Not the John Wayne western film.
Not what runners on Mount Marathon in Seward often collect in their teeth.
No. True grit is what it takes to be the first to the top and back of the Mount Marathon race. And this is what it took Anchorage's Brad Precosky to win the race up and down the 3,022-foot mountain for the fourth straight year Thursday.
"I think the pressure of winning four in a row was getting to me," the former Kasilof commercial fisher said. "I came into this race not feeling prepared. You'd think after three wins, you'd be ready to go."
Precosky said he had run better practice runs than his 46-minute, 17-second winning time on the 3.5-mile course Thursday, and he felt better than he did on the mountain Thursday afternoon. And he said he'd injured himself slightly before the race.
"I took a pretty bad fall Sunday," he said.
Still, Precosky mustered the mental, physical and intestinal fortitude to withstand challenges from whom he calls his heir apparent, Palmer's Eric Strabel, and three-time Mount Marathon champ Todd Boonstra of Ninilchik. That's true grit.
And, even then, Precosky was able to admit that he had hit a personal wall at the end of the race.
"I relaxed halfway down (the final) stretch," he said. "When you've got nothing in your legs, I couldn't fend off a challenger."
Both Boonstra and Strabel made runs at the lead going toward the summit. Boonstra said his strategy to stick with Precosky worked for half the race.
"That was one of my plans," he said. "But he's a faster downhill runner than I am."
Strabel said in spite of Precosky's personal assessment, the seasoned veteran outperformed the younger runner.
"He was just in better shape than I was today," Strabel said.
Their efforts to catch Precosky turned into a three-way race with Brian Bethard of Anchorage for second. Strabel won coming out of the mountain, finishing second in 46:57.
"I saw Brian ahead of me and I thought I could take him," Strabel said. "Then I realized Todd was going kind of slow, too."
Boonstra said Strabel's youth -- 20 years old -- favored him at that point, and there was nothing to do but watch the younger runner pass.
"Eric got me coming off the cliff," Boonstra said. "And he caught me a the top of the chute. He had a little bit more zip than I do."
Boonstra finished third with a time of 47:16.
The 35-year-old Precosky said he planned to win more mountain races in Seward before he turned over his crown to Strabel. He said he had no intention of giving Strabel the title of Mount Marathon champ.
"I'm focusing on (win) No. 5," he said. "Eric is going to win it sooner or later. He's the next man. But I want him to earn it."
Strabel said he recognized his place in the pecking order of Mount Marathon winners, but said Precosky's days at the top were numbered.
"It's a big surprise that he slowed down this year," Strabel said of Precosky's slowest recorded time of all his victories. "At this rate, it's going to be next year.
But Strabel said he didn't expect Precosky to just lay the title down at his feet, and welcomed the challenge.
"It wouldn't be Mount Marathon if it wasn't almost impossible to win," he said. "But next year, it'll be a different race."
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