Alumni tackle Mount Marathon

June 21, 2017

UAA is all over Mount Marathon (and we’re not just talking about those four seniors who reassessed the landmark mountain’s height this year). In advance of the annual Fourth of July race, we talked to several alumni who tackle the mountain again and again and again and….


Brenton, crawling down 4th Avenue toward the finish line (Photo courtesy Brenton Knight).

Brenton Knight, B.S. Natural Sciences ’07, formerly competed for UAA in track, cross country, and Nordic skiing. He now works for outdoor athletics outfitters Salomon, but will be back in Seward for the Fourth of July.

Hometown: From Soldotna, currently residing in Boulder, Colo.

First Race: 1996, in the juniors race.

How many times have you run the race?
Including my junior years, I believe this will be my 14th running of the race.

What are your favorite trails to train on?
In Alaska, I was a really big fan of the backside of Flattop for training. Today, I train a lot on Green Mountain right in Boulder, Colorado.

What aspects of the race keep you coming back each year?
I love the rawness of the race. I’ve raced more than most and very few races measure in comparison to the technicality and intensity of Mount Marathon. I also love the comradeship of racers before and after the race. It really bonds people in a way few events can do.

Any advice for first-timers?
My best advice is to spend time on the mountain before the race. The mountain yields many injuries yearly and experience can help mediate this.

Anything else to add?
I maintain my infamy as the first guy to pass out from exhaustion on Main Street… while in first place.


Sheryl near the summit, with Seward VERY far in the distance. (Photo courtesy Sheryl Loan)

With a seventh-place finish in her debut race, Sheryl Loan, A.A.S. Dental Hygiene ’86, set an age group record for women age 50-59: 59 minutes, 23 seconds.

Hometown: In Eagle River since 1988.

First race: 2012

How many times have you run the race? Five times, 2012-2016

Favorite trails to train on?
Some of my favorite trails are the ones at Eagle River Nature Center. I also like Upper Winner Creek in Girdwood.

What aspects of the race keep you coming back each year?
I enjoy all aspects of the race the competition, the festival atmosphere but the fact that both of my kids race it is the highlight for me.


Mount Marathon is a family affair for Kelsey Coolidge, B.S. Civil Engineering ’12, who skied for UAA from 2006-2011. On the Fourth of July, you can find her — plus her dad, sister, best friend and brother-in-law — on the mountain.

Hometown: Born and raised in Anchorage.

First race: 2004, as a junior

How many times have you run the race?
I’ve done it twice as a junior, and last year was my tenth year as an adult.

Favorite trails to train on?
I live in Anchorage, so the trails at Kincaid and the hillside are the best. To really train for Mount Marathon, getting altitude is the best. My go-to training runs are the backside of Flattop, Little O’Malley, Bird Ridge, and trying to get on Mount Marathon as much as I can on the weekends.

What aspects of the race keep you coming back each year?
We have been going down to Seward for the Fourth since I can remember. In 2004, my mom decided my friend and I should put our names in the lottery the night before the race to see if we could get it, and as luck would have it, we both got in that night and have been doing it ever since.

Over the years I think the community of the race brings me back, there are some amazing, tough women that do this race and being a part of that… well, it’s kind of hard to describe. Also, wanting to beat my Dad is always a driving force (I finally beat him last year).

Any advice for first-timers?
Be prepared, go practice the mountain, and most importantly have fun!


Tor tackling the mountain in 2011. (Photo courtesy Tor Christopherson)

Tor Christopherson M.Ed. ’12 raced for the cross-country ski team at UAA while in graduate school, qualifying for nationals at age 28. He later returned to coach two seasons for the Skiwolves.

Hometown: Born and raised in Anchorage, where he currently lives with his wife and two kids.

First race: 2008

How many times have you run the race?
This year will be my tenth year.

What are your favorite trails to train on?
I have a cabin in Hope, and I love training on Hope Point and the Gull Rock Trail in Hope.

What aspects of the race keep you coming back each year? 
Mount Marathon is unlike any other race in the world, and it is Alaska to the core. Mount Marathon race motivates me to stay fit as I enter middle age — I’m 35. It gets me out the door to work out on days when I’m tired [after staying] up with my young kids at night, and would otherwise skip physical activity.

Any advice for first-timers?
Ditch the flat running, and start getting in your elevation.

Anything else to add?
This race is addictive! I tell myself I’ll take some time off after my tenth year of racing… but I don’t know if that is possible.


Watch Kelsey and Sheryl compete at 11 a.m. when the women take on the mountain first. Tor and Brenton start the men’s race at 2 p.m. Happy Fourth of July, Seawolf Nation!

Compiled by J. Besl, UAA Office of University Advancement

University of Alaska Anchorage - University Advancement
3211 Providence Dr. Suite 236 - Anchorage, AK 99508