BELLINGHAM - Event Director David Penrose has worked feverishly each year to make the sixth annual Bellingham Bay Marathon a community showcase.
He had plenty of help this year.
"The volunteers," Penrose was quick to say when asked what made the event a success. "About 80 percent of our volunteers were from the Bellingham Bay Swim Team and the Whatcom Rangers Football Club."
More than 3,200 runners crossed the finish line in front of Depot Market Square to the cheers of spectators pressed against barricades along Railroad Avenue on Sunday, Sept. 30.
Many competitors received congratulatory hugs from friends and family after receiving their full or half-marathon medal.
"Our entries were 5 percent higher this year than last year," Penrose said.
Live music and local food vendors created a festival-like atmosphere, and Depot Market Square served as a gathering place for competitors to unwind from their full marathon, half marathon or 5K race.
Clear, sunny weather made for ideal running conditions, and all six course records were broken. Marathon runners ran point to point from the Wex'liem Lummi Community Building, circumnavigating Bellingham Bay to Railroad Avenue's finish line.
Indiana marathon runner Justin Gillette flew 1,800 miles to win the men's 26.2-mile race. He posted a winning time of 2 hours, 29 minutes, 54 seconds. Holly McIlviane of Seattle won the women's marathon with a time of 2:58:57.8.
"Every time you were running and looked up at the bay, it was like a postcard," Gillette said.
Joseph Gray won the men's half marathon, Kristen Carter won the women's half marathon and Mark Burke and Ariana Lee won the men's and women's 5K, respectively.
Many runners pushed themselves to finish, but no one pushed quite like half-marathoner Robert Gammons-Reese of Ferndale. He completed the 13.1-mile race pushing a two-seated stroller with his adopted daughters Angelina Gammons-Reese and Jude Gammons-Reese, who both have spina bifida - a birth defect that involves the incomplete development of the spinal cord or its coverings.
Gammons-Reese said he ran the race in an effort to raise awareness about the disease.
"These are my two children that I adopted from Haiti," Gammons-Reese explained. "I did it without them last year, but I've been training for about four months for this."
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