4th Girdwood Trails Marathon, 1st Half Marathon | Glacier City Gazette
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4th Girdwood Trails Marathon, 1st Half Marathon

4th Girdwood Trails Marathon, 1st Half Marathon

By Marc Donadieu
Glacier City Gazette

The fourth Girdwood Trails Marathon and the inaugural half marathon were held on October 5, with the start and finish at Alyeska Resort’s Daylodge. Hannah Lafleur won the marathon with a time of 3:41:13, while Miles Raney won the half marathon with a finish of 1:47:23.

“This is the only looped trail marathon in the state of Alaska,” said race organizer Brian Burnett. “Every year we switch directions on it. This year the challenge was not having the hand tram. The course is all wonky this year, and it’s all up and back. It’s completely different.”

With the hand tram closed, organizers had to create a new route. Starting at the Daylodge, marathon runners completed the 5K Nordic Loop to continue up Winner Creek Trail to an Upper Winner Creek Trail alpine turnaround, leading to the closed hand tram and back to the start.

The half marathon’s route is the second part of the longer race. Going downhill from the Daylodge on Alyeska Highway, the route cuts through New Town Square and onto Girdwood K-8 School, taking the Blueberry Trail to Crow Creek Road and continuing up on Beaver Pond Trail. Runners ascend California Creek Trail and descend on Abe’s Trail back to Beaver Pond to the Bird to Gird Trail and onto Iditarod Trail. Then it’s up Egloff Drive and back up Alyeska Hwy to the Daylodge finish.

“I’ve run the Crow Pass race before, so I knew a little bit about Girdwood, but I never ran any of the trails,” said marathon winner Lafleur. “It’s so beautiful going up into the forest. The Winner Creek Trail was spectacular. One of my favorite parts was going up California Creek. It was a fun climb. I loved the soft underfoot. You’re in this big hemlock, spruce forest. There’s not a lot of undergrowth.”

Lafleur said she ran most of the race with Lia Slemons and then moved ahead on Iditarod Trail to gain on the unseen race leader. By the time she reached Hightower Avenue, Lafleur passed the race leader to take the lead as she charged up Alyeska Highway to the Daylodge finish line.

“I passed him in the last mile. I didn’t see much of him on the course. I knew he was up there ahead of me. It was just a matter of time before I could reel him in. I was definitely feeling it running on pavement. I don’t do a lot of pavement running, so I was starting to fade. When I saw that bright Hawaiian shirt, it gave me a little bit of a boost.”

Lafleur has been running for 15 years and never ran competitively in high school or college. She has run in Alaska mountain races this summer, learning more about them and enjoying the experiences. She loves the challenge of running uphill.

“It was cool to be a part of it today and get to know Girdwood a little bit better,” Lafleur said. “I’ll definitely be back.”

Half marathon winner Raney won the full marathon two years ago, so he has experience and perspective from competing in the event.

“The trail wasn’t too bad but it was a little sloppy and slippery,” Raney said. “Being a half marathon racer, I skipped the whole Winner Creek area, and that’s some of the more technical trail. The boardwalks are slippery. They’re covered with moss. A couple of years ago they were frosted up. You have to be careful.”

It was Raney’s first half marathon, and he enjoyed the faster pace.

“I’ve never run a half marathon,” Raney said. “For me, it was a quick one. You can put it in top gear and really cruise. My favorite part of this trail is California Creek/Abe’s Trail. It’s a little bit more mountain running style. When you’re running the whole 26 miles, you have to pace yourself. With 13 miles, you can really attack it.”

Raney is drawn to running through Girdwood’s trees, which comprise the world’s most northern temperate rainforest. He also shared his advice to his girlfriend about running the race and how it is different from other marathons.

“It’s like a 26-mile obstacle course,” Raney said. “It’s my girlfriend’s first marathon, and I was like, ‘If you’re going to start off doing marathons, you’ve got to start off with the Girdwood Marathon. It’s tough. You’ve got to stay focused on your footing. There is no slacking off and letting it ride. You have to really be on it. It can be technical in some of those sections. The boardwalks are treacherous. You could have a disaster.”

Burnett said the half marathon began in response to numerous requests. Last year, 17 people ran the marathon. This year, there were 56 runners, with 28 in each race. The $25 entry fee will go to Girdwood trails via Girdwood Nordic Ski Club, whose volunteers helped with registration.

“I’ve been involved in a lot of running events,” Burnett said. “I started the Climbathon. I really like the concept of athletic events as fundraisers. This is such a great way to raise money for the trails. All of the other distance trail runs in Alaska are either mountain runs or out and back.”

A low-key event, the marathon doesn’t buy bibs or offer much more than water or sports drinks. Race numbers were written in permanent marker on the racers’ hands. Burnett said the approach reflected the aesthetic of earlier races in years past.

“When we first ran the Max’s Race [up Max’s Mountain], not only did we write our numbers on our hands, we timed ourselves,” Burnett said. “When we got to the top and stopped our watches, we came down here and told the scorekeeper how long it took us to get up top. That’s in the spirit of it. It’s a competitive event, but it’s kind of casual.”

Burnett also wanted to thank the volunteers who helped make the races happen.

“I kind of call this event a bunch of hippies running around in the woods,” Burnett said. “There are some fine, upstanding trail runners. Zack Behney, Jake Young, Ari Stiassny and Mel Stiassny helped with marking this year. Over the next week or so, people will leave the pin flags on the stairs over there and piles of ribbon. Everybody cleans it up for the love of the trails.”

Girdwood Trails Marathon Results

Hannah Lafleur – 3:41:13
Ryan McLaughlin – 3:42:22
Lia Slemons – 3:50:50
Jake Young – 3:59:24
Jeremy Wood – 4:00:37
Soren Wuerth – 4:02:33
Holly Brooks – 4:05:06
Josefine Nilsson – 4:12:54
Paul LaFrance – 4:21:19
Jan Tomsen – 4:26:19
George Creighton – 4:30:01
Brian Pautzke – 4:33:13
Cole Posthumus – 4:35:20
John Weddleton – 4:36:45
Marek Kolendo – 4:40:05
Jennifer Aschoff – 4:47:26
Melanee Stiassny – 4:48:37
Brandon Ruckel – 4:53:44
Nathan Kasukonis – 4:59:42
Michael McGuire – 5:08:54
Joel Gordon – 5:17:21
Andy Gardner – 5:19:53
Cara Hasselbach – 5:26:19
Dwayne Meganack – 5:37:46
Chelsea Riekkola – 5:38:03
Eric Thomason – 5:38:34
Brian Burns – 5:38:42
Stephen Peterson – 5:58:57

Girdwood Trails Half Marathon Results

Miles Raney – 1:47:23
Zach Behney – 1:52:16
Tony Quickel – 1:57:32
Sophie Ostroski – 2:07:46
Ely Hawes – 2:08:41
Wendy Sailors – 2:13:35
Kirsten Cohen – 2:20:06
Rick Potter – 2:20:17
Kyle Kelley – 2:21:13
Scott Hickox – 2:21:44
Brodie Wedeking – 2:22:23
Matt Wedeking – 2:22:25
Lucy Swygman – 2:27:41
Jack Hickox – 2:29:58
Dana Stahla – 2:32:39
Mia Stiassny – 2:33:00
Anna Green – 2:33:26
Karen Loso – 2:36:25
Mike Loso – 2:36:29
Ben Habecker – 2:37:38
Ari Stiassny – 2:41:01
Mandy Hawes – 2:41:30
Jackie Rowley – 2:42:57
Katra Wedeking – 2:44:53
Kris Miller – 2:56:39
Amanda Sassi – 3:06:49
Maggie Donnelly – 3:08:31
Audra Dittmer – DNF

Marc Donadieu / Glacier City Gazette
Miles Raney cruised into the finish line to win the Girdwood Trails Half Marathon with a time of 1:47:23.

Marc Donadieu / Glacier City Gazette
Zach Behney finished the half marathon at 1:52:16.

Marc Donadieu / Glacier City Gazette
Marathon winner Hannah Lafleur reaches the finish line after a strong charge up Alyeska Hwy.

Marc Donadieu / Glacier City Gazette