Celebrating 40 Years and 40 States: Skinny Raven Half Marathon in Alaska

As soon as we entered the terminal at the Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage, we knew we were in Alaska. Of course, that was where we planned to be but the surroundings instantly confirmed it.

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Even though our plane had landed in the middle of the night after traveling from Maine, we were mesmerized by the Alaskan art. It was instantly clear that indeed we had arrived in Alaska, a place that had seemed exotically remote and mysterious to me.

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We were especially mesmerized by the aurora display.

A snafu with the opening of the baggage compartment on the door of our plane delayed the arrival of our luggage so much that the rental car desk had closed.  So at about 2:30 a.m. we were dropped off at the address of our Airbnb by our Uber driver.  Exhausted and apprehensive, we dragged our bags across the lawn in the dark to (hopefully) find the door to our apartment.  After attempting to go into the garden shed, we found our door and with immense relief collapsed into our bed.

We had scheduled our travels so that we would have a couple of  days in Anchorage before the race.  By the morning of the race we felt rested and acclimated. We awoke to  surprisingly strong winds and significantly cooler temperatures.  Fallen leaves were strewn across the lawn and the car crunched over small branches as we drove to the race.

We were able to park within an easy, but blustery, walk from the starting line.  The temperature had dropped so much from the previous day that we were freezing and the wind was truly becoming a force to be reckoned with.  We found ourselves seeking sunny enclosed doorways …and we often found other runners tucked into those spots already.

But as the start of the race neared and we lined up with the rest of the half marathon runners we warmed up and soaked in the fact that we were in ALASKA and we were running in our 40th state on our fortieth wedding anniversary.  It felt a bit surreal but also fabulously exciting.

And then we were off and running. Before we even hit the one mile mark we had run past someone playing the guitar on the side of the road. As we made the sharp turn onto the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail we could hear bagpipes.  That sound just heightened my emotions and sent me off with a feeling of extra celebration.

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The course followed the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail which borders the Anchorage coast. As we traveled along we ran past an impressive variety of performers.  Some of our favorites included these drummers.

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Entertainment along the course also included a string quartet, a polka band, someone playing a snare drum, as well as a group of children playing stringed instruments.

The mood was upbeat and congenial.  We chatted with fellow runners and enjoyed the scenic, winding paved trail.  But the wind was a force that couldn’t be ignored.  After we turned at the halfway point we continued running back along the same route we had just traveled.  Before we had gone far we encountered this.

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This huge tree had fallen across the path!  We were slightly unsettled thinking that this could have landed on a runner. Luckily, it just provided an unexpected hurdle.

We forged ahead, feeling the effects of the wind more and more as we neared the end.  Both Mike and I were experiencing tightening muscles and the head wind was pretty remarkable at times.

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The on-course photographer captured Mike running steadily while I, in the background, am slowing down to make some sort of adjustment-before I noticed the photographer.

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But then I perked up and struck my “I’m running really well” pose. Oh brother.

We were really feeling the effects of the wind during the last mile or two.  Huge gusts would pummel us, at times making it feel as though forward motion was no longer an option.

I was running behind Mike just enough to capture this somewhat surreal video of him running through a tunnel where a saxophonist was playing and high-fiving runners as they passed.  It was just the perk we needed at that point.

As we wound along the course off the trail back onto the roads and up a hill we were greeted by a guitar duo playing “Chariots of Fire” which perfectly capped off our race.

Mike waited for me to catch up so we could cross the finish line together.

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We took a few minutes to savor our accomplishment and take some photos to document the occasion.

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The post-race refreshments included this delectable artisan bread. Somehow whatever I eat after a longer race is the best thing I’ve ever eaten.

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The wind was so strong that at least one pop-up tent briefly became air-born. Keeping our blankets semi-wrapped around us became a challenge.

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So filled with a huge sense of contented accomplishment we headed back to our Airbnb to pack up and head out for the rest of our Alaskan adventure.

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State: Alaska

Quest Race #: 40

Date Run: August 18, 2019

The Bottom Line: I can’t think of a more fitting way for us to mark the occasion of our 40th wedding anniversary than to run a half-marathon in Alaska.

3 thoughts on “Celebrating 40 Years and 40 States: Skinny Raven Half Marathon in Alaska

    • Thank you! Your blog posts about your trip to Alaska helped us plan our trip. When I went back to look at your post again today I noticed that you had taken a photo of your medal in another notable Alaskan location. I did the same with mine in Whittier. Such an amazing state!

      • That’s great! Yes, since we drove to Denali right after the race, I thought it was the perfect photo OP. Alaska is so beautiful and so HUGE! I found myself wanting to squeeze in more and more places but in the end I took out a couple of places because it would have been too much driving.

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