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The Call Of Crow Pass

Words by Brittany Mumma, Photos by Dirk Collins and Brian Kruchoski

Stio Ambassador Brittany Mumma returns to her home state of Alaska to test her mettle on the notorious Crow Pass Crossing, an unforgiving endurance race.

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Photo by Dirk Collins

Crow Pass Crossing stands as the pinnacle of Alaskan endurance racing. Since its inception in 1984, this historic race stretches from Girdwood to Eagle River, gaining fame as an iconic footrace celebrated for its breathtaking landscapes and demanding trails. The route encompasses snowfields, towering brush, a bold crossing of Eagle River, wildlife encounters and treacherous terrain. The absence of markers or aid stations amplifies the challenge, frequently leading racers astray and forcing them to find their way back to the path. The race unfurls over roughly 23 miles as a testament to the indomitable spirit of the participants and the rugged Alaskan wilderness itself. 

Growing up in both Eagle River and Girdwood, with a family history steeped in the Alaskan running community, Crow Pass has always called me. While my parents didn’t achieve legendary feats on Crow Pass, their stories of the race are unforgettable. Bee stings, helicopter searches, unforgiving vegetation, heart-pounding bear confrontations and that bone-chilling wade across the icy Eagle River—all fueled my determination. It felt like an unscripted rite of passage, a journey to join the ranks of those who had tested their mettle on these trails and to carve my own story into the rugged landscape.

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Photos by Dirk Collins

Last year, spurred by Christy Marvin’s new women’s course record,  I finally decided to tackle the race. But that same year, I also grappled with seizures and vision loss, triggered by a mysterious viral attack while working in Portugal. 

As I looked ahead at months of recovery, I was still determined to compete. I found an ally, coach Brittany Charboneau, who would help me find a path forward during my recovery and training. Together, we embarked on a transformative regimen focused not only on physical preparation but also mental resilience. 

Hours of training became my daily routine. My schedule danced between shoot locations across seven different states and the grind of early morning and late night runs—anything to squeeze in a few more miles. With my coach’s unwavering support, working for the finish line of Crow Pass transformed beyond a mere physical marker; it became a powerful symbol of my recovery.

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Photo by Dirk Collins

Race day finally arrived. As I stood at the starting line, a whirlwind of emotions swept through me. The months of training, the setbacks, the early mornings, the late nights—they all converged into this singular moment. The air buzzed with a mixture of nervous energy and a burning desire to prove myself. 

Then, the crack of the starting gun broke the silence and I was propelled forward, heart pounding.

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Photo by Brian Kruchoski

Almost immediately, a scary realization struck me: Today wasn’t my day. My mind and body were out of sync. Mile 3, a point when I should have been solidly in rhythm, left me trailing my usual time by four minutes. As the next 23 miles unfolded, each step grew heavier, as if the very landscape conspired to stop me. 

Then came the bee stings. After that, the grass, seemingly picturesque but concealing hidden rocks in its dense undergrowth. With each stumble, my frustration mounted, chipping away the very thing I worked so hard to develop. The aspirations I had nurtured for months clashed against the stark reality of my struggles. Past achievements seemed impossibly distant. 

At mile 11, Eagle River beckoned. In sheer exhaustion, I launched into its cold embrace. The desperation to wash away the mental and physical fatigue was so palpable that the icy current felt like a refuge from the overwhelming demands of the race.

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Photos by Dirk Collins

But then, as I trudged on, determined to finish, I reflected on how these moments of suffering embody the essence of endurance racing. The expanse of the course mirrors both our strengths and vulnerabilities, testing not just our physical capabilities, but also our mental fortitude. 

Every bee sting, every stumble, every icy plunge and moment of self-doubt served as brushstrokes on the canvas of my experience, creating a narrative that transcended victory or loss. Even in apparent defeat, the race carved a victory for me.

Undoubtedly, I did not conquer Crow Pass; it conquered me. But Crow Pass isn’t simply a race; it’s an odyssey, a personal expedition woven seamlessly with the fabric of Alaskan tenacity and heritage. For me, it evolved into a profound conversation with the very spirit of Alaska. While victory eluded me this time, rest assured I will make my return to the great Crow Pass armed with the wisdom that only adversity can provide.

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