Former WWU runners return looking for strong showings in marathon, half marathon

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDSeptember 29, 2013 

Steve DeKoker has never run the Bellingham Bay Marathon before, and Bennett Grimes has yet to tackle a half marathon anywhere.

Yet the duo is not only among the favorites to win their respective races on Sunday, Sept. 29, during the seventh running of the annual marathon from Lummi Nation School to downtown Bellingham and half marathon, each could potentially set a course record in the process.

Though both live in the Seattle area, where they work for Brooks Running, they have a little bit of a home-course advantage, as both DeKoker and Grimes ran cross country and track for Western Washington University.

"I haven't run that course before, but I've run thousands of miles on those streets or adjacent streets," DeKoker said in a phone interview. "I've run Boulevard Park thousands of times. That was prime real estate for me. I'm not sure I've run on the Lummi reservation before, but I pulled up the map, and in my mind I have a picture of running on all those streets. I can visualize in my head that particular street or this particular turn. It's unique because I don't know if I've ever had that in my head before in a race. I know there's a gradual uphill on State Street near the finish, so I have that engrained in my head, and I know how I want to approach it."

In fact, each said it was memories of their good times at WWU that enticed them to come back to Bellingham to run on Sunday.

"The course is beautiful, and I miss Bellingham," Grimes said in a phone interview. "I wish I could still live there. I have so many good memories. I have a brother that still lives near there, and I met my fiancé there. It's going to be really special to go back and run there."

It hasn't been all that long since Grimes, who came to Bellingham from Pocatello, Idaho, last donned the Vikings' blue and white.

He wrapped up his senior seasons in cross country and track during the 2010-11 school year.

While at WWU, Grimes was a three-time All-American in cross country and a four-time All-West Region runner during a career that was highlighted by his 13th-place finish at the NCAA Division II National Championships in 2010. In track and field, he advanced to the national championships in the 10,000 meters in 2010 and 2011, finishing 14th as a senior. He was 12th in the 5,000 meters at nationals in 2011 and earned All-West Region honors in both events that year.

"My time at the university was great," said Grimes, who is an associated product line manager on the performance apparel side at Brooks Running. "I feel I got a great education there. I met some great people and had an amazing time running cross country and helped build the team to what it is now. We're national contenders every year now, and I'm proud that I was a part of building that."

Though Grimes has continued to run since graduating, Sunday's half marathon will be his first at that distance.

"Running cross country and track, you get used to running high mileage," he said. "But anytime you're racing higher mileage, it's a challenge. Pacing yourself accurately and not running too hard too early are two things I'll really need to focus on. I've been waiting for the right half marathon to debut, and I felt Bellingham was the perfect one for me. I know the course is good, and it's not super fast, so I figured this was perfect."

Though this will be DeKoker's first time running Bellingham's annual marathon, this is not his first shot at 26.2 miles. Sunday will mark his eighth marathon.

In fact, he had some pretty good success, winning the Whidbey Island Marathon last spring and finishing second at the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon in Las Vegas.

But like Grimes, whom he helped get a job at Brooks because he was a fellow Western running alum, DeKoker's been waiting for his chance to run in Bellingham again.

"I have a little love affair with Bellingham," said DeKoker, who works in sports marketing at Brooks. "I met my wife on the cross country team at Western. Most of my friends post-collegiately are connected to Bellingham. I try to get up to Bellingham has often as I can."

DeKoker placed 64th at the NCAA Division II Cross Country National Championships during his final season in 2003. When he graduated, he held the track program's eighth-fastest time in the 5,000 (14:58.73).

Now he'd like to put his name in a different Bellingham record book.

"My first goal is to win the race," said DeKoker, who has a personal best marathon time of 2 hours, 31 minutes. "I think secondary is to run a personal best. And hopefully that sub-2:30 is accomplishable, and if I can do that, maybe I can get the course record. So those three goals are what I'm looking at. A perfect day would be winning the race, setting a personal record and breaking the course record."

The men's marathon course record of 2:29:24 was set last year by Justin Gillette from Goshen, Ind.

The men's half marathon record also was set last year by Lakewood's Joseph Gray and currently stands at 1:08.58. Grimes has his eyes on that mark, even though Sunday will mark his first half marathon.

"I would say I have the same goals as Steve," Grimes said. "I know it's a somewhat hard course, but the course record is not crazy fast. I ran the 15K up there a couple weeks ago. My pace in that race made it seem I'm fit enough to run around 67 minutes. It would be awesome if somebody else up there was running that fast, but if not, I'll just go out and pace myself."

Grimes said he ran a time of 46:47 at the Sept. 14 Waterfront 15K, meaning he was averaging 5:01 per mile, which computes out to 67 minutes.

David Penrose said DeKoker and Grimes are far from the only runners capable of making records fall on Sunday.

"We're looking at the possibility that all six records could fall again," Penrose said, referring to all six records being broken in 2012. "I think there's a really good chance. There might be one or two that could slip aside, but we've got a good shot at it again."

Penrose said this will be his final year leading the event, as he plans to step aside to focus more on his family and his own running.

"For me, this has been a passion," Penrose said. "That's why I've not minded the hundreds of hours I had to put in every year. It's been a love of mine for the past four years developing this. What we've done to include the Lummi Nation, the community has been very supportive. For us to bring in elite athletes and even some guys back from Western, it's been really neat to be able to watch this race grow and evolve, and that's something I look forward to watching it do in the future."

DeKoker and Grimes, who both mentioned Penrose as a reason they decided to run in the event, would like nothing more than to send the race director out with a couple of new records.

"I think it would be pretty special if we could both win and set records," DeKoker said. "It would certainly mean a lot more than to have somebody from outside the area do it. I worked at Fairhaven Runners, and I'm still good friends with the owner and a number of their employees. I have a lot of relationships with people up there, and if they saw my name in the paper, they'd smile. I think it would mean a lot more than going across the country to win somewhere in front of people you don't know. It's an added incentive to run a little faster. I figure I'll get a few more cheers from people I know and even some I don't, and that will be special to me."

Reach David Rasbach at or 360-715-2286.


When: 7:30 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 29

Course maps and more information:



Start time: 7:30 a.m.

Starting line: Lummi Nation School

Finish line: Railroad Avenue near Depot Market Square

Men's record holder: Justin Gillette (Goshen, Ind.), 2:29:24 in 2012

Women's record holder: Holly McIlvaine (Seattle), 2:58:58 in 2012

Expected men's elite runners: Danny Mackey (Seattle), Steve DeKoker (Seattle), Michael Brisbois (Sammamish), Nate Sutherland (Edgewood), Abraham Tobon (Leavenworth), Masaru Horie (Port Coquitlam, B.C.)

Expected women's elite runners: Jennifer Macias (Spokane), Kate Bradshaw (Seattle), Julie Brekke (Redlands, Calif.), Lori Buratto (Spokane Valley)


Start time: 9:30 a.m.

Starting line: Railroad Avenue near Depot Market Square

Finish line: Railroad Avenue near Depot Market Square

Men's record holder: Joseph Gray (Lakewood), 1:08:58 in 2012

Women's record holder: Kristen Carter (Bellingham), 1:18:10 in 2012

Expected men's elite runners: Bennett Grimes (Seattle), Kyle Carick (Wilmington, Del.) Martin Ranney (Olympia), Andrew Prentice (Olympia), Casey Schwenk (San Mateo, Calif.), Rober Durrant (Langley, B.C.), Dan Sloat (Seattle), Paul Frazey (Bellingham), Eric Brill (Kent)

Expected women's elite runners: Kristen Carter (Bellingham), Lydia Singer Carter (Lynden), Caryn Heffernan (Bellevue), Margreet Dietz (Squamish, B.C.), Jena Winger (Seattle), Paige Longdon (Bothell), Jen Gallant (Bellingham)


Start time: 7:30 a.m.

Starting line: Railroad Avenue near Depot Market Square

Finish line: Railroad Avenue near Depot Market Square

Men's record holder: Mark Burke (Bellingham) 16:14 in 2012

Women's record holder: Ariana Lee, 18:53 in 2012

Expected men's elite runners: Mark Burke (Bellingham), Derek Thornton (Bellingham), Matt Frost (Seattle), David Deschenes (Bellingham), Shaun Capper (Bellingham)

Expected women's elite runners: Alma McMurty (Lynden), Julie Scheele (Bellingham), Marti Riemer-Reiss (Belingham), Alana Steele (Bellingham)


Site: Railroad Avenue near Depot Market Square

8:30 a.m.: 5K awards ceremony

10 a.m.: The Austerman File (band)

Noon: Marathon and half marathon awards ceremony

12:30 p.m.: Snug Harbor (band)

2 p.m.: Closing ceremony

2:15 p.m.: Snug Harbor (band)


Road Time

? Blackhawk Way 7-7:45 a.m.

? Lummi View Drive (southbound closure between Blackhawk Way and Lummi Shore Road) 7:15-7:45 a.m.

? Lummi Shore Road (northbound closure between Lummi View Drive and Smokehouse Road) 7:25-8:15 a.m.

? Lummi Shore Road (northbound closure between Smokehouse Road and Cagey Road) 7:30-8:30 a.m.

? Lummi Shore Road (northbound closure between Cagey Road and Kwina Road) 7:30-9:00 a.m.

? Kwina Road (eastbound closure between Lummi Shore Road and Haxton Way) 8-10 a.m.

? South River Road (local traffic only between Haxton Way and Slater Road) 8-10:30 a.m.

? Slater Road (speed reduced to 25 mph between South River Road and Ferndale Road) 8-10:30 a.m.

? Ferndale Road (southbound closure between Slater Road and Marine Drive) 8-11:30 a.m.

? Marine Drive (speed reduced to 25 mph between Ferndale Road and Rural Avenue) 8:30-11:30 a.m.

? Marine Drive (Whatcom County Sheriff controlled between Wynn Road and Alderwood Avenue) 8:30 a.m.-noon

? Marine Drive (eastbound closure between Bennett Drive and Lindbergh Avenue) 9:30-10:30 a.m.

? Marine Drive (eastbound closure and local traffic only between Alderwood Avenue and McAlpine Road) 9:30-11 a.m.

? Alderwood Avenue (southbound closure between Marine Drive and Airport Drive) 9 a.m.-noon

? Airport Drive (southbound closure between Williamson Way and Alderwood Avenue) 9:30 a.m.-noon

? Bennett Drive (expect 30-minute delays at Alderwood Avenue) 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

? Cottonwood Avenue (local access only between Bennett Drive and Greenwood Avenue 9:30-11:30 a.m.

? Railroad Avenue (closure between East Maple Street and West Chestnut Street) 5 a.m.-3 p.m.

? East Maple Street (local traffic only between North State Street and Cornwall Avenue) 7 a.m.-1:30 p.m.

? Wharf Street (closure between State Street and BNSF tracks) 7:00 a.m.-1:30 p.m.

? East Laurel Street (local traffic only west of North State Street) 7 a.m.-1:30 p.m.

? Boulevard Street (closure between South State Street and Wharf Street) 7 a.m.-1:30 p.m.

? Eldridge Avenue (closure between Henry Street and Madrona Street) 9:30-10:30 a.m.

? Seaview Avenue (closure) 9:30 a.m.-noon

? CottonWood Avenue (local access only between Greenwod Avenue and West Maplewood Avenue) 9:30-11:30 a.m.

? Roeder Avenue (eastbound closure between F Street and Central Avenue) 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

? West Chestnut Street (closure between Central Avenue and Bay Street) 9:30 a.m.-noon


Reach DAVID RASBACH at or call 715-2271.

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