Mastering the marathon

Miller and Yanni win the Frank Maier Marathon, Iverson and Ellefson take the half marathon, while McBride breaks record in men's wheelchair division

Posted: Sunday, August 05, 2007

Two records fell as more than 150 athletes turned out for the Southeast Road Runners' biggest even of the year - the 16th annual Frank Maier Marathon and Douglas Island Half Marathon.

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Juneau's Seth McBride obliterated Don Brandon's four-year old record in the men's marathon wheelchair division with a winning time of 2 hours, 27 minutes and 21 seconds. Juneau-Douglas High School cross country co-coach Merry Ellefson established a new record for women's masters division in the half-marathon en route to winning the race in 1:27:26.

McBride, 24, now holds the record in both the marathon and half marathon. He set the half marathon record in last year's race.

While McBride trains with the United States Paralympic Wheelchair Rugby Team during winter, for the last six months he powered through 40-50 miles per week training for this year's 26.2-mile race.

Juneau long-distance specialist Shawn Miller, the reigning marathon record holder, nearly missed rewriting his own record with a winning time of 2:33:58, nearly 40 minutes faster than his closet competition.

His time in Saturday's marathon nearly mirrored his personal record of 2:28:51 - a time he set last year in Victoria, British Colombia.

Amy Yanni won the women's marathon in 3:31:42.

Local cronies bested the half marathon field as Bryce Iverson motored to a time of 1:16:12. Wesley and Tyler Dinnan, 19-year-old twins, finished second and third respectively behind Iverson.

Saturday's weather provided excellent running conditions for the race.

Kaj Loken-Kim, one of the early beginners who started the race at 6 a.m., said, "I liked the scenery ... at times you could hear the eagles. It wasn't rainy, it wasn't too cold, it wasn't too hot. It was perfect."

The racecourse started in downtown Douglas's Savikko Park. It headed out of town, through West Juneau and out the North Douglas Highway.

The marathon route reversed directions at the top of the hill at False Outer Point.

"This course is pretty much up and down all the way, but the turnaround hill is probably the toughest part of the race," McBride said.

Neither race features any significantly steep climbs or drastic descents, allowing the runners settle into a rhythm.

"With the generally rolling hills, the muscles do not get over-taxed for an extended period of time, and that is nice," Miller said.

Despite the lack of steep climbs, the final mile and half of the race proved tough for everyone.

Douglas' Travis Reed said it's been 17 years since he's done any competitive running and had never run a 13-mile race in his life.

"That last little hill that starts at the Lawson Creek Bridge (and ends beyond Crow Hill Drive) can really separate the runners who are on their last gasp from those who still have something left to give."

Jennifer Wardell agreed, "When you hit the last mile, yeah, it can happen ... lost steam on the last hill."

Most of the runners appeared to be hurting as they passed the Douglas Bridge, but with just a couple of miles to go they knew that they were getting close to the end.

The people watching at the aid stations could tell that the athletes were going to finish off the big run.

At the finish line, some runners looked strong, most looked tired, but the mostly all came back to Savikko Park excited and happy.

Dan Montieth, a professor at University of Alaska Southeast, expressed excitement at finishing his first marathon.

"I have run over 200 races and this is my first marathon in 18 years," Montieth said. "After having a bad accident I felt as though I may never run a marathon again so this is by far a wah-hoo day."

Providing aid to the runners proved a big part of helping the participants succeed.

The aid stations were fully staffed with friendly faces, and the racers felt that it made a big difference. Some of the six aid stations employed up to eight people who gave uplifting encouragement along with water, Gatorade, comedy and GU energy gels.

One of the aid stations blasted dance music while the volunteers dressed in wild costumes and wigs.

Volunteer Sarah Poor said her job description included keep people, "happy, hydrated and smiling."

Race director Bob Marshall said he had "pages of names of people who volunteered today." In all, Marshall had a crew of more than 60 volunteers who helped make the marathon possible for the community.

Nickie Germain, the head coordinator of the aid station across from the Douglas Island Breeze In, said, "The best part about participating as a volunteer in the races is the inspiration you get from seeing others doing the race."

Volunteers play a key role in the success of the Southeast Road Runners' events.

"The running club of Juneau puts on 25 races a year," Marshall said. "It's a fabulous schedule of running events. For such a small town and community, its almost world class in terms of the participation level. People from back East come to Juneau and they cannot believe how many running events the club puts on. There is a lot of young runners getting into the sport, a lot of masters runners and the wheelchair racing is sort of an up-and-coming thing as each year someone wants to do it."

Marshall, who directed his seventh Frank Maier Marathon on Saturday, feels the event boasts a great safety record.

"Sure, people get blisters, fall down and get scraped up, and rashes," he said. "There is dehydration and exhaustion, but that is typical of the sport. Some do end up in pretty bad shape, while other runners come in and look like they are ready to go out for another run."

Don't count Reed as one of those ready to run another 26.2 miles immediately.

"If I can get out of bed tomorrow," he said, "I'll be pretty happy."

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