Geertgens wins Birch Bay Marathon; Lynden's Lingbloom comes in second

FOR THE BELLINGHAM HERALDFebruary 16, 2014 

BIRCH BAY - The winner of the Birch Bay Marathon was a 45-year-old "marathon tourist" who slept in his car at Birch Bay State Park the night before the race.

The runner-up, 16-year-old Lynden Christian High School sophomore Josh Lingbloom, topped his father's best Birch Bay placing as a teenager but is still chasing his dad's best time.

Seattle's Steve Geertgens won the 46th annual race, covering the 26.2-mile waterfront course in 2 hours, 57 minutes, 40 seconds on a windy but dry Sunday, Feb. 16. It was his first Birch Bay marathon but his 21st overall in only four years.

"I ran my first marathon in Las Vegas (Nev.) when I was 41 years old as part of my bucket list," said the affable Geertgens, who has since run the heralded marathons in Boston and Chicago. "I qualified (by time) for Boston in my first marathon. Then I got hooked on seeking out marathons."

Now his bucket list includes as many different courses as possible.

"I love to check out courses (all over the country). This Birch Bay course is great - just beautiful," said Geertgens, whose best time is about eight minutes faster than Sunday's clocking. "I definitely plan to return."

He added with a wry grin: "When I ran my best of 2:49 (and change), that was in Boston two years ago when it was 97 degrees."

Lingbloom, who likes long runs on trails, finished his first road marathon in 3:06.56 to take the second-place plaque.

"I had no idea I would finish this high," said Lingbloom. "I would love to run the Boston Marathon, but you have to be at least 18 years old."

Lingbloom's father, Torry, said he was "very proud" to see his son finish higher than he ever did at Birch Bay.

"Josh did great," his father said. "He ran nice and steady."

Even so, the younger Lingbloom acknowledged he has a long way to go to beat his father's best teen times.

"Dad ran this race when he was 15 and 16 and he ran about 2:40. I guess they ran faster back in the day," Josh said with a laugh.

Actually, the Lingblooms are well aware marathon running is offered far more frequently all over the country than it was in the 1980s.

"The first 20 miles were great, but the last six miles (into headwinds) were miserable," said Josh Lingbloom, who hopes to earn a running distinction as a Lynden Christian junior and senior after overcoming an illness last fall "And my knee was hurting."

The women's winner was Candice Ridyard, 31, of Vancouver, B.C. She ran 3:38.10, with Gig Harbor's Sabrina Seher second in 3:41.38.

"I heard it was a good, flat course," said Ridyard, explaining why she took on the race for the first time. "It was great, but those last three miles were very hard because of the headwinds."

Finish line official Bill Roe said "well over 300 runners finished the half-marathon," and said about 175 finished the marathon for an overall entry of more than 500 runners.

"This was the biggest Birch Bay field ever for the two races combined," he said.

The third, fourth, and fifth marathon finishers, all men, were Scott Shupe, 49, of Maple Ridge, B.C., in 3:15.43; Yakima's Antonio Espinoza, 27, in 3:22.14; and Dan Hadden, 39, of Maple Ridge in 3:23.35. The third woman was Seattle's Seujam Bertram, 46, in 3:51.19, followed by Portland's Carly Pacheaco, 23, in 3:52.55 and Mill Creek's Lindsay Baker, 32, in 3:54.55.

The half-marathon winner was Robert Bondurant, 41, of Chimacum in 1:32.57, followed by 16-year-old Anthony Raftis of Kent in 1:37.17. The next three men's plaques went to Bellingham runners - Steven Mendez, 23, in 1:37.53; Joseph Giannetto, 23, in 1:37.55; and Lloyd Johnson, 56,, in 1:38.13.

The leading women's half-marathon finishers were Seattle's Celina Kirschner, 30, in 1:36.45 and Seattle's Sarah Anderson, 30, in 1:36.54 - both beating all but top men's finisher Bondurant. Third place among the women was Tacoma's Brittany Hodgson, 27, in 1:41.01.

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