Langley Half Marathon and 10k Walk draws a mixed crowd

Susi Harvey of Sparks, Nev. crosses the finish line first among the women runners in the 2010 Langley Half Marathon. Harvey finished ninth overall in 44 minutes, 42.1 seconds to win her second Langley Half Marathon women’s title.  - Brian Kelly / Record file
Susi Harvey of Sparks, Nev. crosses the finish line first among the women runners in the 2010 Langley Half Marathon. Harvey finished ninth overall in 44 minutes, 42.1 seconds to win her second Langley Half Marathon women’s title.
— image credit: Brian Kelly / Record file

Runners don’t come to the Langley Half Marathon to set personal records, especially the race veterans.

The hills on the course present a different challenge from many marathons and half marathons around

Puget Sound, and that limits its appeal, according to the marathon organizers.

“You already have a selective group who want to do this tough course,” said volunteer race director Matt Simms.

Yet racers continue to register in the hundreds for the Langley race. This year more than 200 people will run Langley’s insidious inclines on Sunday, July 10, but the race itself will draw more than a thousand people to Langley.

The 800 or so non-racers will be family, friends, spectators, volunteers and race coordinators. They come for the fourth annual Langley Half Marathon and 10k Fitness Walk that is part of the 36th annual Choochokam Arts festival that begins today and ends Sunday.

It’s the non-arts part of the festival, and the only endorsed athletic event.

“People can come to Langley, do the race in the morning and then as soon as they’re finished … then the arts festival is opening right around that time,” Simms said.

Almost 200 racers were registered by Thursday, which Simms said was about average. Racers come from across Whidbey, the state, the country and the world. Simms said he has registered racers from Clinton, Oak Harbor, Seattle, San Francisco, Virginia, Miami and Ireland.

“I never anticipated that anybody farther than Greenbank would come,” Simms said.

It’s not as popular as the recent Seattle Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon, which had about 26,000 racers, and that’s the point.

“They want to do the race with a couple hundred people on a beautiful course,” Simms said.

He also expects between 50 and 75 racers to register the day of, even minutes before, the 8:30 a.m. start time.

“We’ve signed up people after the start,” Simms said.

“It makes it pretty user-friendly,” he added.

A three-time Langley racer won’t need last-minute registration.

Matt Cook, a chaplain for Naval Submarine Support Center based in Bremerton, raced in the previous three Langley half marathons. This will be Cook’s fourth Langley race, his second half marathon this year and he raced in three marathons, so far. He plans to run in 20 half- and full marathons this year.

“In some ways, it’s just another race,” Cook said. “But it’s also a special one because I’ve run every single (Langley Half Marathon) and it’s just a well-organized event, and those are rare to find sometimes.”

Cook, a Clinton resident until 2009, also said he looks forward to the Langley race to see familiar faces.

“It’s a wonderful excuse to reconnect with old friends,” he said.

Some racers will bring their friends, rather than see old ones at the race. One racer, Alicia Force, will travel from Oak Harbor with six other racers. Those racers include Force’s co-worker, the co-worker’s daughter, Force’s sister, niece, husband and friend.

“I still can’t convince a couple people,” Force laughed.

The recruiter extraordinaire convinced each of them to register and name her as the Offered Runner Referral, an addition to the registration form Simms included as incentive for racers to register their friends for a fee refund.

They’re competing in the 10k walk, but Force and her husband will run. That’s the real competition for Force, at least.

“My ultimate goal will be to beat my husband, but I can say that won’t happen,” she said.

Force said the race’s proximity to her Oak Harbor home attracted her. One slight reservation was the course’s hills and elevation gain.

“I’m hoping I can run up them the whole time,” Force said.

The course map on rates the race’s elevation gain as a Category 5 Climb — the least difficult. Simms said the course has more elevation gain and hills than most marathons and half marathons. It’s both a draw and a deterrent.

“You’re not going to run your personal best, of course,” Simms said.

Cook likes the course’s hills and elevation gain, and said it’s one of the reasons he comes to the race.

“I love the challenging race course, and I love Choochokam,” Cook said. “Matt Simms — the race director — he does a good job of laying out the race.”

Simms said he has about 30 volunteers to help with this year’s race, but added that more are welcome to come the day of the race, or register online at

“We have great volunteers from the community,” Simms said. “We’ll put them to work.”

Ben Watanabe can be reached at



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