The Equinox Marathon is a challenging marathon, one that you are extremely unlikely to PR on. The trail is technical in many places and you have to deal with some serious elevation changes. But the views are incredible and the community support is amazing. Nevertheless, you’ll want to carefully think about your race-day strategy. Below is some advice from previous Equinox Marathon champions, and you’ll find other good information under the Prepare menu:
- Steve’s Equinox Training Runs – This training series was started by Steve Bainbridge, a longtime race director. Starting in early July, these Thursday evening runs explore every inch of the course over eight weeks. If you’re new to the Equinox and are in Fairbanks, it’s a great way to learn the course and see what you’re in for in September.
- Nutrition – Getting and keeping yourself fueled for a marathon is always a challenge. The Equinox makes things harder because you’re likely to be out on the course for as much as an hour longer than your usual flat-land road marathon. So take some advice from the pros about how to eat before and during the marathon!
- Pacing Tables – The Equinox Marathon has a challenging profile, which makes it hard to pace yourself for specific goal times. Here you’ll find some pacing tables for a range of finish times, so you can achieve your marathon goals.
Advice from Multi-time Champion Matias Saari
Here’s Matias Saari’s advice on how to prepare to run your best on the big day.
I try to do most of my challenging workouts on the Equinox trail itself (although since moving to Anchorage, I now have few chances to get on the Equinox trail before the race).
I like to divide the course in thirds (roughly the relay legs) and do each section as a tempo run at slightly faster than projected race pace. I think it is especially important to practice running the Out-and-Back hard immediately after a challenging climb of Ester Dome. This helps combat the inclination to slow down in relief after cresting the big hill. Because of its undulating nature, I consider the Out-and-Back to be the crux of the race and developing any kind of rhythm there requires simulating the effort in training.
One aspect of Equinox training that many runners neglect is running hard downhill on pavement. It can be miserable, but doing so a couple times on Henderson and Goldhill Roads will help prepare the quads for the beating they will incur on race day! And many minutes can be gained if the legs hold up well during the downhill portions.
Advice from the Long-Running Record Holder, Stan Justice
This advice comes from Stan Justice, the record-holder for the Equinox Marathon. Stan’s 1984 winning time of 2:41:30 still stands as the record. Only one person (besides Stan) has come within four-and-a-half minutes of his record – Pat Cross who won the 1983 race in 2:42:20. Stan ran four sub-2:46’s, and another 2:46:03. Stan has not competed in the race for several years, but continues to volunteer to make the Equinox a great event by serving on the Equinox Advisory Committee and as the Race Marshall on race day.
Here’s some general training advice from Stan. It’s worth reading and digesting.
The best way to prepare for the Equinox Marathon is to run and become familiar with all the sections of the trail. This is the idea behind Steve’s Training Runs. When you are running, pay attention to the trail — you are training your mind as well as your body.
The leaves always dump off the trees the week before the race, obscuring the roots, dips and rocks. It is useful to know where you can stride out and where you need to drop into technical running mode. Run the trail enough and you will find the “best line” through rough sections. Sometimes the best line is close to the tree that has a fan of roots out in the trail. Being close to the tree you can clear all the roots in one step.
Efficiency is your goal. If you run with lots of extraneous motion you will be extra tired at the finish. Or even before you reach the finish.
Here’s an example: If there is a sharp dip in front of you, try to step across the dip. Avoid having a foot fall in the bottom — this avoids a tad of vertical loss and gain (that’s extra work!). The same goes for bumps in the trail, don’t land on top of the bump. Try to smooth out the trail by working with the terrain instead of fighting it. Get smooth. Be efficient.
Great advice, Stan!