Fairbanks, AK - More than 800 runners are signed up for the 51st Equinox Marathon, Ultramarathon and Relay this year. They’ll leave the start line this coming Saturday. Race officials are scrambling with a few last minute changes to the race course
A construction project on the athletic field where the race starts and finishes means the beginning and end of the Equinox might be a little different this year. John Estle is the race Co-Director. "The athletic field that’s just been reseeded is pretty mushy right now," says Estle, "so if the wet and mushy weather continues, then that route is unsuitable. It’s not fair for runners to have to deal with three or four inches of soft mush finishing a marathon.” He says adjustments to the start and finish are minor. The rest of the race will stick mostly to the historic Fairbanks-area course. But near the halfway mark, there is a one major change. On top of Ester Dome, the race’s highest point, runners will stick to the road. "The trail in the past has taken a right-hand turn off the road and run through the woods and run around the cluster of antennas onto the observatory summit and then come down into the next saddle," explains Estle. "We can’t use that section of trail that goes from the road up through the antennas this year.” Estle wouldn’t elaborate on why the trail is no longer usable. He says a plan to build a new trail nearby didn’t pan out this summer. It’s unclear if the change is permanent. The race organization continues to move the course from road to trail. “The Equinox marathon has a reputation as being a trail race and so to the extent possible we want to continue and enhance that reputation by making every effort we can to have the course of trails.”
Organizers have spent most of the summer moving and correcting mileage signs along the course. Despite this year’s changes, Estle says the distance remains the same. “It will absolutely be 26 miles 385 yards or 42,195 meters. It will not be short, it will not be long, it will be the correct distance but some of the miles may be longer or shorter just because of these last minute changes we’ve had to make.”
The 51st Annual Equinox Marathon starts Saturday morning at 8 am.