Defending champs, race record-holders, intriguing newcomers — the field for the 90th running of Mount Marathon, the grueling climb and harrowing descent of the 3,022-foot peak overlooking Resurrection Bay in Seward, looks stacked.
Among the notable entries when the race committee Monday revealed racers in the limited-entry field for the annual Fourth of July race were defending men's champion David Norris of Anchorage and defending women's champion Christy Marvin of Palmer.
All Norris managed in his race debut last season was clock 41 minutes, 26 seconds, and topple world-class mountain runner Kilian Jornet's 2015 record of 41:48. Marvin not only bagged her second race victory last season, but posted a personal-best 51:02 that stands as the fifth-fastest women's time in history.
Jornet, of Spain, and his girlfriend, Emelie Forsberg of Sweden, who in 2015 delivered the women's record of 47:48, also are entered. Ditto for Allie Ostrander of Soldotna, the six-time junior girls champion who in her 2015 senior debut finished runner-up in 50:28, two seconds faster than Nancy Pease's record that stood since 1990.
Also back will be three-time champion Eric Strabel of Anchorage, whose 42:55 in 2013 finally cracked Bill Spencer's record of 43:21, which had endured for 32 years. Strabel's record run set off a stampede of three men's records in four years — Jornet eclipsed Strabel's mark, then Norris eclipsed Jornet's.
Nick Elson, the men's 2016 runner-up from British Columbia who threw down the sixth-fastest time in history (43:06), is also entered.
One local newcomer to the race will be Anchorage's Chad Trammell, who last year set a record in the Turnagain Arm Trail Run and also is a past champion of the World's Toughest Mudder, a 24-hour obstacle race.
An intriguing newcomer in the women's race will be former Olympic nordic skier Morgan Arritola of Boise, Idaho, who is multi-time U.S. Mountain Running Champion and two years ago finished 10th in the world championships in Wales.
On the men's side, newcomers include Lars Kjerengtroen of Salt Lake City, Utah, a multiple winner of 50- and 100-mile races, and sixth at the 2014 Leadville 100-Miler. Also entered for his Mount Marathon debut is Colorado's Matthias Messner, who last year finished seventh in the Speedgoat 50K in Utah — that race, like Leadville, annually draws a deep, talented field.
A spot in Mount Marathon is coveted by mountain runners because it is considered a combination of Alaska's Super Bowl and Olympics — thousands of fans pour into the harbor-side town to cheer runners — and features limited fields. A total of about 300 boys and girls compete in the junior race, and the men's and women's senior fields are each capped at about 350 because that's all the traffic the mountain can handle.
Some racers, particularly newcomers, gain entry through a lottery system. Prospective runners have one last shot at entry — 10 men's bibs and 10 women's bibs are auctioned the night before the race. Those spots have gone for as high as $3,000, according to organizers. There is also a raffle on July 3 for one bib, in either the men's or women's race, with each raffle ticket going for $10.