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Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Bellingham marathon supports local youth

By Emily Erskine

The rainy streets of downtown Bellingham welcomed another year of Bellingham Bay Marathon runners on Sunday, Sept. 30.

Despite the harsh weather conditions that befell the crowd, runners remained enthusiastic for this local Bellingham fundraising tradition as they crossed the finish line with smiling faces.

The marathon, founded in 2003 by the Bellingham Bay Swim Team, began as a fundraising opportunity for Whatcom County youth nonprofit organizations. Since then, it has continued its tradition of giving back to the Whatcom County community.

Runners from the 5 and 10k races of the Bellingham Bay Marathon run down the final stretch of the race to the finish line.
Runners from the 5 and 10k races of the Bellingham Bay Marathon run down the final stretch of the race to the finish line on Sept. 30, 2018 in Bellingham, Wash. The marathon course started at the Lummi Nation School and went along the water toward Fairhaven before finishing downtown at the Depot Market Square. // Photo by Oliver Hamlin

The Bellingham Bay Swim Team, Boys and Girls Club of Whatcom County, Girls on the Run, Lummi Youth Academy and the Whatcom Football Club Rangers are just some of the many organizations that will receive donations from the run, according to the Bellingham Bay Marathon website.

The donations provide financial assistance for these organizations for uniforms, traveling game and event fees, team activities and more.

In order to make the event possible, hundreds of volunteers from both the Bellingham Bay Swim Team and the Whatcom FC Rangers premier soccer club come together each year to make sure the race goes off without a hitch.

Since 2003, the marathon has become an annual tradition for both Bellingham residents and visitors alike, with events for participants of all ages and abilities, including a full marathon, a half-marathon, a 10k, a 5k and a relay.

The marathon had informational booths, live music, a beer garden and local food vendors for not only participants but viewers, family, community members and volunteers to enjoy. 

Among these vendors was Russ Kendall, owner of Gusto Wood Fired Pizza, who has set up a booth at the marathon for seven years.

“I’ve started to vend less and cater more, but I always keep coming back to this event every year,” Kendall said. “There’s such a great vibe here, with live music and the outdoors — I love the turnout.”

Bundled with jackets and sweatshirts in the Depot Market Square in downtown, half-marathon runner Anna McGarr and Western alumni Vanessa Von Stubbe waited excitedly with fellow racers under cover for their run to begin. Since the marathon’s beginning, the square has become a hub for runners to eat, meet other participants and receive race information.

“The race gets bigger and bigger every year,” McGarr said. “It has definitely grown since I started attending.”

The square remained crowded with people as the events took place on race day, starting at 7 a.m., lasting until roughly two in the afternoon. The square offers a large area of refuge from the rain and wind, as well as a nice place for community members to engage with the runners and learn more about the event.

“It rains during the marathon majority of the years but that’s not a problem,” Von Stubbe said. “It just makes your feet really wet.”

Rain or shine, the weather didn’t take away from the breathtaking views of Bellingham Bay the course had to offer. The full marathon began at the Wex’liem Community Building near Gooseberry Point on Lummi Nation land and all other events began and ended at the Depot Market Square.

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