I crossed the United States from Vermont to Alaska where I had planned to run my 30th marathon of the year: the King Salmon Marathon. I had to deal with a four-hour time difference. Mountains surrounding Anchorage made a dramatic and beautiful skyline. In summer, the sun doesn’t set in the North of Alaska! So amazing!
Once in my hotel room in Anchorage, I went over my checklist for the run on Saturday. Good thinking as I realized the “small” mistake I had made! I had read on the marathon site that the run took place in Valdez Cordova and indeed it did, with one tiny twist: the name actually refers to the region of Valdez Cordova as well as two small towns, Valdez and Cordova. The marathon was actually taking place in Cordova. However, there is no direct road between Valdez and Cordova. There are 172 miles between Anchorage and Cordova, but – tiny detail – there are no roads to get there either! You can only get there by air! Ha, ha! What a bad joke! I had to organize everything again: cancel my hotel room in Valdez, book a flight to get to Cordova and get a room there, all this with a very poor Internet connection and reservations that could not be made via Internet! I really felt at the end of the world, but luckily I had a secret weapon: my good friend Thierry – my 24-hour-a day-logistics-support – who managed to get me the last hotel room in this quaint little town where every hotel was full due to the Copper River Wild Salmon Festival. So lucky to have him! What would I have done without him?
After fifty minutes over magnificent mountains and lakes, I finally landed in Cordova where I found a shuttle to get to my hotel downtown via the only road there…
I got my runner’s bib across the street from the hotel and went to the famous Salmon Festival where I enjoyed delicious salmon dishes. I left early for a good night’s sleep: I had set the alarm clock for 5 a.m.
The next morning, a few minutes before breakfast, I took three small packets of Immun’Âge®. I prepared a light outfit for the run as the weather was quite warm the day before. A shuttle picked up the runners at a five-minute walk from the hotel to get us to the start. It was drizzling and a bit chilly but it promised to be OK once we warmed up. There were nineteen runners including two marathoners who had run several of the marathons I participated in before. The world is really small, isn’t it? With the shuttle, we got to drive the marathon course backwards.
The run was a point-to-point course that traversed the Copper River delta, the first half on a gravel road, and the second half on the only paved road in the area between the airport and downtown Cordova. The course itself was not exciting but the scenery was definitely stunning.
When we arrived at the start, it was chilly and drizzling. We did not waste time and left right away. As there were few of us, we quickly became scattered and ended up running alone. I was more interested that day in the great scenic vistas than in my time performance.
We started running in the green and wild tundra. The dirt road was quite OK with a few holes here and there and a lot of gravel but nothing too bad. My pace was slow and I passed km 5 in 29 minutes, km 10 in 1:02 and km 15 in 1:37. I stopped to admire the scenery, take pictures and talk to volunteers at each aid stop. As the marathon was a self-sufficiency run, I carried a small bottle of PowerAde that I managed with great care.
After the tundra, we saw magnificent mountains and glaciers! The clouds were quite low but sometimes the sun shone on the mountains allowing for great pictures. The area seemed to me so wild that I suspected there could be bears and moose. When I asked a volunteer, he told me that they could occasionally cross the course! I loved the idea and desperately looked for moose and bear during my run, but to no avail. I was really disappointed since they were supposed to be all over! Well, you certainly cannot have it all, so I felt better just looking at the beautiful wildness surrounding me.
I reached km 20 in 2:10 and the half-marathon in 2:19. The half-marathon runners had just started their race in front of me and I passed a few of them. From km 24 on, we ran on the paved road that leads to Cordova. The course was still a long, endless stretch. Now we were running along rivers where huge salmon leaped. It was terrific. I passed km 25 in 2:49 and km 30 in 3:32, still at the same slow pace that would prevent me from hurting myself.
I passed a runner asking her if she was OK as she was looking behind. She answered she was. However, her mother behind her was scared of bears! I comforted her, assuring her that I had not seen any and that houses were not very far now. Strange idea to come running here if you are scared of bears!
I reached km 35 in 4:15. We then ran along beside the blue waters of Eyak Lake… The view was spectacular! Seaplanes landed and took off in front of me and this was great to watch! This place was really different, we were in a very remote area. After the only small hill of our run – the course was at sea level – we reached Cordova and I passed km 40 in 4:59 and the finishing line in 5:19:04.
I got my finisher’s medal and diploma, struck a conversation with the race director and got back to my hotel for a shower, three small packets of Immun’Âge® as usual after a race, and a nice little nap.
The course, its location and breathtaking landscape made this marathon unique. It was really worth coming to this quaint little fishing town at the end of the world. Mostly flat, the course was easy and allowed me to enjoy amazing scenery. I stayed two more days after the marathon hoping to finally see a moose or a bear.
I would like to dedicate this marathon to all the victims of the Nice attack and their families. We could all have been there on this Thursday, July 14. Human stupidity at its worse.
Let’s meet next week in Montana for a small surprise and for the highest road marathon on Planet Earth.
Have a nice week.