August 2, 2011 / 2:43 PM / in 6 years

Man runs 92-miles of Alaska's Denali park road

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters Life!) - A U.S. marathon racer braved a sore hip and a close encounter with a caribou to become the first athlete on record to run the 92 miles of the road stretching through Denali National Park.

Bill VonderMehden, 34, a chef who works at one of the park’s lodges, finished the run in a little over 25 hours spanning July 21-22.

Running the entire road -- the only one that goes through the park -- was an unusual experience, even for someone accustomed to long-distance foot races, he said.

“It’s one thing to do a road race where there are aid stations and people cheering you on,” he said. “Out there, there’s no aid stations. It’s just you and the moose and the bears.”

At one point, he said, he nearly had a head-on confrontation with a caribou, but the animal veered off before the two collided.

Aside from the wild animals and mountain scenery, the only company VonderMehden had for the entire run was a friend on a bicycle.

VonderMehden first tried to run the length of the park road last year, but had to stop because of an injured ankle. This year, he had similar problems with a hip, but persevered at a slower pace.

“I was really just kind of upset because I knew my time could have been several hours faster,” he said.

The Denali Park road is paved for the first 15 miles and the remainder is gravel. Most park visitors travel the road by shuttle bus, reaching hiking and camping destinations along the way.

Park officials said they have no record of anyone else doing it, said Denali spokeswoman Kris Fister.

“It’s not anything that we keep track of,” she said. “It certainly is a great accomplishment.”

Editing by Steve Gorman and Greg McCune

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