‘Going for a stroll’: Dozens of Junior Mount Marathon competitors speed through course despite official cancellation

Smoky conditions caused race organizers to cancel the juniors race on Mount Marathon for 2019. (KTUU)
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SEWARD, Alaska (KTUU) - Despite the official cancelation of the Junior Mount Marathon race due to smoky conditions in and around Seward, dozens of runners originally registered for the race made their ways up and down the mountain anyway.

“I was really disappointed, said Jillian Gavalya, 14, “because I’ve been training, so pretty bummed. We’ve been working for this, but we have to make the most of it.”

Gavalya said this would’ve been her first go at Mount Marathon.

“We all just kind of wanted to still do it,” she said, “got all ready, were stressing out, and thought, we might as well.”

A handful of competitors flew through the course instead of what announcers referred to as “going for a stroll,” since there was no official start or finish, nor any organizer-provided emergency support during what would’ve been the junior race.

Throngs of other athletes made their ways up and down the mountain at a slower clip, simply wanting to finish the course since they’d showed up for the race, completing the course in a makeshift chute next to the official finish line.

“We’re just going to hike up for fun,” said Ryann Dorris, 16, “hike all together.”

Most of the competitors who spoke with Channel 2 said they weren’t concerned about the smoky conditions on the mountain, but officials said it was just too risky not to call off, at least from an official standpoint.

The first "unofficial" runners to make it up and down were Sebastian Swezda-Mittelstadt, with an unofficial time of 29:18, and Nowell Spencer, the daughter of 8-time race champion Bill Spencer, with a time of 31:32.

“You have this huge adrenaline rush,” said another runner, who’s competed in the junior race previously. “It’s just so exciting to do. A big disappointment we couldn’t do it (officially).”

The first race of the day will be the Women's Race at 11 a.m. The men will take to the course at 2 p.m.

Channel 2's Patrick Enslow also contributed to this report.

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