With the coronavirus affecting all aspects of human endeavor, many of us have turned to alternate ways of keeping busy.
Baking. Knitting. Video games.
Or, in Owen Hatcher’s case, summiting five mountains in one brutal run on manpower alone.
“I was just waiting for a nice day to try and do it,” Hatcher said in a phone interview. “There’s no racing or anything going on this year, so I was looking for something to go spend a day doing.”
A medevac pilot with Airlift Northwest, Hatcher is an avid cyclist turned runner, who ran up and down Mount McGinnis, Thunder Mountain, Mount Roberts, Mount Juneau, and Mount Jumbo in one exceptionally long run: 59 miles total distance, 20 miles of biking between trailheads, 39 miles of running with 19,000 feet of climbing. Biking between trailheads, Hatcher took 15 hours Wednesday, kicking off at 6:23 a.m, to hit all five peaks.
“I’ve been running for three summers. I was a cyclist in Colorado. Cycling isn’t the most attractive thing in Juneau, so I was like, I should probably start running,” Hatcher said. “I basically just started running all the ridges in the Juneau area.”
The challenge, to hit the five peaks on manpower alone in one day, was inspired by a pair of runners who tried to do it earlier in the summer, in the face of all of 2020’s canceled races, Hatcher said, who were in turn inspired by a first-grader some years ago who did all five peaks in a summer. They laid out some rules for the challenge.
“One was that you have to bike to all the trailheads. It was all self-supported. You had to go up Thunder Mountain from the Jennifer Drive side,” Hatcher said. “The other one that was a big kick is that you had to get to Roberts Peak.”
Hatcher said it was a slog getting through to the end.
“Going up Jumbo, I was going to quit. Then, my wife told me she was going to meet me up there. I thought, ‘Ah, I can’t do that,’” Hatcher said. “You get to the top, and you’re kind of ready to celebrate, but you still got to make it down. My stomach was turning on me. I enjoyed the sunset, puking on top of Jumbo.”
Hatcher documented the trip on his Instagram, and other runners and outdoor enthusiasts saw him along the route, offering support and a much-needed beer at the finish.
“I saw a lot of cool people on the trail. We all suffer through the rain and we’re all going through the same things and suddenly it’s nice out,” Hatcher said. “There’s a rock on top of Gastineau Peak that’s painted like an M&M guy, and on the back there’s painted on “Go a little past your comfort zone.” That really spoke to me. I chuckled to myself and thought, ‘OK, rock.’”
Hatcher carried all his supplies with him. He said that while the rainy summer has made running more difficult, he manages to get through. And when the weather cleared this week, he saw his shot and took it.
“Just carried some water, some electrolyte mix, some gels. PB&Js, stuff like that. I probably should have brought more food,” Hatcher said. “This summer’s been hard with COVID and quarantine and nonstop rain. It’s harder. The days when it’s pouring rain, I’ll look at my shoes for a long time and think, do I really want to do this? Sometimes the weather wins, and sometimes I push through.”
Hatcher had some suggestions for those who would attempt the challenge or anything like it.
“Plan a day where it’s not super hot. A nice overcast layer,” Hatcher said. “Remember why we’re out doing it, and it’s to have fun and push yourself through things you didn’t think you’re capable of.”
Hatcher said it was a rough ride, but after a day of being in rough shape, he’s bouncing back.
“This is by far the longest day I’ve ever done,” Hatcher said. “I couldn’t walk real well yesterday. Today I went on a walk on Sandy Beach with my dog and I’m about to go kayak with a buddy. I recovered a lot faster than I thought I would.”
• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757-621-1197 or firstname.lastname@example.org.