Thursday, June 04, 2009

How Would World Class Runners Fare on the Ester Dome?

UAF coach Scott Jerome provided a whimsical post the other day on, wondering if anyone could break 20 minutes to run 5 kilometers up the Ester Dome. The course, from the Stop sign at Ester Dome Road/St. Patrick's Road to the parking lot at the first summit known as at “Ulerhavan,” climbs approximately 1,600 feet (average grade about 10.3%).

Anyone who has run the “Dome” would tell you that it’s a tough climb, even on an average to medium training run. If you are running, there is no easy way up the Ester Dome. Add the element of competition, such as in the annual Ester Dome Hill Climb or Equinox Marathon, and the spector is downright brutal.

The course record for men is 22:47, set by Marius Korthauer in 2007 (six months before winning the 2008 NCAA Nordic ski championship); and the women’s record is 26:03 by Paula Havlova in 2005 a year when she ran to NCAA Division II status.
Some of the responses were interesting (
Which leads us to the question, can it even be done?

A 20 minute 5K up the Ester Dome would require a 12.1% improvement over Korthauer’s time. That’s a lot. For women, the equivalent goal time would be approximately 22:53, which has only been matched two or three men during the past decade of record keeping.

Korthauer is a remarkable athlete: at 6 ft 5 inches and bowlegged, he does not stride either in running or in skiing; he locomotes by scuttling. No doubt if he were alive, fabled University of Oregon track coach Bill Bowerman would label Korthauer as a “bumble bee.” An athlete who based on technique should not be any good, but somehow gets the job done in a big way (marathoners Kenny Moore and Alberto Salazar were bumble bees). The guy has never run a fast 5K or 10K, but he can climb and he can ski.

Another testament to Korthauer's hill climbing ability was from the Equinox Relay in 2008--his 8.7 mile time (including the Dome climb and rugged Out and Back) of 1:00:21beat a low-mid 2:30s marathoner by 5 minutes that day. And it was the fastest leg ever, by 3 seconds, over Kenyan Moses Waweru (2004). Waweru had run 13:40s for 5000 meters the year before, and over the next several years was a consistent 29s and 30s runner for 10K in the USA road race circuit.

Nevertheless, I think a trained mountain running specialist (like Matt Carpenter in his prime, or more recently Jonathan Wyatt of New Zealand) or world class distance runner with sub 13:30 5K abilities—who also does a lot of hill training and mountain running, e.g. the Kenyans, Ethiopians, or altitude based mountain goats such as CU Buff grads Dathan Ritzenhein or Billy Nelson could actually make a good go at it. For women to break 23, it would take the likes of Catherine Ndereba, the Dibaba sisters, Deena Kastor, or maybe upstart Jenny Berringer (a 9:22 steeplechaser soon to be out of CU).

Back to earth, Roger. For $100? Not going to happen. Not here, not in this lifetime. Maybe Scott could set up a fundraising match program. Shoot, I’d throw in some money to sweeten the pot!

[note: I ran 25:33 up Ester Dome at age 48—age graded that’s 22:42. Should I tell them?]


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