Mount Marathon Race 2024: Norris, Christy Marvin, Coby Marvin, Boonstra aim for repeat wins

For the first time since 2014, there will be a returning champion in both the men’s and women’s races at the Mount Marathon Race in Seward on July 4 in Seward.

The 96th running of the race, which is about 3.1 miles long and has a rise and fall of about 3,022 feet, also will see runners from the girls and boys races try to retain titles.

As of June 28, 988 racers were set to take on the mountain — 355 men, 335 women, 280 juniors and three nonbinary racers.

Matias Saari, the race director of Mount Marathon, said weather can play a huge role with the course. Last year, rain made the mountain a muddy mess. Saari said it’s hard to predict the weather a week out, but did say the snow field at the top of the mountain will be very small, if it exists at all.

Girls race

Tania Boonstra, an incoming junior at Soldotna High School, won her first title last year to join sister Riana, a girls champion in 2015, and father, Todd, the men’s champ in 1996, 1997, 1998 and 2003, as Mount Marathon royalty.

Junior racers turn around halfway up the mountain.

Tania won in her second try at the junior race. In 2022, she was second to Rose Conway of Anchorage. Last year, Conway finished second.

“This will be the third duel, so we’re excited for that,” Saari said.

There are plenty capable of knocking Boonstra off the top spot, with the top six finishers in the girls race returning.

Palmer’s Wren Spangler was third last year.

“She was 12 years old last year and got third place,” Saari said. “She is stronger this year than she was last year. She’ll be one to watch.”

Seward’s Olive Jordan, fourth last year, will get a boost from the hometown crowd. Eagle River’s Hannah Bodkin was fifth, while Palmer’s Aubrey Virgin was sixth.

Boys race

Palmer’s Coby Marvin will chase a third straight title before he ages out. Only three others have won at least three straight junior races.

Marvin has gotten closer than anyone to Bill Spencer’s 1973 record of 24 minutes, 30 seconds, running 25:27 in 2022. Last year, the muddy course meant 26:39 was the best Marvin could do.

“There’s a reason that record has stood for 50 years,” Saari said. “Coby’s been the closest of anyone, but it was still a minute, which is still a fair amount, so I think everything would have to really line up, and he’d have to be in supreme shape to challenge that.”

On paper, Saari said the most likely to challenge Marvin is Anchorage’s Vebjorn Flagstad, who was second last year. Flagstad is the son of 2008 and 2010 men’s champ Trond Flagstad.

Women’s race

Saari sees no favorite.

“It’s wide open,” he said.

Palmer’s Christy Marvin won last year to add to titles in 2013 and 2016. Marvin has been remarkably consistent since her debut in 2013, finishing in the top three every year and running under 54 minutes every year.

“She’s got plantar fasciitis, and some tendonitis problems,” Saari said. “Don’t count her out, but it’s not exactly an ideal buildup for her not spending time running and on the mountain.”

Saari did say he’s heard that Marvin fully intends on racing.

Palmer’s Meg Inokuma, who lived on the central peninsula for the summers of 2014 to 2016, was chased down by Marvin on the finishing stretch last year and finished second.

Inokuma was second at the Robert Spurr Memorial Hill Climb on Bird Ridge on June 16. The winner of the race, Novie McCabe, gets a bib in Mount Marathon but Saari said McCabe is not racing.

Palmer’s Denali Strabel, who grew up in Seward, was third last year for her seventh top-five finish in the race.

“A lot of people cheer for her being a Seward native, and she’s run times that could have won before,” Saari said. “If she can run among her fastest times, she’ll certainly be in the mix.”

Saari also said Klaire Rhodes, who finished fourth last year for her third straight race in the top five, is a threat to win.

Seward’s Hannah Lafleur, who won in 2019 and 2021, returns after missing last year due to pregnancy.

Lafleur was third at Bird Ridge, which is uphill only. That puts Lafleur in the conversation for a third title because her speciality is the downhill.

“If she can stay within a minute or two on the uphill, she always sends it going down, and is super skilled,” Saari said. “That’ll be exciting to see her in the chase.”

Saari said Jessica Yeaton, who grew up in Anchorage but now lives in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, wanted to race this year. Yeaton won in her only Mount Marathon Race in 2018. Saari said Yeaton is on the fence about racing due to a snowmachine accident that will keep her from peak form.

Another name Saari is keeping an eye on is Eagle River’s Campbell Peterson, a race rookie. Peterson won the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs at the Division I state track meet in 2022 and 2023, and the Division I state cross-country title in 2022. She showed she can run mountains with the top women’s finish in the expert division at the Alyeska Cirque Series in 2023.

Finally, Patti Foldager of Hope, who is Denali Strabel’s mother, and Ellyn Brown of Anchorage are signed up, and looking to become the first women to complete 41 races. Maureen McCrea, 80, will try and become the oldest woman to finish the race.

Men’s race

David Norris, who grew up in Fairbanks and now lives in Steamboat Springs, will try to win back-to-back races for the first time.

That’s because Norris will race back-to-back races for the first time.

An injury and concerns about staying healthy for his ski career forced Norris to miss three races since he debuted with a 41:26 to take the course record from Kilian Jornet in 2016.

He is undefeated in the race and has two of the top three times in race history. A victory will put him alone on the all-time list with five titles, with only Ralph Hatch, Sven Johanson and Brad Precosky at six, and Spencer at eight, ahead of Norris.

“He’s got the record,” Saari said of Norris. “He’s got some of the fastest times in history. I expect people to have a hard time hanging with him.”

Max King, of Bend, Oregon, is as qualified as anyone.

King debuted in 2018 and staged the fastest duel in the history of the race with Norris. Norris won at 42:13, while King was second at 42:33. Those are the third and fourth fastest times in race history.

King, now 44, went on to pick up titles in 2019, when Norris didn’t race due to concerns about wildfire smoke, and 2022, when Norris didn’t race due to injury.

The two, who have won the last five men’s titles and six of the last seven, will race for the second time.

“Don’t rule Max out,” Saari said. “He’s 44 and defying age and still performing extremely well. But I think Dave would have to be slightly off his game for Max to be able to hang with him, and Max might admit as much.”

Last year, Darren Thomas of Reno, Nevada, was second, while Lars Arneson, a 2009 graduate of Cook Inlet Academy now living in Anchorage, was third. Arneson won Bird Ridge this year.

Thomas has a PR of 46:09, while Arneson’s best in six races is 45:22.

Saari said Thomas and Arneson are typical for the group behind Norris and King.

“For them to contend, they’ve been running 46 or maybe in the 45s, but it’s going to take a sub-45 and that’s a jump, for sure, for them,” he said. “They can get top-five times with what they’ve been running, but to contend for the win, they’re gonna have to speed up.”

Saari also looks forward to the return of three-time champ Eric Strabel, who is looking to go under 50 minutes, and the debut of Ali Papillon, a former boys champ in the senior race.

The race director said the battle for top Seward honors will come down to Erik Johnson, Pyper Dixon and James Carlberg.

Seward’s Fred Moore, 83, will look to complete his record 54th-straight race. Anchorage’s Chad Resari, 88, will try to complete the “Golden Racer” option, which is halfway up and down the mountain.


The race is launching a nonbinary division this year, with three entrants. Nonbinary racers can choose the men’s or women’s race, then they get their own results and same awards as the men’s and women’s divisions.

“This race has a long history of making changes based on various inequities with juniors, with women, with older racers,” Saari said. “We’d never really done anything to improve the race for the LGBTQ community. So this is an effort in that regard.”

The race also has raised the minimum age for juniors from 7 to 9.

Finally, Saari said the race could still use some volunteers to tear down the course after the race. Volunteers can sign up at