Celebrate the Solstice at Anchorage Mayor’s Marathon

Alaska is a snowshoer’s paradise. But during the off season, The Last Frontier features lots of other outdoor activities to draw visitors from around the globe. One of the most popular events – the Mayor’s Marathon –  takes place in Anchorage, specifically on the Summer Solstice, Saturday, June 18 this year. The Marathon course is certified by USA Track and Field and finishers can use their results to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

Now in its 38th year, the Anchorage Mayor’s Marathon attracted more than 3,800 runners last year, two-thirds of whom were visitors. Race organizers announced that a new feature for the 2011 event will be the addition of cash prizes for any men’s or women’s course records broken in both the marathon and half-marathon events. The Mayor’s Marathon also offers a marathon relay (4 X 6.5 miles), a five miler, which is actually 5.6 miles, and a youth cup, a 1.6 mile jaunt.

As well as promoting the health aspect of the annual marathon, the race is also doing its part to promote a healthy planet. “After administering events such as this for 22 years, you understand that while they are all for a good cause, there is no doubt they have an impact on our environment,” said race director Michael Friess. “With the emerging alternatives in terms of sustainable products and online communication, it only makes sense to implement these kinds of changes immediately.”

Friess said the biggest changes last year was the conversion to bio-degradable cups – 84,000 of them – and trash bags, along with the elimination of printed materials in favor of online info and registration. Some of the other efforts include:

*The elimination of balloons, which will be replaced by re-usable decorations

*Recycling containers at aid stations and the finish line

*Event posters printed on 100 percent recycled paper

*Encouraging the public, with the help of the Municipality of Anchorage and People      Mover, to make use of free bus service to and from race sites

*The addition of an educational booth for the University of Alaska Anchorage Sustainability Office at the June 16-17 Marathon Expo at the Sheraton Anchorage Hotel

At the Vendor Expo, you can get some great deals on running gear, order a commemorative poster, buy an Alaskan souvenir, or book a last minute tour. While in Alaska, take a little extra time to explore the many Anchorage offerings. Here are just a few possibilities:

*One of the most traveled trails in Anchorage, Flattop Mountain, is great for hikers of all abilities and offers stunning views of the city and surrounding mountain ranges under the summer sun. Solstice is the perfect time to visit Flattop; many hikers hold informal parties and even set up overnight camp at the summit.

*Anglers hoping to hook a monster salmon under the midnight sun can cast their lines just steps from downtown streets, and during the solstice they may take home more than just a fish tale. Ship Creek hosts the Slam’n Salm’n Derby from June 10-19. Reel in the big one – or a special tagged fish – and net great prizes. Last year’s biggest fish tipped the scales at 48 pounds.

*Check out the Anchorage Market & Festival, which runs Saturdays and Sundays from May to September. Local farmers and artisans sell Alaska treasures, fresh produce, and tasty food. The market stretches across seven acres in downtown Anchorage and features free admission and live entertainment.

*The Anchorage Glacier Pilots baseball team will take advantage of the summer sun as well; they throw out the first pitch against the Mat-Su Miners at 10 p.m. on June 19. The Alaska Zoo also extends its hours through midnight that evening.

*A few additional sites to consider include the Anchorage Museum of History and Art, the Aviation Heritage Museum, Alaska Native Heritage Center, and the Anchorage Trolley City Tour.

For more details about the annual Mayor’s Marathon & Half Marathon, visit the official web site at www.mayorsmarathon.com. For those planning a future visit to Anchorage, next year’s marathon is set for June 23, 2012.