Marathons: Paul #71, Leah #61 : Frank Maier Marathon 2015
25th July 2015, Juneau, Alaska, USA
Finish Time = 3:41:22
Leah: 3rd Place Female
Following our tough time at the Mayor’s Midnight Sun Marathon in Anchorage last year, where I managed to scrape a sub 4 but Leah did not, we decided to visit a different part of Alaska to repeat the state for Leah to hit the time goal she needed.
We had booked the trip far in advance to lock in good flight prices, but it was only at the last minute that we had decided to run the Barr Trail Mountain Race 6 days beforehand as training for the Pikes Peak Marathon. What we didn’t anticipate was how tough the Barr Trail event would be; neither of us could even walk properly for 4 days following it, so in the lead up to Frank Maier we were both starting to feel the pressure.
We needed to hit the sub 4 this time, Alaska is a tricky State to schedule and also expensive to get to. We tried to do a test run in the days leading up to the event but it didn’t work well at all. This didn’t look good and we were shaking our heads at ourselves for pushing so hard at Barr Trail when we knew we had this race coming up.
We’re fresh out of sleep
Logistics to get there were tricky and by the time we arrived in Juneau and had made it to our hotel we only had 4 hours before we had to get up again to start the race. Could we be making this any harder on ourselves?! Well yes actually… there aren’t any brand name hotels in Juneau and the place we were staying in didn’t have air conditioning. It was hot and stuffy and those 4 hours of sleep were not good hours.
We had arrived at night, so when we woke in the morning and looked out to daylight the first thing that struck us was how stunning the scenery was, the mountains in particular. In Anchorage you could see the mountains in the distance; in Juneau they are right there in front of you. It’s the capital city of Alaska even though it’s smaller than Anchorage.
We drove to the start line, spotting waterfalls shooting out of mountains, cruise ships sailing by and even a huge glacier in the distance. The start area itself was spectacular:
We set off at 6am and began the out and back course along the road on Douglas Island. All we wanted to do was to get the sub 4, but I did half-joke to Leah that I could only see 3 other females in front of her, so she was in 4th. After a while though another female passed us and then another one that looked very fast.
Considering we hadn’t been able to walk properly or run at all during the week leading up to the race, we were feeling pretty good. We were enjoying the scenery, the fresh Alaskan air and just being out there in Juneau. We were looking around and taking it all in, as well as keeping up a brisk pace to try to bag some time in the first half. The views were amazing, sea planes were taking off and landing in the sea beside us and we could see the huge blue-tinted glacier in the distance again too.
As we got closer to the halfway turnaround we started seeing some of the lead runners coming back the other way and we realized that Leah was actually the 5th female. “Wouldn’t it be great if you could win an award from Alaska?” I asked.. but honestly we were both just hoping our legs would hold out to get the sub 4 and last the distance. We held our brisk pace and kept pushing. Even though it was an out-and-back course it was still a pleasure running back the other way and seeing the scenery again.
We couldn’t believe it…
As we got to 24 miles we suddenly saw the 4th place female up ahead in the distance. As the mile progressed we realised she was slowing down and we were getting closer. Just before the mile ended we had caught up and overtaken her. Sometimes in marathons if we’re feeling strong we’ll try to blast through the last mile just to see how quick we can do a final marathon mile. We were feeling good and much to our relief we had the sub 4 time wrapped up so we decided to push it out and see what would happen. Shortly into mile 25 we turned a corner and couldn’t believe it – 3rd place female was just up ahead! We flew through that mile in 7:20, our fastest final mile in a marathon ever, overtaking the female in 3rd and then continued the remaining 0.2 miles at a 6:54 pace.
We crossed the line in 3 hours 41 minutes, with Leah winning 3rd place female and also 3rd in her age group (if only the other 2 had been older!). It was a huge redemption for her given how much she struggled in Alaska the previous year, a relief for both of us that we managed to pull it off under the circumstances with such a strong run, and also we were just so happy with the whole experience.
It turned out the 4th place female we had overtaken ended up finishing 1 minute behind Leah and 5th place was only 1 minute behind 4th. A very close race in the end. I had also actually finished 4th in my age group, only 90 seconds away from 3rd! Now that’s annoying.. I could have won a trophy too.
As we had approached the finish line Leah had been slightly behind me so I held back a step so that we crossed together. After crossing the line the race officials had determined Leah had been in front and so held me back to record her number down first. Neither of us actually mind about the official order, so whatever the procedure needs to be. However, see the news article at the end of this write-up to see how that was more to that than we realised at the time!
After the race they had an amazing spread of food with just about everything you could want. The highlights were freshly grilled build-your-own burgers and also fresh sockeye salmon on another grill. We ate and ate and after we could eat no more the award ceremony started.
After the awards we showered and changed back at the hotel. What’s the best thing to do after a marathon? Go on a glacier hike of course.. well, that’s what I decided after looking up what the huge glacier was that we had seen in the distance on run. We drove over to Mendenhall Glacier Visitor’s Center.
It was salmon spawning season and we saw some huge sockeye salmon swimming upstream.
We took the walk out to the glacier which was an amazing sight and then also walked the trail round to the Nugget Falls waterfall. We finished off the evening walking into the city center and having some great food and wine.
Although at the time we were disappointed that Leah hadn’t managed the sub 4 in Anchorage, if it hadn’t been for that we wouldn’t have visited Alaska again and experienced Juneau. For that, we were always be grateful.
We did laugh when the news article came out about the marathon, see the part we’re highlighted:
Elevation Graph from my running watch:
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