Every half-mile marker along the 16-mile trail that makes up the Lost Lake Run features the face of a person that suffers from cystic fibrosis.
But each of those people face a better future because of the efforts of volunteers and race founder Marsha Vincent.
The mountain race starts at the Primrose campground, 16 miles outside Seward, and follows the Primrose Trail to the top, then across the top and back down the Lost Lake Trail to the Bear Creek Fire Station.
For 21 years, the race has served as a fundraiser for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, which has helped sufferers of the disease which robs them of breath. Cystic fibrosis is an inherited disease which usually blocks the victims’ lungs and airways with the buildup of mucus, and can also lead to infections.
Patrick Simpson serves as race director these days, and has served a role in building the race for the past seven years. The race has gotten so popular in recent years that 750 became the number of runners that the Forest Service permitted on the trail.
According to Simpson, the race committee started putting a cap on registration in 2010, which led to the race being sold out in 90 days.
2011 saw the race sold out in half that time, and last year it was filled in 10 days. This summer, every spot was taken in under six hours.
“The Lost Lake Run is more than a simple mountain race,” Simpson wrote in an email. “A spaghetti feed is provided the night before the race, hot coffee on the morning of the race, and a BBQ with burgers and a beer after the race — all at no additional charge to the participants.”
But the reason the race exists is all due to the efforts of Marsha Vincent, whose two sons had CF. Vincent spent 15 years organizing the event — from when she founded the race in 1992, to when she passed on the duties to a group of dedicated volunteers in 2007. In that time, Vincent donated every penny that was raised to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
Gary Green from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation puts the estimate at a net amount of $1.1 million. Simpson said that amount, when combined with the nearly $900,000 raised in the seven years since Vincent has left, is humbling.
“The idea that Marsha, Flip (Foldager) and a few other of Seward’s mountain running luminaries has turned into an event that has raised nearly $2 million to help beat CF....Not too bad,” Simpson writes.
On the race course, each marker includes the name, picture and brief description of an Alaskan with CF, starting with the youngest faces and working up to the adults. At the finish line, there are pictures and names of those that have lost their battle with CF.
Simpson writes that this is what he and the race committee are most proud of.
“I am told by many runners that these mile markers are a true inspiration when they run.”
Inspiring enough for one runner — Sabrina Walker — to organize a team to run the race. Walker has CF, and last year nearly broke three hours — quite an achievement for someone with a lung disease.
“In addition, she formed a team that raised over $10,000,” Simpson added. “She is a true inspiration.”
Last year, Walker was awarded with the Marsha Vincent Award, given to an individual that has gone above and beyond to raise money to help fight CF.
In 1992, there were 31 participants on race day. That number more than doubled to 76 the year after that, and now there are the aforementioned 750 running for a worthy cause.
The race starts at 10 a.m. Saturday, and if the summer of 2013 is any indication, the course record could be in trouble.
In two of the last three years the race record for the men has been broken by Anchorage runner Jerry Ross. This year several young guns could move the record even lower than the current 1:35:16 that Jerry ran in 2011. Last year’s winner Eric Strabel finished at 1:38:33 and he has been burning up one mountain after another all summer long, including his big win at Mt. Marathon on July 4 that wiped Bill Spencer’s 32-year-old mark off the table.