The Mount Marathon event, an athletically dazzling feat of speed and agility held on Mount Marathon in Seward, Alaska, captured my imagination when I heard a story about it on NPR on my way home from work. Melissa Block was interviewing Christy Marvin, a mother of three young children, who was the winner in the women’s division last year.
Legend has it that the event started as a bet between two sailors. Race 3,022 feet to the top of Mount Marathon and back down in an hour. The first attempt in 1908 was a failure. Today, hundreds do whatever it takes to survive the challenge of the summiting and returning from the Mount.
Leading racers will typically reach the peak in 33–40 minutes and reach the finish line from the peak down in 10–15 minutes. Average speed uphill is 2 mph. Average speed downhill is 12 mph. It is not uncommon for the racers crossing the finish line to be injured or bleeding and covered in mud.
The names of the various routes give you an idea of just how challenging this event is! “The roots” is a tangled, jungle-like ascent up narrow path ways; “The cliffs” is a steep, rocky path full of loose, sharp rocks called “scree” where one wrong step can be disastrous. And “the gut”, is the most daunting part of the rock to some racers because this is where most of the injuries take place. As one runner described it, “The Mountain is a delicate dance of control, courage and perhaps a little bit of crazy.”
Melissa asked Christy a number of questions including the universal question, “Why, in the world would anyone want to do something like this?” Runners have fallen off cliffs, broken multiple bones and a few have perished, never to be found. Christy described how being in the mountains connects her to her values, the thrill of the adventure and the satisfaction of preparing for the run. Melissa asked her how she trains for this event given that she has three young children. Christy shared that she would often bring her children along when she would train. She talked about the various training techniques including “hill training” which involves repeated runs up and down the same hill.
Christy described one training session when she placed her youngest son, who was two years old at the time, on top of the hill. “I just didn’t feel like I had it in me to do another hill. I was tired and didn’t feel like pushing myself that day. All of sudden, I saw my 2 year old clapping his hands and him heard him scream out loud, “Dig, Mama, Dig”! There was no way I was going to let my son down and so I dug as hard as I could to run up that hill!”
Inspiration, encouragement and support can sometimes come from the most unlikely of places. We all have our versions of a Mount Marathon; An epic project, a problematic situation at home, a challenging colleague or an unreasonable and demanding client that seems impossible to please.
This month, I encourage you to honor that you have what it takes to “dig” and go the distance. Celebrate and remember the times in your life when you did just that! Invite people to be your cheerleaders, support you with wild optimism and unbridled enthusiasm as you tackle your version of “Mount Marathon.”
By sharing your goals and your vision, you just might hear an unexpected voice cheering you on, encouraging you and telling you that YOU have what it takes “to dig and go the distance.”
Here’s to you having the confidence, healthy mindset and inner strength to be able to “dig” when you need to!
*Photo provided by Ron Niebrugge/www.WildNatureImages.com