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Down the Equinox Marathon chute

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To the editor: Founded in 1957, the Alaska Ski Corporation was well ensconced at Ullrhaven atop Ester Dome prior to the inaugural Equinox Marathon in 1963.

Historically since, these entities have partnered harmoniously enabling Fairbanksans and others to participate in, witness and enjoy an extravaganza-like sporting event.

In 1992, due to heavy snow the 40th Equinox was canceled. According to former Fairbanks Daily News-Miner sports reporter and six-time Equinox champion Matias Saari’s 460-page opus “The Equinox: Alaska’s Trailblazing Marathon,” “About two dozen runners showed up.” Another six-time champion, Stan Justice, said, “It was never any question we were going to show up.”

That year, Justice and Allen Doyle finished first together after 4 hours, 7 minutes and 12 seconds in sometimes “knee-high snow, nearly 90 minutes slower than the record.”

Fast forward to 2017. That year, Alaska Ski Corp. personnel suggested course improvements on Ester Dome and race officials made them. The 2022 race will be the fifth year utilizing the beautiful “tunnel” along with the enchanting “hook,” which leads to the deadly “Saari Chute” that begins the descent of Ester Dome.

Last year, albeit a lovely day, the 58th Equinox was canceled due to the pandemic. Many runners decided to run the course anyway. Without race officials and volunteer support groups, the Mile 13 beer table doubled as an aid station.

Unfortunately, there was confusion about which of three possible routes runners should descend. Not to worry: Friendly Alaska Ski Corp. personnel helped hundreds of participants make their way to the “chute,” keeping everyone on course.

This Saturday, 40-year-old Christy Marvin of Palmer could become our first seven-time champion, but the only guarantee is an arduous, scenic course of grass, gravel, roots, rocks, loess and pavement over 26 miles and 385 yards.

And don’t be surprised if hundreds of walkers sign up. Participants as young as 7 years old and as old as 80 have earned a completion patch. Finish in 10 hours or less and you’ll earn a handsome patch and lifetime bragging rights. Eventually, you’ll recover to walk normally again.

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