FAIRBANKS—Erika Burr collapsed on to the cool pavement near the finish line for the Equinox Marathon on Saturday morning.
It was a collapse she was looking forward to since her first entry four years ago in the 26.2-mile race that runs out and back from the University of Alaska Fairbanks Patty Center.
The 29-year-old mathematics graduate student at UAF registered a time of 3 hours, 24 minutes and 32 seconds, taking the women’s title in the marathon and eighth place overall.
Burr’s accomplishment had not settled in when she was receiving hugs and congratulations from people who had watched her cross the finish line just more than a minute ahead of Juneau’s Katie Krehlik, a former University of Alaska Anchorage runner who was competing in her first marathon.
“I think it’s going to take some time to sink in,” Burr said, “because you win if you are the one who’s the fittest for the race at the time, not necessarily just because you’re well trained and ready for it.
“There’s always a lot of luck,” she added lightheartedly. “There’s a good group of ladies out there that I know are comparable in their training. I knew I had to work hard; so knowing that they were there helped me perform better than I otherwise would have.”
One of those runners was 25-year-old Krehlik. Burr and Krehlik were seconds apart when they were running on the out-and-back section of Ester Dome, which features a 2,400-foot elevation.
“I’ve raced her a lot before and she’s beat me a lot before,” said Burr, “but this is her first marathon and that was an awesome performance from her.”
Krehlik, on the way to an Equinox debut finish of 3:25:36 that also placed her 10th overall, said she “had no idea what to do” as far as race strategy goes.
However, she knew how to savor a top-two finish in her first-ever marathon. The previous longest race for Krehlik was in 2012, when she ran the 16-mile sixth leg of the 10-leg Klondike Relay, which runs 110 miles between Skagway and Whitehorse, Yukon.
“It feels really great. I did not expect it all,” Krehlik said.
“Coming into it, I did not know what to expect at all, but this is just a great end to it,” added the assistant cross country coach for Juneau-Douglas High School. “
She ran with North Pole’s Christy Schmitz, a former UAA teammate, until they reached the base of Ester Dome, where Krehlik took off.
She charged down the hill that came after the out-and-back section of Ester Dome, but she later lightened her pace for the descent of the narrow chute.
“I stuttered down it because it was kind of steep — it was really steep,” Krehlik said. “It was kind of scary, actually, but I liked it, though.”
Krehlik was about a minute behind Burr after Krehlik completed the trip down the chute.
“People (spectators) were telling me there’s someone a minute ahead of you, or there’s someone five minutes ahead of you,” Krehlik said. “I saw her and then I just started gaining on her until the finish. I never caught her, but I definitely made up some ground, which is kind of cool.”
Burr employed a succinct strategy amid the race that was peppered by light rain in some parts of the course and snow on Ester Dome.
“My plan was to go as hard as I could as much as I could, as long as I could and hoped I didn’t bomb before the race was over,” Burr said.
Her strategy paid off.
“I think that’s how you win,” Burr said. “I think if you’re going to win, you just have to really give it everything you have.”
Melissa Lewis, a multiple-time women’s runner-up in the Equinox Marathon, placed third in 3:39:09, also good for 17th overall. Davya Flaharty, another former UAA runner and a former West Valley High School standout, was fourth among the women in an 18th-place overall time of 3:39:33.
Kinsey Laine, assistant coach for the Alaska Nanooks swim team and a veteran triathlete, rounded out the women’s top five in 3:41:00, also good for 20th overall.
Other Equinox races
Laron Thomas claimed the ultramarathon overall title in 5 hours, 50 minutes and 41 seconds.
Ron Koczaja was runner-up on the 40-mile course in 6:00:21, and he was followed, respectively, by Stefan Tangen (6:10:03), Soren Wuerth (6:25:56) and Kevin Rice (6:31:11).
Shawn McTaggart ran to the women’s title with a time of 6:40:42. Laura McDonough came in second in the division in 7:04:34 and Jan Tomsen was third in 7:12:30.
Christine Bennett took fourth in 7:24:19 and Andrea Amestoy was the fifth-fastest woman in 7:48:12.
The Don’t Roll An Ank combination of Brandon Drake and brothers Jake and Ben Turman won the relay overall in 3:08:34.
It was the first Equinox participation for Ben Turman and Drake, who came from Portland, Oregon, for the race.
“It was awesome,” Drake said.
Said Ben Turman, “The climb (Ester Dome) was gorgeous, but there was zero fun.”
“I had all the fun,’’ Drake said.
Silver Bullets, which consists of former Nanooks rifle shooter Patrick Sartz and former Nanooks Nordic skiers Stian Stensland and Rebecca Kozniecky, was second in 3:09:49.
Quickly Spent placed third in 3:21:04; Pleasure Sloggers came in fourth in 3:33:59; and Sassy Senoritas took fifth in 3:40:25.
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