A cold, grey and blustery morning turned into beautiful running weather for athletes challenging the Duff’s Skagway Marathon and Half Marathon last weekend.
Twenty-two souls lined up on the Broadway dock off of downtown Skagway, Alaska and set off running towards the Dyea Flats at 8 a.m. The 12 half marathon walkers joined them and were followed by 81 half marathon runners, clumped tightly together for the first town section of the course at 9 a.m.
A course known for its rolling elevation – the half marathon features no less than three major hill climbs – many of its participants were using it as a training race.
For men’s marathon winner David Eikelboom, the course was a way to get some longer miles in before the first-ever Reckless Raven 50-mile ultra on July 2.
Eikelboom, of Whitehorse, started the race running with fellow Yukoner Dominic Bradford. They helped pace each other and break some of the nasty headwinds.
Ahead of them was American Haroldas Subertas, who pushed relentlessly up the hills.
But on their final hill before the turnaround point, Eikelboom sensed an opportunity. Subertas wasn’t running as strong up the hills; he was moving side-to-side, so Eikelboom made his move.
“Let’s see what happens if I push a little bit here,” he told himself.
The move stuck and Eikelboom took the lead for the remainder of the race.
Volunteers on other parts of the course were shocked when they heard he had already passed the turnaround point.
Eikelboom has won the half marathon twice before, but it was his first time tackling the full.
Race organizer Kristin Wagner wasn’t surprised when he won. Along the way, he “shattered” the men’s marathon record, setting a new standard in two hours, 47 minutes and 56 seconds.
For his part, Eikelboom was running without a GPS watch and had planned to “run within myself,” dictating pace based on how his body was feeling.
As he was rounding the corner on the dirt section before the final major uphill, wife Jody ran into him coming from the other direction. She was pushing their son in a running stroller.
He knew he was in the homestretch and seeing his family gave him a boost to push through the windy uphill.
With even splits – running the same pace the second half as the first – and able to continue running the days after the race gives him a boost heading into the Reckless Raven in a couple weeks.
“It’s been a lot of work,” he said. “I’m really excited for this 50-miler.”
Denise McHale, the women’s marathon winner is also preparing to race the Reckless Raven solo. She also set a new course record for the Skagway marathon in 3:23:52.
Women’s half marathon winner, Kendra Murray, was competing in her first official 21.1K race. Also training for the Reckless Raven, which she’ll race as a team with her sister Sarah Murray, Murray’s goal was “just to see what kind of
shape I was in” and to “have fun.”
With her background as a cross-country skier – Murray also won the 50K Buckwheat Loppet this year – she loves hills.
Following her mantra of “stay relaxed and just run,” she lengthened out her stride on the downs and pushed the ups, gaining time on the other women.
A fan of rolling courses, Murray is not as keen on the flats and said that running back through town was hard.
“I thought Skagway had tripled in size,” she laughed.
She finished in 1:35:11.
Whitehorse’s Daniel Dreisetl won the men’s half in 1:31:09.
Bonnie Love was the top female walker in 2:36:41, while John Storms took the top male spot in 2:27:44.
NOTES: Two of the marathon racers were using the race to get their “50 Stater” status – for those who have run a marathon in each state.
Brian Schweinhagen, of West Covina, Cali., wearing bib 50 crossed Alaska, his final state, off his list.
“We had some really seasoned racers on the course for sure,” said Wagner.
More than 3/4 of the participants this year were from the Yukon.
For the first time in race history, there was an active bear on the course. It was on the full course and a few runners required vehicle escorts through the section.
The race remains a Boston Marathon qualifier and was certified by a technician.
Top Yukon results from Skagway Marathon and Half Marathon
Women's Half Marathon
1. Kendra Murray * 1:35:11
2. Erica Van Vlack * 1:36:17
3. Maura Sullivan * 1:37:42
4. Anett Kralisch * 1:38:39
5. Shawna Smith * 1:39:14
Men's Half Marathon
1. Daniel Dreiseitl * 1:31:09
2. Nolan Isozaki 1:32:02
3. Tom Ullyett * 1:38:00
4. Richard Thompson * 1:44:34
5. Benjamin Scott 1:44:36
Women's Walking Half Marathon
1. Bonnie Love * 2:36:41
2. Alyssa Sawyer 2:56:19
3. Jean Smith 3:00:27
4. Becky Jensen 3:16:45
5. Donna Lambert 3:21:34
Men's Walking Half Marathon
1. John Storms * 2:27:44
2. Reed McCluskey 4:20:40
1. Denise McHale * 3:23:52
2. Valerie Morey * 3:56:27
3. MaryAnn Love 4:17:25
4. Joanne Van Bibber-Widrig * 4:26:38
5. Mindy Shaw 4:31:43
1. David Eikelboom * 2:47:56
2. Haroldas Subertas 2:57:38
3. Dominic Bradford * 2:57:55
4. Jason Hoepker 3:18:38
5. Blake Bottle 3:19:04
*: Yukoner Bold: course record