Hatcher Pass Marathon race report

It’s been a while.

Okay, it’s been like over half a year. Maybe longer. I’m afraid to check.

I need to get my ass in gear, I really do. I have three race reports to post, one from way back in April (you remember April, right?).

I’ll start in the middle with the Hatcher Pass Marathon, which took place in July and started in Willow, Alaska.

I’ve always wanted to do this race but since it’s the same week as the Mount Marathon Race, I never had the chance.

But then I stopped running Mt. Marathon a few years ago because, you know, hurling myself down slopes with 30 and 40% grade at breakneck speeds scared the hell out of me.

Me, hurling myself down Mt. Marathon a few years ago, when I was younger and more fearless. P.S. I fell and finished with a bloody knee.

So this year, when my running buddy Alice pestered me convinced me to sign up for Hatcher Pass I thought, why not? I didn’t stop to consider that the race is a little over marathon distance and the first 25 miles are uphill.

Let me repeat that: the first 25 miles are uphill.

So yeah, not exactly a PR course.

But race day was sunny and unexpectedly warm for Alaska. We drove out to Willow early in the morning and even had time to visit the port-a-potty before the race began (we were both pleased to successfully poop–yay us) and then we were running.

The race follows the dirt road that winds up and over Hatcher Pass and the views are incredible. Except for the first five or six miles, which are on the side of the highway. There wasn’t much traffic but still, this section screwed with my mind. I hate running on highways plus my stomach was off a wee bit (this unfortunately grew worse as the day went on).


Racers pounding out the highway segment. Notice that there are, like, no cars, which was a godsend. Credit: Hatcher Pass Marathon Facebook page

Then we hit the dirt road section and I perked up because the views, people, so much green and nothing else, just the road winding through the pass and the river running beside it and then, like I said, so much green. This is a small race so we ran pretty much by ourselves for the first 14 miles, except for the aid stations. And the race support was awesome, very friendly and helpful. Other than the views, it was the best thing about the day.


Look at these views! Credit: Hatcher Pass Marathon Facebook page


Two relay-runners handing off (these were the smart ones, who only had to suffer for 6 or 8 miles). Credit: Hatcher Pass Marathon Facebook page


Me and Alice, slogging it out around mile 10, I think, or maybe mile 12. Somewhere around there. Credit: Hatcher Pass Marathon Facebook page

At mile 14 I felt stupidly energized and I took off ahead of Alice. This lasted for a total of, oh, three miles. Then I bonked, truly and spectacularly. By mile 18, my legs had had enough, thank you very much, and my mind cleverly nudged me to pretend to fall and twist my ankle so that I might ride to the finish in the luxurious comfort of a support vehicle.


Me, dying! Around, I don’t know, maybe mile 17 or so. Still, look at the views. Gorgeous, eh? Credit: Hatcher Pass Marathon Facebook page

It was tempting, but I kept plugging along. Then I hit the Mile 20 aid station, where I devoured a granola bars (and I don’t even like granola bars) and I felt suddenly optimist. There were only about six and a half miles left–how hard could it be?


Wish I could explain what it’s like running this race. It’s pretty much surreal. Credit: Hatcher Pass Marathon Facebook page

My favorite part of the race was the last six miles. It was the toughest, since it wound up, up, and up over the pass. My legs screamed the. whole. way. And yet I was so damned happy I couldn’t stop smiling. I was suffering and smiling–how f*cked is that?

That’s the best way to describe this race: I suffered, and I smiled. I was miserable and yet I was happy. I bonked, hard, and a few minutes later, I cried because I couldn’t stand the glory of it all, being there and running there and the mountains so close, the sky so blue and clear, and the road winding on and on and on.


When I reached the top of the pass, I was rewarded by views of a small lake. I tried to take a picture on my phone but it didn’t come out very well because, you see, I was terribly fatigued and yet terribly excited, because the next and last mile was ALL downhill.

And I mean totally downhill. Like steep and fast. So that’s how I ran it. Fast and furious. I didn’t give a damn about leg cramps, I let loose and flew, and it was the most wonderful thing, flying down a mountain pass like that.

Until I hit the bottom and realized that there was another steep and mean hill before the finish. I gallantly tried to run this but my legs said, “Nope, nope, we’re finished.” So I stumbled and wobbled and almost puked on my shoes but finally, finally reached the finish. I gulped two cans of carbonated water and waited for Alice to finish, a few minutes later, and I forgot the misery and the pain, I forget the stomach cramps and legs cramps and all I could think was: Can’t wait until next year

So yeah, it was a grand and wonderful day, and I highly recommend the Hatcher Pass Marthon race to all trail runners and others who like to a slow and prolonged suffering while taking in some incredibly mind-blowing views among a really great group of runners and aid station and support volunteers.

Ritchie pic

Me and Alice at the finish line, stupidly happy and totally blissed out on life and carbs and all good things.


2 thoughts on “Hatcher Pass Marathon race report

  1. Karen

    The part about wishing you would get hurt so you could stop is something I think about all the time when I’m tired in a tough race. Haha. Congrats on those 25 miles of uphill, yikes.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. cinthiaritchie

    Karen, so glad you commented. I lost your blog address when my old computer died. And now I have it again and can stalk you on your running adventures. Can’t wait to catch up. Cheers and happy running.


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