The mountains of Southcentral Alaska may crumble before all of Nancy Pease’s trail-running records tumble.
Pease’s resume is legendary. Nine-time champion and record holder at Crow Pass. Five-time champion and record holder at Bird Ridge. Six-time champion and record holder at Mount Marathon from 1990-2015.
Given all of that, it’s tempting to call Pease the Queen of the Mountain, but that would be shortsighted. Sometimes she reigned supreme over the men too.
1990 was the summer of Pease. She set records at Mount Marathon and Crow Pass, and she was the overall winner at Bird Ridge, beating the men’s winner by more than 90 seconds. At that year’s Crow Pass Crossing, she shared the overall title with Bill Spencer, a Hall of Fame member since 2012. (Pease and Spencer finished the race holding hands. “I was hoping it’d make her slow down,” Spencer joked at the time.)
Pease finished the 1990 Crow Pass in a record 3 hours, 26 minutes, 20 seconds. Until 2014, when Christy Marvin won in 3:26:44, no woman had come within 10 minutes of Pease’s record in the marathon-length wilderness run through the Chugach Mountains.
Pease’s Mount Marathon record of 50:30 at Mount Marathon lasted for 25 years, finally falling in 2015 when it was broken by professional mountain running star Emelie Forsberg. Through 2014 Pease owned three of the top four women’s times in the three-mile race that consists mostly of climbing and descending the 3,022-foot peak in Seward.
As huge as the summer of 1990 was for Pease, perhaps her biggest achievement came in 1993 at Bird Ridge, a three-mile, uphill-only race with an elevation gain of 3,400 feet. She won in 42:27, a record long considered one of the toughest in Alaska. No other woman has come within three minutes of that mark.
“The Bird Ridge record, I don’t know if that will ever go down,” said Holly Brooks, a Mount Marathon and Bird Ridge champion who is chasing Pease’s times nearly a generation after they were established. “I don’t even know if it’s human.”
— Beth Bragg