The Alpine Adventure course on Harbor Mt. in 2011. Panorama by Emily Bender.

Sitka’s answer to Seward’s renowned Mt. Marathon Race is this Saturday (7-21-12). Starting at 9 AM, seventy-five competitors will make their way from sea level in downtown Sitka to the picnic area on Harbor Mountain in the 19th annual Alpine Adventure Run.

The event covers seven-and-a-half miles over rough trail, and includes a climb of over 2-thousand feet. KCAW Contributing Reporter Diana Saverin recently went on a training run along the race route with Charles Horan (hoe-RAN), who helped found the event with his wife and son. Click here for iFriendly audio.

The Alpine Adventure Run starts, innocently enough, on flat pavement, but it doesn’t take long for the boardwalk-lined muddy trail to start caking runner’s calves with dirt.

Charles Horan on trail: You think you’ve done all the uphill, but you haven’t…

“Getting into the wilderness, getting into the alpine it is so close it is so beautiful and you can get there fast if you run and that’s exciting,” says Charles Horan, who has run the race about half the times it has gone up, and run along this trail he estimates, maybe 576 times.

The Alpine Adventure Runners celebrate their finish in 2011. (Alpine Adventure photo)

“The first few years it was my son and these crazy runners, I had no desire really to do it, then I watched people do it, rolled off the couch one day and did it, slowly got hooked.”

The race started in 1994 when Josh Horan, Charles’ son, organized it as an Eagle Scout project for fifteen runners. Now Charles’ wife Christine serves as race director, and Charles is just hooked.

Charles – We’ll just dig in and enjoy it, kind of like an ice cream sundae, if it got better than this we’d get nervous.

This year, after navigating up the trail and over the zigzagging stairs towards the horizon of the ridge, runners arrive in the alpine to what Charles describes as “the psychological starting line of the race.” This year – just as in 2008 – runners will encounter snow. Lots of snow.

Charles – Some people are scaredies about the snow, and the ice and the sleet, it drives people mad!

Chris Horan says snow may to the advantage of some runners.

“There is snow, runners have been having fun up there running in it, many don’t want it to disappear bc they feel like they’re running faster. Runners can choose to sit on their bums and slide down if you want to, you can slide!”

The race appeals to the local community, and also draws runners from around the state. Chris says runners will be coming from Juneau, Wasilla, and Fairbanks, as well as some other states. Whether runners are looking to finish first, or just finish at all, the Alpine Adventure Run provides the challenge they need. Charles remembers some runners who have lost 50 to 85 pounds, using this race as their goal. Just surviving is a worthy goal.

Charles – There are a few disappointments in this run—that hill is one of them. You’ve just discovered the thrill of going down hill—free oxygen to your muscles, soon to be robbed. You’ll be sucking wind.