Time Running Out to Participate in Juneau Marathon

    Shannon Gress is shown during her record setting run in the 2014 Juneau (then Frank Meier) Marathon. (Klas Stolpe / KINY)

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - The Juneau Marathon and Half-Marathon, the capital city’s most sought after road race, is slated to start at 8 a.m. and 9 a.m., respectively, on Saturday at Douglas’ Savikko Park, rain or shine, and the time is ticking for entrants to get their running kits organized, get entered, and join in what has become a sought after attraction world-wide for runners, joggers and walkers.

      “It is Juneau,” race director David Epstein said. “There are destination events where people want to come to a beautiful place like Juneau and participate in a race. People want to come to Juneau. They want to see the whales, they want to see the otters and they want to see the beauty of the place.”

      The Juneau Marathon was Formerly known as the Frank Meier Marathon since 1992, when it was named in honor of Meier roughly a year after a fishing accident claimed his life, Meier was a marathon enthusiast who raced the event from the 70’s to 1988.

      The name was changed in 2018 to bring more awareness to the event as a destination race.

      Epstein noted that the Meier family gave their blessing to the name change.

      “We wanted, not so much to disrespect mister Meier, but we wanted to showcase Juneau,” Epstein said. “That the fact the event is in Juneau it really wasn’t fully evident before. We did it with the knowledge of the widow and she was supportive. We had buy in for it.”

      Frank Meier was all about wanting to attract runners to the marathon and hosting such a popular event.

      “We have about a third of our participants coming from out of town,” Epstein said.

      The races are a must-do for numerous marathon clubs across the country and roughly 30 states and over 120 entrants are currently represented in this years event.

      Epstein expects those numbers to increase by race day.

      “I expect in our late registration sessions we will pick up at least 75 more so we will be pushing 200 I hope by the time it is over and done with,” he said.

      The Juneau Marathon online registration ends tonight at midnight. Interested runners can go to raceroster.com.

       Late registration is available Thursday at Nugget Alaskan Outfitter from 4:30 to 6 p.m.

    and Friday at Centennial Hall from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.

      Due to the recent COVID-19 alerts, masking and social distancing will be required when picking up race packets or registering when in the buildings.

      Racers can register at the Savikko Park Shelter prior to the race start but if you are standing in line in your running gear and it is 10 minutes before the start of the race you want to enter you will not be allowed in to participate.

      “It is very important for people to know that there are four race starts on Saturday morning,” Epstein said.

      At 6 a.m. the marathon walkers begin. At 7 a.m. the early marathoners and folks who need some extra time begin. At 8 a.m. the traditional Juneau Marathon starts and at 9 a.m. the half-marathon starts. Awards are set to begin at noon.

      “If you want to qualify for an award you have to start at eight o’clock,” Epstein commented. “You can’t start at seven or six. And registration for each event will be cut off 10 minutes before the gun. Make sure you get there on time.”

      Epstein also noted that there will be construction at the Juneau-Douglas bridge round-about and runners should use the water side of the highway and allow for longer time to reach the reach start due to the work zone.

      There are five aide stations along the route which leaves Savikko Park and follows Douglas Highway out to False Outer Point and back for the 26.2-mile marathon. The half-marathon turns around roughly six-and-a-half miles from Savikko, just before Eaglecrest/Fish Creek road.

      There will be three aid stations for half-marathoners and an additional two for marathoners. As these are out-and-back-courses, you will hit them twice. Aid station volunteers will be wearing masks and gloves and will not be handing out cups of water and Gatorade.

      It is advised that races walk through the aid stations to get their beverage of choice, and dispose of the cup as close to the aid station as possible. Volunteers will be picking up the empty cups.

      Food and beverage will be available at the Savikko Park finish. It is requested that participants and fans wear masks and maintain social distance while at the finish line area. Racers do not have to wear masks when racing, just when socializing at the finish areas.

      Masks and hand sanitizer will be available on site.

      “I have been blessed this year when I have asked for help I have gotten it,” Epstein said. “Our five aide stations will be fully staffed. If people come and have a good time it will be because of all the help I have gotten. It takes a village you know, these races just don’t fall out of the sky. It takes a lot of volunteer help and work to make them go. As we go into this weekend I am very happy to say it looks like we have all the holes filled and I think we are going to have a great race.”

      Epstein said he has done nine marathons but not the Juneau event.

      “The body has said, ‘David, thou shalt not..’ so when the body speaks you have to listen,” he said.

      The last Juneau Marathon record was set in 2014 when Juneau’s Shannon Gress set the women’s open time of 2:51:33

    the women’s masters time is 3:25:04 by Mary Hanna of Maple Valley, WA, set in 2010.

       Men’s open time was set in 2003 by Juneau’s Shawn Miller in 2:31:30 and the men’s masters time of 2:44:44 was set in 2012 by Auke Bay’s Scott Watts.

      These marks were all set on the current course which was certified in 1992.

      Tom Bernhard ran a 2:30:46 in 1982 when races started at the Mendenhall Glacier and courses varied over the years.

      The Half marathon women’s open is 1:25:19 set by Merry Ellefson in 2001 and she set the women’s masters mark of 1:27:26 in 2007.

      Shawn Miller has the men’s open half mark of 1:09:33 set in 2005 and Guy Thibodeau has the men’s half masters mark of 1:14:16 set in 1993.

      When asked if he had any suggestions for competitors, Epstein said, “Have fun. Be safe. And enjoy the event, enjoy Juneau.”

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