We were shown a video of the dangers of the race and life-threatening injuries that have happened in past races. 

We camped at the base of the mountain, and all evening I looked through binoculars at the course I was attempting to complete the next morning. I could see tiny dots of people climbing up the course. I have never been more frightened in my life. The campground was right along the ocean and the night of the 3rd featured a boat parade and fireworks at midnight. It was definitely a different experience to have fireworks in the light since it never fully gets dark in the summer.  We went to bed at 2:30 because it felt like 9 pm. 

The junior race was first and was absolutely inspiring and frightening. It was fun to cheer for my niece and son.

It rained all night, and we woke up to rivers flowing under our tents. The course had been muddy and slippery the day before but was even worse on race day. The bottom half of the race was mud like I’d never seen in my life. People were slipping and sliding more than they went up it seemed. It was nearly impossible to pass on the lower section because of all the mud. If you stepped to one side or the other of another racer, you immediately lost 3 steps back. We ended up in a conga line all encouraging each other up the mountain.

At one point I saw the trail split, and I thought I could gain some ground by taking the lesser-traveled path and pass some people. The women behind me immediately told me the left was the better trail as it had more rocks and roots to grab onto, so I got back into my place in line. I was extremely glad for my gloves as at this point we were hands and feet crawling up the mountain. At the junior race turnaround point, the course turned to rock. There was more of an opportunity to pass people on this section, but it required you to go off the path and scramble more in loose rock.

At this point in the race we were in the clouds, it was hailing, and visibility was low, so for the most part I stuck to the line of women making their way to the top. At the top, there is a tiny aid station with water dropped off by helicopter and a boulder you have to go around. I could have used some hot chocolate, but I grabbed my cup of water and started down. Going down was a shock. Women were passing me right and left. The course down is a “pick your own adventure” scree field.

You can run wherever you want to get down. I don’t have a lot of practice flinging my body down small shards of rock like I was being chased by a hungry bear. Apparently, Alaskans practice this often. I got to the bottom of the shale and entered “the gut” which is a river and rock section. I felt more confident on this part because I am more used to picking my way over rocks on trails.

This race was a first for me where my arms were more sore than my legs from all the climbing with my arms!

In a normal year at the bottom of the gut, you can choose to go down the switchbacks, the waterfall, or the cliffs. This year the waterfall was closed due to abnormally dangerous conditions. One racer told me he has done the race for 32 years and taken the waterfall 30 of those years, but this year he wouldn’t consider it. After crab crawling down the cliffs, you exit the mountain and have 1k left on the road. At this point, I was happy with my Hoka Tecton shoes because of how bouncy and light they felt.

It’s a weird feeling to come off the cliffs section of the trail and enter the road. The crowds are screaming and cheering for you, and you feel like you won a gold medal at the Olympics because you just got off the mountain in one piece. The cliffs section is just one of the many sections I worried for my life. Alaskans are a new level of intense. 

After finishing the race, volunteers have hoses to spray off the mud and clean any wounds. I was thrilled that the goody bag at the expo included Core Power, my favorite recovery drink thanks to Janae getting me hooked. It usually takes a few minutes, hours, or days for me to commit to another race, but as soon as I hit the road this time, I immediately wanted to go back up. It’s a bucket list race for many, one that I hope to do at least twice! 

Thanks, Jenn!

I consider Jenn a trail-running expert so if you have any questions for her, ask them here!

What was a highlight from your weekend?

Is Mount Marathon something you would love to do? Who reading has done it?

Have a favorite trail shoe?

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What a cool race! I mean it sounds scary but also like a once in a lifetime opportunity. Congrats Jenn!


Right?! Like I kind of want to try it but I know I would drop out once things got scary for me, ha. Hope your morning is off to a beautiful start, Maureen!


There’s only one way down! 😉 Let’s do it together sometime!


What a cool race!! Looks so intense. Thanks for sharing!


Looks like such a cool race!
Weekend highlights swimming in a lake, trail running and hiking up blackcomb mountain and running down lol. And then whistler on Saturday.. I hiked half way up whistler the singing pass trail..made it far enough to get spectacular views and then back down again. I think I gained just shy of 10k feet over the 2 days and did a total of 52 km over 2 days. My legs are fried but my heart is happy lol.

Have a great day Janae!


Holy moly Jenn!! That sounds like such an amazing adventure. A trip to Alaska is definitely on my bucket list, but this race… WOW! With the little bit of trails I run, I have discovered that I am horrible at downhill running, ha. So this seems very scary to me.
Awesome job Jenn!
Janae, I hope you had a great weekend too.


You have to have Alaska on your bucket list. It’s absolutely incredible with or without the race!


Wow! What an experience, thanks for sharing, Jenn!
We hiked up 2 miles of the Mt. Roberts trail in Juneau last year and it was so muddy there was no way I was willing to go back down. Lucky for us there was a tram to ride back down in.

I’ve been running in the Saucony Excursion trail shoe for a couple years now and really like them.


I placed third in my age group, females 60-69 at a local 5K, so I was pretty happy this weekend!


MAUREEN! That is huge! Oh my goodness, congrats!


Wow, just reading this post felt intense!! I feel like I got to experience the race for myself hah. Thanks so much for sharing, Jenn, what an amazing achievement! Were you sore afterwards?

My trail running questions:
What are your tips for downhill running on trails, especially somewhere like in this race where there’s a lot of loose rock?

Do you have any exercises or workouts you’d recommend to help me become a stronger trail runner? Anything important to focus on?

Also, now I’m just curious about what other epic races are on your bucket list?! 😁

Again, congrats!


Thanks for your kind comments Callie! My chest and arms were sore the next morning from pulling myself up a mountain, but the rest of my body felt great! My niece told me the day before that to run on scree you just jump and keep your feet moving fast! It definitely seems like you’d get better at that with experience. I was falling more than those people moving faster, so I think you just have to go for it and not be so tense. As far as exercises go, for me the most important are glute activation and hamstrings. Peloton has great strength training workouts in both these categories!


My husband and I did Mount Marathon when we lived in Alaska. We really enjoyed trail running there! Mount Marathon was definitely the most intense race we’ve ever done! One of the Anchorage television stations did a documentary on the race the year we ran it. My coworkers bought a copy and gifted it to me.


Wow! That’s awesome they did a documentary that year! I would love to see it! And I’m glad you also think its the most intense race you’ve ever done. Sometimes I feel like I’m making it a bigger deal than it was, but in reality, it was pretty intense and pretty epic. I loved the other trail runs around anchorage that I was able to do while I was there! Alaska is so beautiful!


This seemed so crazy!!! I want to do it next year. Love all the details.




awesome….I’ve watch the vid with Rickey Gates, Emelie Forsberg and Kilian Jornet running that….I can dream, but looked like our type of fun….as for what’s next, I decided to become a race director…so, for next three months I may be a little busy


I need to watch that video! It sounds so interesting!


Holy Moly, way to go Jenn! That’s firmly out of my league but so fun to read your recap. People can do amazing things!

I did a teeny local trail race on the 4th that gained 2200 ft over 10 miles (more my speed, hah). It’s super informal, you carry your own food and water and registration is 10 minutes before the race starts and just $2, worth the cold coke at the end! Plus the wildflowers were great this year.


Jenn! I had no idea you were so hard core! That race looks INCREDIBLE and I am so impressed you and your son made it through in one piece haha. My question for you is how do you discover new fun trails to run? I’ve moved a lot and always struggle. Is it just AllTrails?
We have to get together next time I’m in Utah!



I worked with you at Runner’s Corner 20 years ago! You were just finishing high school/starting BYU and I was already at BYU. I remember you knew all the trails in Utah County to run on!
I also remember hearing about your dating adventures with a certain guy (that I think/hoped you married). So fun to see you in the occasional HRG post and to see that you are still running so much!

Lauren (Brown) Oler


Lauren! What a small world, I’m so glad HRG connected us back together! Those RC days were the best, selling millions and millions of wave riders! Where are you now? Let’s jump on a trail together! Thanks for saying hi!

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