A couple of my fellow Alaskan ultra runners went down South this past weekend and once again represented Alaska very well in ultra races. Evan Hone placed 4th in a 50k in the mountains near Malibu, CA and David Johnston placed 25th in the JFK 50 miler in Maryland. 25th place doesn't sound that impressive until you remember that the JFK 50 has about a thousand finishers! Congrats guys.
It's no secret that Alaska has (and has had for a long time) some very strong mountain runners. Races like Bird Ridge, Mt. Marathon, Crow Pass Crossing and Matanuska Peak Challenge are some of the most competitive and difficult to win off road races you will find anywhere in the country. In the summer of 2006 I ran what felt like a pretty good race at Bird Ridge and I finished 9th! The only time since college that I've been beaten by 8 people in one race. That's 4 times as many people than have beaten me in all 6 of the ultras I have ever run combined!
The quality of Alaska's ultra runners however is much more of a secret. We only have a few ultra races up here so a lot of runners who might otherwise run 4 or 5 ultras a year end up just running 1 or 2 because it takes a lot of time and money to travel to a lower 48 race. As far as I can tell Alaska has had a handful of runners travelling to the lower 48 for ultras for quite some time, but I think the level of success that Alaskans are having in ultras is higher than ever right now. This year alone 3 different Alaskans have won four 100 mile races! I would suspect there are just a handful of states whose residents have won more 100 milers than this. Especially impressive when you figure that Alaska has only 650,000 people! There are at least 5 or 6 states in the country whose residents would have to win every single 100 miler in North America to perform at the per capita rate that Alaska has this year.
Anyway, there is a point to all this bragging about Alaska ultra runners. The point is that our ultras might be pretty small and pretty low key by lower 48 standards, but they are incredibly scenic and challenging races with a handful of very talented runners. If you've ever thought about coming up here for an ultra I highly recommend it. And if you think it's not worth coming up here because there won't be enough competition in the race, you might want to think again. You may get up here and find yourself in a race with only a few dozen other runners (or in the case of the Resurrection Pass 100 this year 5 others), but you can just about be guaranteed that there will be at least a few who will give you a pretty good run for your money... even though you might not recognize their names.
These are the 4 ultras up here you might want to check out (you should be able to find links to each of them in my sidebar):
Little Su 50k
Resurrection Pass 50
Resurrection Pass 100