Morrison, elite running group begin with lofty goals


01 Bellingham Bay Marathon

Amber Morrison, right, of Bellingham, hugs Julie Brekke of San Diego, after finishing the Bellingham Bay Marathon, Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012. Morrison said she trained for the half marathon but decided on Thursday to "just go for it" and race the full marathon. Morrison placed second with a time of 2:59:17 and Brekke placed third with a time of 3:01:06.


Elite - it all starts with that singular word for Amber Morrison and the six other runners representing the Greater Bellingham Running Club.

Morrison, along with Kristen Carter, Sierra Brisky, Maria Dalzot, Lydia Carrick, Bronwyn Crossman and Courtney Olson make up a team of uniquely talented runners for the purpose of competing at some of the largest races in the world, including the Olympic trials.

But one common thread bounds them together: They are local to Bellingham.

"Our whole thing was to keep it local," Morrison said in a phone interview. "We have such great talent (in Bellingham)."

Morrison, a 32-year-old physician assistant in an ER at Skagit Valley Hospital, has found solace in running with the teammates she has grown so close to, teammates she will be get the opportunity to race with in the Western Washington University Invitational on Saturday,Oct. 12, at Lake Padden.

"Everybody has that inner drive," Morrison said of the group. "It's motivating running together."

Admittedly, Morrison hasn't always been a runner. She graduated from Western Washington University in 2003 with a degree in biology, and was a part of the women's soccer team throughout her four years as a Viking. It wasn't until a friend decided to sign her up for a half marathon unknowingly when she was 26 that she knew how captivating competitive running could be.

Runners in the race were supposed to stop every so often and walk, but Morrison couldn't bring herself to slow down. She kept running while others trudged along, step by slow step, she said.

"I found it harder to stop and walk than run," Morrison recalled. "It was a blast."

A year or so passed along until Morrison became feverish in her love for running. Twenty-five miles a week quickly became 75-90 miles a week, and a sponsorship by Brooks Running has also accompanied her ascension in the sport.

But she isn't an outlier on this team. Carter will be competing in her second consecutive Olympic trials this month, and Morrison will likely accompany her. But as it comes to Bellingham, Morrison see's a community that while small in population, is dense with incredible athletes.

"I am just really, really excited about it. It would be fun to put Bellingham on the map," she said. "It could be the next Boulder, Colo. ... It's considered the sports Mecca with all the (great) athletes that live there."

Seattle, with its abundance and grandeur, has elite-level running teammates that complete nationally. That, Morrison said, is what she believes this group of Bellingham runners can do, with the aim of being even better.

"There is a pretty elite team in Seattle that does quite well," Morrison said, "but if we all band together, (we) could be really good."

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