PALMER — The ninth annual Hatcher Pass Marathon is set for Saturday, and over 115 people have already signed up, with more expected by race officials.

“It has a pretty loyal following,” Hatcher Pass Marathon race co-director Natalie Bickers said.

Natalie Bickers and her husband Eric took the reins for the Hatcher Pass Marathon this year. So far, 47 individuals have registered along with 24 teams, totaling to 115 people, according to Bickers.

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She anticipates even more by the race’s start. She said it’s grown each year and believes much of the popularity comes from the sheer scenic splendor it offers.

“It’s one of the most beautiful settings in the United States of America,” Bickers said.

The race starts about five miles away from Willow and follows Willow Fishhook Road in Hatcher Pass all the way over the summit, and concludes at the Independence Mine State Historical Park parking lot.

The trek is almost all uphill, going up for 25 miles until the last mile which goes downhill then up one more hill to the finish line. Bickers notes that while the race is open to anyone, it’s certainly a challenge. She recommended that those interested should already have mountain racing experience to tackle this trek. Many who participate are already seasoned racers.

“A lot of people see it as a personal challenge… It’s tough but beautiful,” Bickers said.

This marathon is just over the traditional length, coming in at about 26.5 miles, according to Bickers. She said racers can expect roughly 4,800 feet to climb.

“It’s all uphill until the last mile,” Bickers said.

There will be little to no shade during the race and temperatures aren’t showing any signs of cooling down so taking a pack with plenty of water will be crucial. Bickers said to prepare as much as possible for the race.

“It’s not a typical city marathon,” Bickers said.

On Saturday, the standard start begins at 9 a.m. with an early start option at 7 a.m. Bickers noted that those who start earlier will likely have cooler weather to work with. She said they will keep the finish line open until the last person crosses. She said that it takes most people about four to seven hours from start to finish.

They plan to keep this Hatcher Pass tradition going and growing, along with other local runs with their organization Happy Malamute Running. Bickers said their goal is to provide as many long distance races as they can here in the Valley.

They will host yet another marathon up Hatcher Pass at the end of the summer. They’re planning to unveil their Inaugural Archangel Marathon and Relay and Gold Mint Challenge on Aug. 4, from 9 to 6 p.m.

For more information, look up the Hatcher Pass Marathon or Happy Malamute Running on Facebook. To register for the Hatcher Pass Marathon, visit: happymalamuterunning.com

Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at jacob.mann@frontiersman.com

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