Mount Marathon rule changes elicit pushback from some runners

Jackie Klecka climbs Mount Marathon.
Jackie Klecka climbs Mount Marathon.(Jackie Klecka)
Published: Jul. 9, 2021 at 9:26 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A Mount Marathon Race bib is coveted, and once a person gets in the race, for the most part, they stay in. But that’s a trend that could be changing with the new rules for the race.

In February of 2020, the Mount Marathon rules committee announced it would be tweaking priority registration requirements for the race. Priority registration means a person automatically get into the next year’s race if they qualify and sign up during the committee’s designated time.

In the past, the first 225 adult finishers received priority registration and could work toward 10-year priority status. The new rules changed these registration qualifications and required competitors to finish in the top 50% of their age group for preferred status.

A second rule change also makes new runners ineligible to earn priority 10-year status. However, the existing rule that the top 10 finishers in each age group will earn priority registration status will remain, according to the rule change announcement, “to ensure that inspirational older participants are not displaced.”

“It was something that I knew before the race, and it was in the back of my mind going up the mountain,” Mount Marathon finisher Jackie Klecka said. “I just didn’t finish in that top 50%, after 19 years of racing that’s my last year.”

Klecka started out in the junior race in 2001 and has competed in the women’s race for the past eight years. Just two years shy of earning 10-year status, Klecka didn’t make the cut, finishing 59 out of 88 in the 18-29 age group.

“Right after the race it really upset me, and disappointed with myself because maybe I could push myself harder,” Klecka said. “I don’t want to feel like I have to get my PR every year in order to return and keep my priority registration.”

Klecka is not alone, as others have spoken out online about the changes as well.

Race Director Matias Saari says the Mount Marathon Race Committee implemented the changes to allow more participants to join the race, adding it was not done to favor elite runners and that he hopes it adds new participants to the event and improves lottery selection odds.

“I don’t what the best answer is, or how it could be changed,” Klecha said. “I think the top 50% of your age group is a pretty harsh cut. It did cut out racers who value and cherish Mount Marathon.”

Klecka said she hopes race organizers can find a better balance in the future that helps attract runners to Mount Marathon while retaining longtime competitors.

Starting this year, the capacity for the adult mens and womens races increased from 350 to 375.

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