Brad Precosky was bloodied but not beaten. Cedar Bourgeois simply breezed.
The two former champs took home the top prizes in the men’s and women’s Mount Marathon race Tuesday in Seward. Precosky’s win was his fourth, while defending champion Bourgeois won for the third consecutive time.
Bourgeois, of Seward, won the women’s race easily. Bourgeois finished in 52 minutes, 33.4 seconds, while runner-up Kikkan Randall finished at 57:06.1.
But while the women’s race wasn’t much of one, Anchorage’s Precosky had his hands full with a strong field of challengers that included Soldotna’s Brent Knight.
Knight was the early leader going up the hill, but the veteran Precosky was able to pass the former Soldotna High and University of Alaska Anchorage skier coming down the dangerous slope and hold on for the win. After finishing, Precosky headed straight for the medical tent, where he got an ugly gash on his knee stitched up.
“My legs were really wobbly coming down,” Precosky said, noting that he hadn’t been able to train as much as he would have liked due to a nagging shin injury.
At a section of the mountain known as “The Gut,” Precosky’s shaky legs gave way.
“I took a big fall,” he said.
The injury didn’t deter him, however, and he was able to hold off challenges from Knight and Trond Flagstad, who finished in second.
“I could feel it every step, but there’s enough adrenaline to keep you going,” he said.
Running the men’s race for the first time, Knight said he was proud of his high finish a result he was quick to credit to help from long-time race veterans Precosky and Clint McCool.
“Both of those guys were insanely helpful,” Knight said.
Knight said that after leading the race up to the top, he simply didn’t have enough left in his legs to keep up with the surging Precosky.
“I gave everything I had on the way up, and my legs were pretty dead at the bottom,” he said.
Knight said his goal coming into the race was to finish in the top five. Having done that, he’s now hopeful he can get into next year’s race to try and improve upon his performance.
“I’m a young gun that could be a challenger,” he said.
Precosky said Knight is exactly the type of racer he likes to see entering the event.
“The race needs young, dedicated people like him,” he said. “He really went after it.”
Although Precosky who recently celebrated his 40th birthday likes having tough racers on the hill to push him, he said he’s not ready to give up his crown easily.
“I’ll give ‘em hell again next year,” he said.
Knight and Bourgeois weren’t the only peninsula racers to have a good day on the hill. Skyview High School runner Erick Romig and Kenai’s Jed McGlasson went 1-2 in the boys junior race, while Seward’s Denali Foldager won the girls event.
McGlasson noted that much of the thrill of the race doesn’t come from competing, but from the party-like atmosphere supplied by the thousands of race fans who turn up to view the event.
“I like it because you’ve got all the tourists here and everything,” he said. “It’s just a thrill.”
Making the race more special for McGlasson was the fact that his sister, Amber, also made the trip to Seward to run carrying on a tradition that began with the siblings’ parents.
“My parents did it when they were younger,” he said. “It’s a family thing.”
While many came to Seward with a notion of claiming the top spot in the state’s most prestigious non-mushing race, some were just happy to be able to get to the top of the 3,022-foot Mount Marathon.
Hazel Ballinger, 64, of Anchorage, ran the race this year for the 16th time. Having gone through major surgery earlier this year, Ballinger like so many face finishers considers the race to be an integral part of her life.
“It’s just a have-to thing for me,” she said. “I feel blessed being on that mountain.”
Official results in the men’s and junior races were not available as the Clarion went to press.
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