Sep. 27—Anchorage's Anna Dalton (center) stands at the podium
Anna Dalton is among the most accomplished distance runners in the recent history of Alaska, with a win at the Equinox Marathon and a berth in the US Olympic Marathon Trials in the past few years.
But Saturday at the USA Track and Field Trail Running Championship Half Marathon, the 33-year-old Anchorage resident won her first national championship, a race she said is the most significant victory of her career.
Dalton, racing on the American Birkebeiner course in Cable, Wisconsin, took the women's race in a time of 1 hour, 30 minutes, 17 seconds.
"I think winning a national title is probably like the biggest thing I've done yet," she said. "I qualified for the Olympic Trials Marathon which was a really big deal too. But you know, I didn't make the Olympic team and was pretty far from it. So yeah, this feels significant in a way that I don't think I've really wrapped my head around yet."
Dalton has raced in national championships before, finishing in the top 10 in both the USATF Trail Marathon Championships and last year's USATF Mountain Running Championships. The win also puts her in solid contention to compete for Team USA in the 2023 World Mountain & Trail Running Championships in Austria next summer.
"I've gotten close, but I've never been on the podium," she said. "My goal coming into this was, you know, being on the podium would be a great day. So to win was unexpected and really amazing."
The win was even more monumental considering Dalton's recent training schedule — which has been sparse. She started off the summer racing season hot — with wins at the Knoya Ridge Run and the Twilight 12K as well as a runner-up finish at the Anchorage Run for Women.
But she was feeling fatigued and after a blood test, found out she was anemic, a condition she's battled throughout her running career.
So she shut down training for two months in the middle of the summer. She was also busy with another tradition of summer — attending weddings.
"I've just had so many friends get married this summer," she said. "I've been traveling a lot for weddings. The last race I did before this was the Anchorage Mile, part of RunFest."
Anchorage's Anna Dalton crosses the finish line Saturday to win the USA Track and Field Trail Running Championship Half Marathon in Cable, Wisconsin
She said she got her iron level back to a good level and knew that the race would be an opportunity for a competitive finish.
The race is held on the trails that host the Birkie ski races, very comparable to rolling trails that run through Kincaid Park, where Dalton ran as a runner at West High.
"I knew it was kind of going to run like a cross-country race," she said. "I'm not someone who really excels at like a Mount Marathon type mountain running race. But when I can combine like rolling hills and hard uphills with lots of downhill running and fast flat sections in the middle, I knew it would play to my strengths ... So it was just kind of a perfect combination of all those things."
She said her next event is the California International Marathon in December. But with the win over the weekend she's also putting an emphasis on the World Mountain & Trail Running Championships in Austria. She said the criteria hasn't yet been announced for the U.S. team, but she plans to do whatever is necessary to improve her odds.
"I'll be trying to do whatever I need to do to get on that team," she said. "Being named to the U.S. team has been a goal of mine for a while."