Records fall at Mount Marathon race in Seward

people run down a steep gravel mountainside
Mount Marathon racers dash down the mountainside during the annual competition in Seward on Monday, July 4, 2022. (Ben Matheson)

Records fell at the annual Mount Marathon Race in Seward on Monday. 

In the women’s race, rookie Allie McLaughlin from Colorado separated from the field early and held on to smash the women’s record by about 40 seconds. At the top of the grueling climb, the 31-year-old was nearly 2 minutes faster than the record. She slowed slightly on the downhill, but no runners were in sight as she approached the finish line in downtown Seward. 

a woman walks up a steep mountainside
Allie McLaughlin on her way up the mountain. McLaughlin said she took a route through ‘The Roots’ unlike most of her competitors who climbed up a rockier section (Ben Matheson)

She told the official race broadcast she enjoyed the home stretch. 

“I kinda wished I smiled a little bit more but I was like, ‘It’s gonna hurt as soon as I smile so I just gotta stay focused,'” she said.

Seward’s Hannah Lafleur finished in second — more than 5 minutes behind McLaughlin. 

McLaughlin is an accomplished trail and mountain runner who recently won the prestigious Broken Arrow vertical kilometer climb in California. She said she’s dreamed of racing Mount Marathon for years, but her plans were sidelined during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The previous race record was set by Emelie Forsberg of Sweden in 2015. McLaughlin beat her time by 39 seconds.

In the men’s race, the all-time record was never threatened, but winner Max King of Oregon shattered the best time for racers in their 40s. It was 42-year-old King’s second win in his three years running the race.

a man in shorts walks up a steep mountainside
Max King of Oregon won this year’s Mount Marathon men’s race. (Ben Matheson)

He led by about 20 seconds at the top of the mountain and built on his lead on the descent. He told official race commentators that the drier than usual conditions on the Kenai Peninsula this year made for a harder trail on the descent. 

“I started to lose my ankle mobility halfway down and was like, ‘Just stay up, just stay up.’ But it was drier than I’ve ever seen it,” he said. “It was really dusty so I was glad I was in front.”

King’s win — his second in three tries — made him the oldest winner in the history of the men’s race. 

He was followed by race rookie Thomas O’Harra, a cross country-skier from Anchorage. 

The winner of the boy’s race was 15-year-old Coby Marvin from Palmer. He is the son of women’s third-place finisher Christy Marvin. Rose Conway, 14 of Anchorage, won the girl’s race. The junior races go halfway up the mountain.

The adult race course is about 3.1 miles with almost 3,000 feet of elevation gain.

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Lex Treinen covers culture, homelessness, politics and corrections for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at ltreinen@alaskapublic.org.