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Collins first to emerge from the fog at 36th annual Anvil Mountain Run (Alaska Press Club winner)

By Keith Conger - Published in the Nome Nugget newspaper 07/04/14

**Second Place - Small Print, Best Sports Game Event Reporting

Last Friday's thick blanket of fog was just typical summertime

coastal Bering Sea weather, or perhaps the spirit of former Anvil
Mountain Run champion Mark Rodgers was responding to the whisperings
of another serious attempt on his 26-year-old course record.

 

Leo Rasmussen, who established the event in 1979, and has
overseen Alaska's second oldest running race for 36 years, has heard
talk of record breaking before.

Prior to the race, Rasmussen stated that in 1988 Rogers
completed the annual 4th of July course up and down Nome's
signature mountain in 1 hour, 11 minutes, and 23 seconds, breaking
his own mark for the second time, thus establishing “a record that
will probably stand the test of time.”

It is a performance that no one has really gotten close to
breaking said Rasmussen. In fact, only five runners have ever
completed the 12.5 mile, 1,116 foot elevation race in under
15-minutes.

Enter local runner, and high school cross-country coach, Jeff
Collins, who brought a lengthy long-distance running resume -
including qualifying for the United States Marathon National
Championships in 2000 - to his first attempt at the race on the
mountain.

Collins was the first to emerge from the arctic haze, posting a
time of 1 hour, 21 minutes, 50 seconds, and although he fell short
of the mark, the 42 Anvil Mountain Run entrants did set a new
participation mark.

“Rogers record is super impressive,” said Collins after the
race, “but last year somebody broke the Mount Marathon record that
stood for 32 years. Rogers set the precedent (for this race), and
its time to step up the challenge he set so many years ago.

For the duration of the race, the entire mountain was shrouded in
fog that was only allowing for about 30 yards of visibility. So,
when Collins got a few steps off his intended course on the steepest
uphill section, it may have been a sign that the record was destined
to live another year.

Collins would later thank one of his proteges, 15-year-old Wilson
Hoogendorn, for getting him back on track at that point, and would
later return the favor by yelling out in the fog on the steep descent
aiding Hoogendorn as he blindly negotiated his way down the
mist-soaked, slippery and rocky descent.

Hoogendorn, who ran the race in 1 hour, 23 minutes, 30 seconds,
was able to keep his coach, and training partner, within visual
distance until Anvil Rock at the mountain's summit, and would be the
first runner under 18 to complete the race. Hoogendorn was able to
hold off Nome's Nils Hahn, a veteran of five Anvil Mountain runs, by
two minutes for second place.

Hahn will have to run the race another 25 years to catch Nome's
David Olson, who, doing his best Cal Ripkin Jr. ironman impression,
completed his 30th Anvil Mountain Run, consecutively no
less. Olson broke the two hour mark by 21 seconds.

Olson was impressed that there were so many people joining the
race this year. “One year only seven people ran the race (After
that race) I thought that if I kept coming, some year nobody would
show up, and I would win,” joked Olson after the race.

The Anvil Mountain Run regular, however, has often been joined in
the race by his family members. This year daughter Annie Kate, who
first followed her dad in the race as a 12-year-old, had only two
women cross the line before her.

The younger Olson was outdistanced by Californian Elaina Cromer,
who was fresh off a 2014 victory in the five kilometer (3.1 mile)
Gold Dust Dash, and veteran Nome distance runner Crystal Tobuk, who
completed the Boston Marathon in April.

Cromer, a trained short distance athlete in college, who was
running her first long event, said she was unsure how to run a race
of this length. “I kept telling myself not to stop on the hill,”
she said. Cromer completed the course in a time of 1 hour, 31
minutes, 58 seconds.

That strategy proved successful as Cromer was able to make up the
sizable advantage Tobuk had established before the 759 foot, 1.6
miles long climb that the Anvil Mountain Road offered. By the top of
the mountain, Cromer had a lead that she would not give up.

University of Alaska -Fairbanks professor Greg Finstad won the
award for first runner over 50, finishing in fifth place overall with
a time of 1 hour, 25 minutes, 18 seconds, one spot behind under-20
runner Nick Morgan of Nome.

Morgan reiterated the post-race buzz about the weather-induced
navigational challenges, stating that from the top “you can barely
tell (where the worn trail down is) even when its clear out.”

Rasmussen spoke earlier in the week that some years the runners
have been greeted with rain, sleet, or even fresh snow at the top,
further making Rogers record hard to top.

Olson thought the 42 degree, no-wind weather at race time
provided the perfect conditions, and was “much better that being
hot.”

The mention of foggy weather, however, took second place at the
pre-race meeting to the warning of bears, which have been seen in
great frequency this year on the mountain. “Don't play with 'em,”
warned Rasmussen.

The two five-foot inflatable “scare bears” placed just north
of the city by local game officials did not discourage a herd of 40
plus musk oxen from spectating within 20 yards of the road during the
first half-mile of the race. The runners were actually better
protected by Anvil Rock check point person John Handeland, a 35-year
Anvil Mountain Run volunteer, who toted a side arm at the summit.

Despite the challenging weather conditions on the mountain
portion of the race, (which caused nearly every runner to lose the
trail at some point), all participants were able to complete the
course before the Fourth of July festivities.

“I usually come in when the parade is going on,” said smiling
Anvil Mountain Run veteran Dora Hughes after the race, “so this is
a PR (personal record) for me.”

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