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Seward’s Mount Marathon Race
An event every year that begins at 12:00 am on day 4 of July, repeating until July 4, 2025
“Mount Marathon Is the Toughest 5K on the Planet” – Outside Magazine
How The Race Started
According to folklore, the tradition of the Mount Marathon Race began when two sourdoughs argued about the possibility of climbing and descending the mountain in less than an hour. “Impossible” one said. To settle the argument, and the resulting wager, a race was held, with the loser to furnish drinks for the crowd. At the same time, enterprising merchants put up a suit of clothes and other attractions for the winner and proposed the race take place on a holiday – why not the 4th of July? The optimistic sourdough lost his bet. The winning racer took one hour and two minutes.
Official records disclose that the Mount Marathon Race® actually began as an organized run in 1915 and has since become a regular part of the Independence Day celebration in Seward. Over the years, this home town historic event has drawn increased participation and resulted in new milestones. 54 women finished the first-ever women’s race in 1985, juniors began logging their age-group records in 1994, and 2005 heralded the beginning of the “staggered start” for the adult races. The popular Mini Marathon race starts them out young – toddling just a few feet to victory!
Race day is always July 4. The Mount Marathon Race® application process takes place beginning March 1st each year and closes at midnight, Alaska time, on March 31st. The foot race is a climb and descent on Mount Marathon – a mile and a half up and a mile and a half down, complete with cliffs, scree fields, waterfalls, and a spectacular view.
If you have any questions or wish to volunteer, do not hesitate to contact the Seward Chamber of Commerce Events Coordinator.
All first-time racers must complete the entire race course prior to race day and attend the safety meeting.
The race course includes areas of extreme difficulty, with steep inclines and slippery loose rock and shale.
There is no guarantee any aid stations will be available on the mountain. Water and aid materials may be delivered by helicopter if weather permits.
–have previous mountain running experience
–be physically fit enough to easily pass by the Cut-off Checkpoint before the time expires.
–be prepared to get themselves down the mountain, even if injured. Assistance is not guaranteed once you leave the race start.
–Runners may limit their risk of bodily injury to some degree by running the entire race course several times before race day and wearing protective gear such as helmets, gloves, goggles, knee and elbow pads are recommended.
Carry your own water if you will need it during the race.
Water and medical services will be provided at the Finish Line.
Slope Steepness Averages 34 Degrees
MtMarathonDiagramMount Marathon is not quite as steep as has been previously reported. The true steepness — from the base of the mountain to the lip of the mountain just before the turnaround rock — averages 34 degrees. That figure was calculated using GPS data from several racers. Excluding the road approach, the vertical gain is about 2,675 feet in 0.9 miles.
Adult Division Race Course
The starting line is at 4th and Adams in downtown Seward.
Runners will leave the starting line and follow the road to the base of the mountain.
Runners will run to the top of the course, stepping on the timing mat while passing around the summit rock, and descend down the mountain to the finish line.
The finish line is one block south of the starting line at 4th and Washington Street.
Approximate race distance is 3.1 miles, with an elevation gain of 3,022 feet.
Junior Division Race Course
The Junior Division Race follows the same trail to the finish as the adult race, but only goes half-way up the mountain.
Junior runners must round the marker at the halfway point and return down the mountain to the finish line.
Most years a volunteer group of veteran runners lead a safety tour on Mount Marathon in mid-June. The tour, offered in conjunction with the Mount Marathon Race Committee and Alaska Mountain Runners, focuses on helping participants travel safely on the bottom third of the mountain.
Tour leaders guide uphill until “Squirrel’s Inn”, then travel downhill through a section of scree and navigate the creekbed. Multiple options for descending off the mountain are covered.
Anyone who is signed up for the current year’s race or interested in a future race is encouraged to participate. There is no fee but participants must sign a liability waiver.
Since it only covers part of the mountain, the tour does not satisfy Mount Marathon’s requirement that first-time racers must complete the entire course before race day.
If the tour is available during the current year, a notice will be posted to this website by early June.
3.1 – 3.5 miles, depending on route
James Walters, 1915 | 1:02:02
Ephriam Kalmakoff, 1928 | Age 16 | 52:35
Todd Boonstra, 2003 | Age 41 | 47:32
Longest Record Holders
Bill Spencer, 43 years | Set junior record 1973 – Current
Bill Spencer, 39 years | Set men’s record 1974, Broke his own record in 1981 – 2013
Nancy Pease, 25 years | set women’s record 1990 – 2014
Most Race Wins
Nina Kemppel, 9 wins | 1994, 1996 – 2003
Most Junior Race Wins
Allison Ostrander, 6 wins | 2009 – 2014
Most Wins by Local Residents
Cedar Bourgeois, 7 wins | 2004 – 2010
Ralph Hatch, 6 wins | 1946 – 50, 1953
Most Consecutive Race Finishes
Fred Moore, 47 finishes | 1970 – Current
Ellyn Brown, 28 finishes | 1989 – Current
Corky Corthell, age 82 | 2011 | 1:56:45
Millie Spezialy, age 77 | 2015 | 2:18:37
To confirm event status (sold out, cancellations, COVID restrictions, etc.), be sure to visit the event website above.