Runners at the start of Duff's Skagway Marathon in 2015. (Duff's Skagway Marathon/Elise Giordano)

Runners at the start of Duff’s Skagway Marathon in 2015. (Duff’s Skagway Marathon/Elise Giordano)

The race billed as ‘Alaska’s toughest marathon’ takes place this Saturday in Skagway.

Duff’s Skagway Marathon begins on the downtown waterfront and winds through steep hills and uneven terrain in Dyea and West Creek.

Race director Kristin Wagner says 114 people have registered so far. There’s a late registration opportunity this Friday evening at Skagway’s AB Hall.

Most of participants opt for a half-marathon course, which they can run or walk. But there are more than 20 runners braving the full 26.2 miles.

Wagner says they call the race Alaska’s toughest based on what they’ve heard from runners.

“We’ve had friends and seasoned marathon runners, people who’ve done the Boston Marathon, generally they finish and they look at us and say ‘that was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.’”

Wagner says steep inclines and dirt roads make the route challenging. The path is out and back to West Creek, so runners have to take on the same hills twice.

“So it definitely pushes you. But it’s rewarding at the same time, it’s so beautiful. Especially when you start running out Long Bay and the Dyea flats, it’s gorgeous.”

The race is a Boston Marathon qualifier. Wagner says recent road work caused some slight changes to the course this year, including an extra hill in the half marathon.

Wagner says this year, she knows of at least one East Coast runner who is doing a marathon in each of the 50 states. She says Alaska is the last state on his list. He’ll get bib number 50.

“We’re excited about that and we’ve actually attracted a couple people, they’re called ’50 Staters,’ they run a marathon in every state. ‘Cause I think we offer a unique option for Alaska, as far as what marathon they’re going to pick in Alaska.”

There are some unique hazards to the Skagway marathon. Bears are a common sighting in the Dyea area. Wagner says runners are warned and aid station volunteers are directed to make a lot of noise.

She says in the marathon’s six years, no one has run into a bear. But they have been spotted on the course the night before.

The race is this Saturday. The marathon starts at 8 a.m. and the half marathon begins at 9. The event is a collaboration between Duff’s Backcountry Outfitters, the municipality of Skagway and the Skagway Development Corporation.