Monday, May 27, 2013

It All Starts Somewhere - Mayor's Midnight Sun Marathon, Anchorage 2005

This started as a bucket list item.  That's what I tell everyone. 

It actually started as TWO bucket list items. I'd taken a class at work about getting organized and one of the exercises was to look at your life from a 30,000 foot level and think about what you want to be able to see as you look back. We were asked to create a list of 10 things to do, see or accomplish and then start being open to the opportunities to check them off the list.

Two of my items were "Have a meal in all 50 states" (because just flying over them in a plane didn't seem substantial enough) and "Complete a marathon". The latter brought a snicker from my wife who knew that my two previous knee surgeries made it more of a challenge. In January of 2005, I signed up for the Mayor's Marathon in Anchorage, Alaska. Team in Training had a program that specifically trained walkers for marathon distances. It was a great fit for me. Walking had a lot less impact on my body. Alaska was still on the list.

Susan and our friend Wendy decided to follow along and train on their own for the Half Marathon. By April, they'd already walked 12 miles in one stretch without any major incidents, so they upped their goal to the full marathon. So much for baby steps.

I should mention that my 50 states goal was still missing 7 states OTHER than Alaska. I had to make a 5 day trip in April stopping in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi and Louisiana and then a long weekend in North Dakota and New Mexico in May to do my 18 mile training in Fargo. There's a fine line between hobby and mental illness and I may have crossed it that spring.

Fast forward to June. I'm 18 pounds lighter than I was at the start of the season. I'm standing at the starting line in the Bartlett High School parking lot taking pictures of the different state logos on the purple Team in Training jerseys. Six hours and twenty three minutes later, I walk across the finish line with the kind of high that you can't understand unless you've felt it yourself. Satisfaction. Accomplishment. Momentary immortality.

But what I didn't expect was what happened at mile 25. Maybe it was the way the mind works when you've traveled that long or maybe it was the effect of the last 6 hours of continuous drizzle. I passed the lady below.

Her name is Faith. She stands there rain or shine every year for up to 9 hours, thanking the people from Team in Training that raised money for cures that changed her life.  I understand that in the years since, she added "Two-Time" before "Leukemia".

In the moment I heard the story, my life changed as well. I didn't understand what it was like to be part of a bigger picture. My motivation changed from the one-time thing to check off to a desire to keep raising money for people like Faith and the other honorees from our team. Team in Training was a vehicle that got us hooked. The impact, however, was way beyond what I thought it would be.

Every year I ask people from TNT to check to make sure she's still there and to say hi and thank her for the effect she has on people. I doubt she'll remember me, but I'll always remember her.

It started as a Bucket List. 

It's now a way of life.

The Mayor's Marathon celebrates it's 40th running in 2013. It's held the weekend of the Summer Solstice. In 2012, there were approximately 2500 participants, ~950 in the full marathon and 1600 in the half marathon. The course travels through wilderness along a gravel path called the Oilwell Tank Trail for about 8 miles, then through suburban Anchorage and finishes at Delaney Park. From 2005 - 2007, the finish line was at West Anchorage High School which put the last half mile going up "Insult Hill".

Weather: ranges from high 40's to mid 80's. Bring sunscreen and mosquito repellant.
Things to do: Whale and Puffin watching (Kenai Penninsula). Solstice Festival. Eating way too much fresh halibut.
Course setting:  Freeway frontage road (4 miles), Wilderness (8 miles), Suburbs, parks and lakes. The Half is an out-and-back to the airport going along Bootlegger Cove.
Support: Excellent, especially in the Tank Trail (the Mayor calls it the 'worlds largest outdoor porta-john')

Susan completed her first full marathon there in 2005. Ron completed the full marathon twice (2005, 2007) and the half marathon in 2006. Ron kept going back until he was able to take a picture of a moose.


  1. I'm doing it this year. Hope I get a picture of a moose my first time out.

  2. On the good side, everyone seems to have a camera on their phones these days. The first two years we went I was the only one with a camera but everyone else saw one.