Runners race in 51st annual Equinox Marathon

Annie Bartholomew/Sun Star Reporter
Sept. 24, 2013

Two runners make their way up Ester Dome around 10am. They were some of the first runners to make it up the hill and at mile 15, where still almost a mile away from the top fo he dome. Sept. 21, 2013. Ivan Kvapil / Sun Star

Two runners make their way up Ester Dome around 10 a.m. They were some of the first runners to make it up the hill and at mile 15, where still almost a mile away from the top of the dome. Sept. 21, 2013. Ivan Kvapil/Sun Star

More than 960 people participated in the 51st Equinox Marathon Saturday morning with countless supporters following runners in cars throughout the course. The Fairbanks marathon is known for it’s grueling uphill climb and 26 mile adventure through Alaska conditions.

“If I can’t run, I’ll walk. If I can’t walk, I’ll crawl. But I’ll do whatever it takes to get to the finish line,” UAF anthropology and Natural Resource Management student Kristine de Leon said the night before her first marathon. She decided to run the Equionox last month, originally with a relay team. But realizing how much training would be required to run the race, her teammates dropped out and de Leon made the decision to run alone. To prepare for the race, de Leon practiced the second and third legs of the Equinox relay, only training to run up to ten miles.

Former race director Steve Bainbridge gave the morning’s pre-race announcement at the Student Recreation Center at 7:30 on Saturday. Bainbridge encouraged participants to write any injuries or medical conditions on the back of their bib in case they became in need of assistance on the rocky trail.  “You don’t have the visibility in front of you that you’d like,” he said after finishing leg one of the race. “You just got to make sure you’re watching out for the roots because there were people falling in front of me.”

At 8 a.m. the race began in a mass start outside the Patty Center with relay, marathon and ultramarathon participants all taking off at the same time. Moving up through campus, the group wound through Skarland Area trails, emerging at the Musk Ox Farm and running towards Ann’s Greenhouse in Sheep Creek.

Nine miles into the race, the 3.4 mile climb up Esther Dome begins. Ice patches and snow on the trail added to the dangers with de Leon and others falling multiple times. According to de Leon, eventually the race turned into a mental challenge. The race that started as something she wanted to do for herself turned into something much bigger; for her family, friends and boyfriend supporting her on the trail. “When I entered into the third leg I actually started crying because I was in so much pain,” she said, but continued going because of the cheering from strangers and other runners coming down the trail on the “Out-And-Back” portion.

After running for five and a half hours straight, de Leon was relieved to hear her name on the loudspeaker as she crossed the finish line at the Patty Center. De Leon had met her goal of finishing in under six hours and received the Equinox Marathon patch for completing the race before 6 p.m.

“It was an incredible journey,” de Leon said.

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