The Bellingham Bay Marathon, the area’s annual celebration of running, is proof that top-notch distance runners don’t necessarily need a background of high school and college stardom.
For examples, check out the competitive excellence of the top two men and women in the 10th annual marathon race as part of a four-division program involving thousands of runners on Sunday.
The men’s winner was Mark Hamilton, a 28-year-old software developer from Seattle, who rallied to win in 2 hours, 33 minutes, 34 seconds, closely followed by Mark Messmer, a 24-year-old University of Montana student whose time was 2:34.57.
“We found we had similar (personal bests) in high school,” said Messmer, who ran four seasons in college. “4:41 in the mile and 9:59 in the two mile, 4:40 and 9:50 for him.”
Good but not great, yet good enough to encourage both to keep running.
Hamilton didn’t compete at the University of Louisville, not far from his southern Indiana high school, but he says his “low-stress job has allowed me time to train, plus my supportive wife, Christine.”
Hamilton ran the Boston Marathon in 2012, “finishing about 200th.” This was his first trip to Bellingham, “with thanks for support from the Graham family.”
Messmer said Hamilton “caught me with about a mile left (in the 26.2-mile race, which started at Gooseberry Point on the Lummi Nation Reservation and finished in downtown Bellingham). Then I thought, ‘I’m done.’ I had made my move way too early.”
Messmer credited his sister Sarah, a Bellingham resident, with coaxing him to run his third marathon. He won his first, the Bozeman Marathon, last year and finished fourth at the Missoula Marathon in July.
The women’s winner was Tacoma’s Jen Edwards, a 32-year-old newcomer to the event.
“I work in information technology for University of Washington Medicine,” said Edwards, who was a high school soccer standout at Tahoma and did not run while a student at Central Washington University. She won in 3:11.21, ahead of inspirational 2014 champion Rika Hatachi, a 49-year-old Coquitlam (B.C.) resident who ran 3:18.16.
“I started running marathons at 28,” Edwards said. “I’ve run once in Boston. This was my 10th marathon and my first win, though I’ve always been in the top 10.”
She said she misjudged a turn and took a tumble with about two miles to go. “That didn’t faze me,” she said with a grin. “I just popped up. I didn’t even know I was bleeding until I finished.”
Hatachi, also the runner-up last year, said she won’t quit running after coping with hip and knee challenges, so she hopes to contend at age 50 for the 2017 Bellingham Bay marathon title.
The third-place man was Scott Haug of Elkhorn, Neb., in 2:47.43. The third-place woman was Bellingham’s Alicia Davis in 3:22:40. Colin Goggin, who finished 15th overall, was Whatcom County’s fastest finisher in the marathon in 3:19:00.
Other race winners
Race officials said the overall program, which now includes a 10K, attracted about 3,000 runners. They listed the following top three finishes:
Half marathon (13.1 miles): Men – Brian Masterson, Seattle, 1:07.15; Daniel Mercado, Flagstaff, Ariz., 1:07.44; Ben Gasper, Oak Harbor, 1:18:34. Women – Sarah MacKay Robinson, Tacoma, 1:19.44; Katelyn Steen, Bellingham, 1:20.02; Kristi Houk, Port Orchard, 1:26.07.
10K (6.2 miles): Men – David Larpenteur, Bellingham, 3:34.25; Michael Seiser, Bellingham, 38:19.05; Tom Schneider, Bellingham, 45:27.33. Women – Anna McConnell, Seattle, 43:45.32; Rebecca Hutchison, Bellingham, 47:33.76; Katherine Bryant, Bellingham, 47:52.66.
5K (3.1 miles): Men – Samuel Alexander, Seattle, 16:35; Jeremy McKinney, Anchorage, Alaska, 18:28; Emmet Hogan, Issaquah, 18:37. Women – Megan Gayman, 21:16; Sage Mailhot, Bow, 24:36; Charlie Davis, Bellingham, 24:43.
Alicia Davis’ time, Whatcom County’s top finisher, half marathon men’s third-place finisher and times of top finishers in the 5K corrected Sept. 26, 2016.