For more than a decade I lived in Alaska. I did some running while I was there. I ran my first marathon there. I joined my first running club while I was there. I was on my first (and only) race team while I was there. I didn’t just run in Alaska. Alaska helped cement how I viewed running. I get asked a lot of questions about it and I think there are some things that you might find interesting.
Yes, I did run year round.
Yes, it was dark in the winter.
Yes, it was dark for all but three or four hours of the day during the “height” of the winter.
Yes, I did run in -40 degree weather.
Yes, -40 degrees is the same in Celsius and Fahrenheit.
Yes, -40 degrees is dangerously cold. You do have to cover all of your skin.
Yes, I did cover my running shoes in duct tape sometimes to keep the wind out and make them a bit warmer.
Yes, I did often use three different pairs of socks and had to buy my shoes in a slightly larger size to accommodate all the layers of sock.
Yes, I ran in snowshoes- and quite a lot. And some years it felt like I put my Yaktrax on for half of my runs (the winters could be a bit long)
Yes, large animals did chase me during runs, and some of my friends actually had to climb trees to get away from them.
Yes, moose were more common and more likely to be a problem than bears- but yes I did see a bear or two on a run over the years.
Yes, I did see bald eagles and whales while on a run but no, I did not see them anywhere near where I lived. Alaska is a really big place. It was probably about an eight hour drive (without leaving the state) to get from where I lived to where I could see a whale.
Yes, there is some truly spectacular wild scenery all over the state and it can feel healing to run in it.
Yes, you can get really really lost out there- and sometimes that is the best part… but you have to keep your wits about you and be self-reliant the further you get from a town.
Yes, the seasons in the interior of Alaska are pretty much June, July, August, and winter.
Yes, the summers are kind of nice there.
Yes, the people in the running community were awesome and I love and miss them still.
I think one of the great things I got from running in Alaska was that people would know that things were hard- but they didn’t often tell me not to try them. If I told someone I was going to run a marathon for the first time they would just nod, think about it, and say something like, “hmm… let me know how it goes. That sounds interesting.” While it seemed harder to impress people, I also found an encouraging lack of nay-saying. If you “didn’t look like a runner” (whatever that means) no one acted like you couldn’t be one (or weren’t one already). If I wanted to run a trail in one push that a lot of people took three days to backpack no one ever told me, “you can’t do that.” They might give me appropriate safety warnings, but they would just assume that I could put in the work and planning before hand and just “go get it done.” No one cared what I did before I got to Alaska. They just waited to see if my words matched my deeds. And if they did, I might get an approving nod that seemed harder to earn than some of the best screaming jubilant high-fives I’ve ever gotten in other places (although I do still like those too). I guess I should really say thank you to Alaska and Alaskan runners for molding me without me realizing I was being molded. You guys should really visit some day. You should also plan ahead and be safe- but you should see it. It’s pretty great up there. Thanks Alaska. Cheers.