Evan Thompson / The Record — Mickey Nelson, left, runs to the finish line with his Run for Ron teammates on Saturday. The Northwest Passage Ragnar Relay began in Blaine on July 14 and ended at the Island County Fairgrounds on July 15. To Nelson’s left is Cherie Campbell.

Northwest Passage Ragnar Relay draws nearly 6,000 racers

The scenery along the Northwest Passage Ragnar Relay helped, a lot. It kept Idaho resident Mickey Nelson’s mind off the grueling aspects of the task at hand — completing the final portion of the 197-mile relay race on July 14-15 that ended at the Island County Fairgrounds.

Nearly 6,000 racers and over 500 teams competed in the two-day relay race. Between six and a dozen runners comprised the teams, and teammates took turns completing 36 legs of the journey.

“It was awesome,” said Nelson of the Run for Ron team. “The scenery here was just amazing. It was so green, and all the water and all the vistas. It helps take your mind off what you’re doing.”

The teams traversed through three counties along their journey, starting on Friday in Blaine near the Canadian border, traveling south through Bellingham, Anacortes, Oak Harbor and Coupeville before finishing in Langley on Saturday. Runners passed through a 20-foot-tall orange inflatable arch finish line near the entrance of the fairgrounds. The area was heavily populated by racers from hundreds of teams. Runners completing the final leg were often joined by their teammates in joyous celebrations as they crossed the finish line.

Alive and Kicking…, a Seattle-based running team, won the masters category with a time of 23 hours, 55 minutes and 49 seconds. It was four hours ahead of Mitochondriacs, the category’s runner-up. The masters category includes racers who are 40 and above. Seattle residents Steve Seliga, Kathy Maigret and Bruce Kaskel said the event has many redeeming qualities that keep them coming back year after year.

“It’s just fun to be with your friends and do a lot of running,” Maigret, 49, said. “It’s really beautiful here on Whidbey, so that’s kind of nice to see all the beautiful views. We get to be there for sunset and sunrise.”

They are part of the Seattle Greenlake Running Group, which was represented by more than 20 other teams in the relay. Seliga, 53, said they had two vans carrying team members alongside the runners through the entire journey and would switch places at checkpoints. He also said that each person’s favorite scenic view varies, but it was agreed that one of the favorite sights was a lake near Bellingham Bay.

While many ran because it was a fun activity, others ran with purpose. The 12 members of the Run for Ron team raced in honor of the late Ron Guymon, who died a year ago. Nelson, Guymon’s son-in-law, said 10 members of the team were related to Guymon. The team included people from Arizona, Utah and Idaho.

“When I was putting together the team I thought, ‘It would be really awesome to have a family team,’” Nelson said. “It was great.”

Nelson, who previously competed in a Ragnar Relay race in Hawaii, added that the team finished about two hours ahead of when they expected to arrive at the fairgrounds. They started the relay at 7 a.m. on Friday and finished at around 12:30 p.m. on Saturday. The team finished 123rd overall and competed the course in 29 hours, 35 minutes and 46 seconds.

The overall winner was Misters Staff Infection, which finished in 19 hours, 37 minutes and 22 seconds and one hour and a half ahead of all the other competitors.

Racers began as early as 5 a.m. on Friday, according to one of the relay’s organizers, Ameena Khan. Khan said there are 36 exchange points along the course, six of which are “major exchange points” where runners can rest and reload. Hydration and medical stations are available to runners at the exchange points, as well as food, coffee and places to sleep or shower.

There are also water stations found along the longer legs, while Ragnar Relay staff are also out on the course at all times to provide assistance when needed.

Khan said there was a new twist to this year’s event that helped shine light on one of the more “stunning” views along their journey. Participants usually travel across Deception Pass in darkness, but Khan said they hung up string lights across the entire bridge.

“Even though it is pitch black, you’re going across a really scenic landmark,” Khan said. “That was something we were really excited about, and I know the runners have been excited about that too.”