Today’s forecast was for snow and sleet. It had been raining for the past week, and the prediction was for more of the same. As much as I love Alaska, it wasn’t easy crawling out of bed this morning.
We were met at the start by the Mayor of Anchorage, Mr. Mark Begich. Unbeknownst to me, he had an incredible surprise in store. Mayor Begich began a presentation in which he highlighted my commitment to the environmental and unwavering advocacy for youth fitness. I was touched by his warm sentiments. But then it got better, he proceeded to presented me with a Proclamation officially declaring October 2, 2006, as “DEAN KARNAZES DAY” in Anchorage.
Wow, I could hardly believe it. A day named after me, who would have ever imagined? I was trembling as he handed me the document and commemorative coin. I thanked Mayor Begich, and shook his hand (probably for way too long). Today was going to be a good run, no matter how bad the weather got.
But the weather never did get bad. Though it was cold, we were blessed by a day free of rain or snow. The only snow was on the mountains in the background, which made for a beautiful backdrop. Combine the snowy mountains with the changing colors of the leaves, and you have what has been aptly called, “One of the most spectacular marathons in the world.”
Yet every bit as spectacular as the course were the other runners. One had flown in from Mexico (Brad had previously run with me in Memphis, marathon #2), one had flown in from Colorado (his farthest run to date was 11 miles, and he was hoping to complete the half marathon), and another had flown down from Fairbanks. There were two doctors in the group, an Air Force pilot, and a host of really fast runners.
We saw moose along the run, forged several stream crossings, ran on trails, ran on roads, and ran on footpaths. The variety of terrain and scenery kept things fresh, even as the miles added up. We were joined along the way by a local high school track coach, and two of her students. One ran a couple miles with us, and the other ran the last six. He was just 15 years old, yet he had completed the Mayor’s Midnight Run marathon in June. To complete a marathon at that age is remarkable!
The finish was on the West High School track. We crossed the line hand-in-hand to the cheers of the crowd that had gathered to welcome us. Hugs and handshakes were exchanged, and each of the runners were presented with a finishers Medal by the Race Director. Then it occurred to me, standing amongst the group was the runner from Colorado. He hadn’t stopped at the half marathon! It was a tremendous effort by all, and we quickly reconvened at REI for a celebration (where they had cranked up the heater for us).
Today was magical. Not only did the weather cooperate unexpectedly for us, the runners remained steadfast and energetic throughout a very challenging marathon. These were true kindred spirits, and I couldn’t think of a better way to spend Dean Karnazes Day.
Thank you Major Begich, and thank you runners!
See you next year October 2nd for sure.