Seward: Mount Marathon

Derek and I just got back from an absolutely wonderful trip around Alaska. I can’t put into words how grateful and thankful we are to get to have this time and the resources to go on this trip. I will be writing a bit on those travels in the coming days and weeks, but today I wanted to focus on one specific circumstance.

Seward, Alaska is easily our favorite town in this grand state, and so when we planned our summer travel, Seward was one of our first stops. We spent 3 days in Seward and one of those days we were able to observe Seward’s 4th of July festivities, which include a 5k race. It’s not just any race – it is a 5k that has a 3,022 foot elevation gain. The fastest time ever run was 41:26, which is insane. (For some perspective: the current world record for a 5k is 12:37. Which is nuts as well).¬†The runners run up and down a mountain and it is hard. They finish bloody and muddy and exhausted. And it’s awesome. (Read more about it here).

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The Mount Marathon race includes a junior race, a women’s race, and a men’s race. One fun little activity that they hold is also a “mini-marathon”, where they put race bibs on little kids and let them run the first 200 or so meters of the start of the race and the crowd cheers wildly. It’s really adorable. They do the mini marathon about 10 minutes after the women’s race has begun.

The kids got out of the start fast and we cheered and clapped and then the noise died down. People started walking away or turning to each other and chatting as we expectantly waited for the top women to return from the top of Mount Marathon. But then a little flutter of noise began to erupt from the crowd and people started clapping and cheering again. I turned to Derek and asked what they were clapping for. He pointed back to the start line.

A little girl who couldn’t have been more than three or four was still participating in the mini marathon. She was wearing a Belle costume and was assisted in her run by a walker, her mother, and leg braces. Each step was clearly laborious to her. She was trying with all her might to do that mini marathon even though her peers had long finished.

The best part – the crowd went wild. We cheered and clapped and yelled encouragement. People cheered just as hard for her as they did for everyone else, even for the top finishers of the race. As I clapped I felt my throat get tight as I thought about the beauty of it all.

This moment encapsulated what I love about running, and about people. There are no tryouts and you can’t get cut from the team. Everyone can participate. You don’t have to be fast, but you can be, and that’s okay too. Running teaches us that we can do hard things and that when we do, we will have people cheering for us on the sidelines.

The runners really fought in the Mount Marathon race and it was incredibly beautiful to watch. I will write more later about watching the race because it was so much fun to see and to celebrate people running such a difficult race. I love watching the ends of races no matter the distance because I just think it’s a beautiful triumph. They showed immense courage and fortitude and it inspired me to no end.

But I have to say that I think the person who showed the most courage that day was a little girl in a Belle costume who conquered the mini marathon.

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Talkeetna

When we found out a long time ago that the guys were going to be in Korea for 4-6 weeks during June, my friend Stacy and I decided that it would be fun to take a little road trip in Alaska to break up the monotony of the time they were gone. (Her husband works with my husband so they were both out of town). We originally were going to take a trip to Homer, Alaska, which unfortunately didn’t work out, but Stacy found a great Airbnb in Talkeetna and I am so glad we did end up going there! It was an awesome trip and a fun way to discover a new town in Alaska.

I had heard of Talkeetna originally because the town’s standing mayor is a cat named Stubbs. Stubbs is 20 years old and a complete beast, and I was on a mission to meet that cat. (Read about Stubb’s noble reign both here and here).

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Nagley’s, “home of Stubbs”

Talkeetna is also known for being the starting spot for climbers who are planning to climb Mount Denali (formerly known as Mount McKinley), the highest peak in North America.

Talkeetna is about a 4-4.5 hour drive from Fairbanks, and so we drove out on a Tuesday and drove back on a Friday. It is the perfect town for a 2-3 day trip. We both loved Talkeetna and really enjoyed our trip. It was so fun to spend time together, and also to discover a new place.

Restaurants

I will start off by saying that the food in Talkeetna was overall really good. Fairbanks food scene is disappointing at times, and so it was fun to go somewhere where there were quality restaurants. There wasn’t a lot, but what there was was really good!

  • Wildflower was the best food we had in Talkeetna. Absolutely delicious with a great atmosphere.
  • Mountain High Pizza Pie was okay, but we ended up getting our meal paid for by a kind retired Infantry Colonel who was thankful for supportive Army wives and ironically was an alumni of the same school as Stacy! He was seated next to us (family style seating). I will take free okay-pizza over good let’s pay for it pizza. Hooah!
  • Denali Brewing Company – great lunch. Sweet potatoes fries were excellent!
  • Roadhouse – this place was a super fun brunch. This is famously the last place people eat before they head to base camp to climb Denali, so there is some fun history there. They serve pancakes that are larger than your plate.

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Activities

  • Susitna River Tour – this was an amazing tour! Our tour guide was born and raised in Talkeetna and he spent the whole time telling us interesting facts about the town and the river. It basically felt like an NPR story for five hours and the time flew by. We loved it.
  • Ziplining – it was a little chilly and cloudy, so we couldn’t see Denali and the tour was a little long, but it was a good thing to experience! Neither of us had ziplined before and we were glad we did it.
  • Talkeetna Historical Society Museum – really interesting history of the Alaska railroad, climbing Denali, and also mining in Talkeetna. Didn’t spend a ton of time here.

 

Since I know you are all dying from the suspense, I did NOT meet Stubbs the cat and I was slightly crushed. Basically the man at Nagley’s (store where Stubbs is allegedly living) said he is super old and doesn’t take visitors. Blah blah blah. Give the people what they want!¬†Stacy held my hand and let me out as I quietly wept. (Kidding).

All in all, it was a really fun trip and a great way to break up the time that the guys were gone. It was fun to spend time with my friend, and also discover a new place together. I am so thankful for the friends that the Army has given us. We have been able to meet and connect with people from all over the country, and it has been such a joy.

If you are ever in Alaska, check out Talkeetna! It’s such a cute little town, and we loved it.