Whidbey Marathon an unqualified success

This happy couple could feel the love from race fans as they approached the finish line for both half and full marathons in Coupeville on Sunday. - Jeff VanDerford
This happy couple could feel the love from race fans as they approached the finish line for both half and full marathons in Coupeville on Sunday.
— image credit: Jeff VanDerford

Brian Oster, race director for the Whidbey Island Marathon, doesn’t know what he’ll do if the race continues its growing popularity.

“We’re having trouble finding beds as it is now,” he said within moments of the half-marathon’s 8:30 a.m. start in Oak Harbor on Sunday. Roughly 2,100 runners and walkers joined 450 full marathoners (who stared half-an-hour earlier at Deception Pass) on their jaunt to Coupeville.

“Every hotel/motel and B&B on the island, Anacortes and La Conner was full,” Oster added. “Of course, I’m not complaining, especially as much of the proceeds goes to WAIF. To help the little guys.”

Few in the vast crowd waiting for the starting gun had any worries beyond staying warm, finding a free Porta-Potti or adjusting their race watches and iPods.

Large Hesselgrave-chartered buses had transported people from Coupeville to the starting points earlier in the morning.

For Freeland’s Sandra DeMartini, this was a chance to bond with her family.

“This is my first half-marathon and I want to create a memory with my granddaughters Kylie and Darien,” DeMartini said.

DeMartini, Sue Gordon, Hilda Walton, Amie Look, Wendy Morgan and Mary Posj all work for Whidbey Telecom.

“It’s healthy, fun and provides lots of motivation since we have to pay to do it,” Look said.

Bill Cusworth dropped off his wife on the way to Deception Pass.

“We run every year and meet up in Coupeville at the end,” Heidi Cusworth said.

And Jeff Strong of Freeland was glad to brave the chill morning mist. “I ran last year, gently moving up to the Full Monty after I complete my training,” he said.

Legend has it that marathons started after a fellow named Pheidippides ran 26 miles from the Plains of Marathon to tell the ancient Athenians of a great victory by the Greeks over Persian invaders, dropping dead in the process.

That was in 490 BC. In April 1896, 17 runners completed the first Olympic marathon in Athens of 40 kilometers.

The current marathon distance of 26 miles, 385 yards was set for the 1908 London Olympics so that the course could start at Windsor Castle and end in front of the Royal Box.

With the Gold Wing Motorcycle Club as escorts, racers traversed the eastern side of the island, avoiding main roads wherever possible, to finish in Coupeville. Aid stations were located every couple of miles.

At the finish line, as cold wind and clouds finally succumbed to the rays of the sun, racers made it across to the cheers of hundreds of family, friends and strangers.

Susan Doge from Seattle was waiting for her sister, but offered a word to all who passed.

“I really just enjoy letting them know someone appreciates their efforts,” she said. “You know, bad things may be happening somewhere in the world, but not here.”

Port Townsend’s Ian Fraser was first over the line in 2 hours, 30 minutes, 56 seconds; a course record — last year the first to finish needed 2 hours, 44 minutes.

“I’ve been training for some time so the hills weren’t much of a problem,” Fraser said. “Very nice course, well-organized.”

Everett’s Becky Hofland was the first female finisher at 3:08:05.7.

Stefan Jakobsen of Nanaimo, B.C. was first across for the half-marathon in 1:11:37.0. Lindsay McLaren from Calgary finished for the women in 1:19:65.6.

“Our whole group finished in about three hours,” Gordon said Monday. “It was a gorgeous course after the sun came out and the organizers did a great job controlling traffic. I plan to run it next year.”

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