BELLINGHAM - Marathon runner Justin Gillette left his hometown of Goshen, Ind., and arrived in Bellingham on a flight at 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29. He was scheduled to fly home at 11 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 30, but he had a little extra carry-on luggage to take with him - a first-place trophy from the Bellingham Bay Marathon.
He'll also be able to boast about his new course record after his 1,800-mile trek.
During Gillette's 31-hour stay in Whatcom County, he covered a scenic 26.2-mile route from the Wex'liem Lummi Community Building to the Depot Market Square, winning the sixth annual Bellingham Bay Marathon by almost 10 minutes Sunday morning with a time of 2 hours, 29 minutes, 54 seconds.
"At least I got to see a lot of Bellingham," Gillette said of his short trip. "I wanted to win, and I wanted to set the course record. I was able to do both those things."
He wasn't the only one to accomplish that, as one first-place finisher after another brokecourse records on Sunday.
Seattle runner Holly McIlvaine won the women's marathon, setting a new record of 2:58:57.8.
Men's half marathon winner, Joseph Gray, and women's half marathon winner, Kristen Carter, also set new records. Gray ran a 1:08:57.4, and Carter ran a 1:18:09.9.
Gillette topped Uli Steidl's 2011 course-record mark of 2:31.33 to win his 53rd career marathon. Dressed in a white hat, white shirt and blue shorts, the Indiana native calmly jogged his way down Railroad Avenue, crossing the finish line in front of Depot Market Square to the applause and cheers of spectators pressed against barricades lining the street.
"This is my fifth marathon this month, so I was a little unsure about how I'd do," Gillette said. "The first few miles were marked incorrectly, so I started off a little fast. I didn't feel bad until the last four miles, but I had enough to win."
Gillette has been running competitively since his first 26.2-mile race at 16. He has now run marathons in over 35 states, but the Bellingham Bay Marathon marked the first time he's run one in Washington state.
"I emailed the race director about the race, and he was really quick to respond and was excited about the idea (of me coming to Bellingham)," Gillette explained. "He let me stay at a nice lady's house named Polly (Favinger) - the president of the (Greater Bellingham) Running Club. When you get treated so well and get put up in a house, I felt like I had to run well."
Five more wins and Gillette, 29, will have twice as many marathon titles as his age. He said his next goal may be to get win No. 58 by the end of the year.
The women's marathon was a much tighter race than the men's.
McIlvaine, second-place finisher Amber Morrison and Julie Brekke, who placed third, ran stride for stride with each other between the 22nd and 25th miles.
"It's a relief," McIlvaine said of winning. "We went back and forth and knew of each other's presence the whole race. Probably around 25 miles, I pushed the accelerator and kept thinking of my dad."
McIlvaine said her father was recently diagnosed with colon cancer. She said thinking of his strength through chemotherapy helped her push on.
"You have to have things you think of to take your mind off of the race," McIlvaine said.
Carter's record-breaking run in the half marathon largely happened because she hasn't been able to stop thinking about last year's race.
Carter, a former Bellingham High School standout runner who returned to the area last year upon completion of her graduate degree from Ohio State University, finished just shy of the female record during 2011's windy Bellingham Bay Marathon.
She beat the record by more than five minutes this time.
"I was two seconds short of the record last year," said Carter, who ran in the 2012 Olympic Trails January 14 in Houston, Texas. "I was going up against a girl who has beat me twice. At the Olympic Trials, she was 108th and I was 112th."
Former Mount Baker High School runner Kristen Rohde finished second, and Christina Overbeck Crawford, who has beat Carter two times, placed third.
Gray held off brothers John Ricardi and Joshua Ricardi to beat Jordan Welling's 2011 record of 1:11.32 by 21/2 minutes.
"I'm definitely happy," said Gray, who won the U.S. 50K Road Championships May 9. "I'm coming off a real bad stomach bug, so I wasn't sure how good of shape I was in."
Even Bellingham Bay Marathon's 5K course records were toppled. Mark Burke broke the old men's record of 17:14 with his 16:13.1 run, and Ariana Lee ran an 18:52.3 to beat the old women's standard of 20:18.
Event director David Penrose said race entries were up five percent this year. Over 3,200 male and female runners competed in the six Bellingham Bay Marathon races.
"I thought it went great," Penrose said. "It's our sixth annual race, so it's still a young race. About 80 percent of our volunteers were from the Bellingham Bay Swim Team and the Whatcom Rangers Football Club. We had great volunteers and great community involvement, too."
Reach Andrew Lang at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-756-2862.
BELLINGHAM BAY MARATHON COURSE RECORDS
Men's marathon: Justin Gillette 2:29.54.0
Women's marathon: Holly McIlvaine 2:58:57.8
Men's half marathon: Joseph Gray 1:08:57.4
Women's half marathon: Kristen Carter 1:18:09.9
Men's 5K: Mark Burke 16:13
Women's 5K: Ariana Lee 18:52.3
Men's marathon: Uli Steidl 2:31:33 (2011)
Women's marathon: Shawna Wilskey 3:04:26 (2008)
Men's half marathon: Jordan Welling 1:11:32 (2011)
Women's half marathon: Kristen Rohde 1:23:27 (2010)
Men's 5K: Jason Gulley/John Collins 17:14 (2009)
Women's 5K: Alma McMurtry 20:18 (2008)
Bellingham Bay Marathon
Men's top individual finishers: 1. Justin Gillette 2:29.54.0; 2. Kurt Warwick 2:39:46.3; 3. Jesse Pacem 2:49:01.0; 4. Martin Ranney 2:49:52.0; 5. Lawrence Merrifield Jr. 2:50:22.0; 6. Andrew Schneider 2:58:15.5; 7. Michael Brisbois 2:58:39.5, 8. Noah Wallace 2:59:05.8; 9. Kevin Hall 2:59:47.8, 10. Jonathan Bussiere 3:02:53.3.
Women's top individual finishers: 1. Holly McIlvaine 2:58:57.8; 2. Amber Morrison 2:59:17.1; 3. Julie Brekke 3:01:06.7; 4. Evelyn Young 3:15:41.3; 5. Tessa Thralls 3:20:08.0; 6. Lucy Kenward 3:24:08.3; 7. Tina Stoner 3:24:58.0; 8. Megan Schorr 3:27:27.7; 9. Amy Myers 3:29:14.8; 10.Meredith Evans 3:30:11.3.
Men's top individual finishers: 1. Joseph Gray 1:08:57.4; 2. John Ricardi 1:09:17.9; 3. Joshua Ricardi 1:10:42.6; 4. Brett Winegar 1:12:21.1; 5. Ryan Prachnau 1:14:56.1; 6. Phil Rock 1:16:21.9; 7. Erik Taylor 1:16:21.9; 8. Jason Ralstan 1:19:02.4; 9. Nate Sutherland 1:20:14.9; 10. Scott Drennen 1:20:19.1.
Women's top individual finishers: 1. Kristen Carter 1:18:09.9; 2. Kristen Rohde 1:18:48.1; 3. Christina Overbeck Crawford 1:19:03.4; 4. Kristi Houck 1:20:42.4; 5. Sarah MacKay 1:22:40.9; 6. Caryn Heffernan 1:22:54.6; 7. Amelia Slagle 1:24:00.1; 8. Korina Pongracz 1:26:20.9; 9. Karin Rosser 1:27:45.6; 10. Angie Malpass1:28:22.9.
Men's top individual finishers: 1. Mark Burke 16:13.1; 2. Sam Backman 16:49.1; 3. David Whitney 17:06.8; 4. David Cannon 17:17.8; 5. Derek Thornton 17:46.0; 6. Ken Koenig 18:14.5; 7. Barry Young 28:28.6; 8. John Diefel 19:33.8; 9. Kevin Manley 20:24.8; 10. Roy Reichlin 20:34.1.
Women's top individual finishers: 1. Ariana Lee 18:52.3; 2. Alma McMurtry 19:55.8; 3. Jen Gallant 19:57.6; 4. Julie Benner 20:02.3; 5. Janet Kling 21:27.5; 6. Meghan Manaois 21:30.1; 7. Stephanie Geiger 22:16.2; 8. Nicole Vettese 22:59.8; 9. Angela Yap 23:02.2; 10. Julie Ann Steele 23:48.1.
Reach ANDREW LANG at email@example.com or call ext. 862.