Bellingham Bay Marathon provides more than just a race

Year after year, participants call the Bellingham Bay Marathon one of the most beautiful courses in the United States. This year, race organizers want to share the race experience with the entire Bellingham community during the eighth running of the race on Sunday, Sept. 28.

The 26.2-mile course begins at the Lummi Wex’liem Community Center at Gooseberry Point, curves around Bellingham Bay and to the end of the Boulevard Park boardwalk and loops back to the downtown finish line at Depot Market Square.

The finish line for the marathon is also the start/finish for the half marathon and 5k and will be the site of the finish line festival, which will include live music by Gallowglass, Luke Warm & the Moderates and Skamania, as well as a beer and kombucha garden and local food vendors. There also will be family-friendly entertainment at the festival. The Finish Line Festival is slated to run from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Sunday at Depot Market Square.

The marathon, a qualifying race for the Boston Marathon since 2008, begins at 7:30 a.m. at Gooseberry Point. The 5k starts at 7:30 a.m., followed by the half marathon at 9:30 a.m., with all three races ending at Depot Market Square.

The course records may also be vulnerable this year, as at least one record has been broken each year the race has been held.

“It depends on the weather the day of the race,” said Event Director Ben Twigg. “But if you talk to one of our elite runners, one of the first comments they make is that this is potentially a very fast course. So cross your fingers for a nice day. If it’s nice, we hope to see at least one record broken.”

The proceeds from the race benefit a variety of local youth organizations, including the Whatcom Rangers FC and Bellingham Bay Swim Team, which provide volunteer work for the race.

“We hear consistently from runners that they love the community and volunteers,” Twigg said. “We get hundreds of volunteers from the swim and soccer teams, so we hear how well-supported the racers are and that there is a lot of good enthusiasm from the volunteers.”

In January, the half marathon was named the best half marathon in the state by DailyBurn, a fitness blog. The marathon also has been recognized by runners on their personal blogs as one of their favorite races.

“A lot of the more competitive racers like that it’s relatively flat with views of the bay and the mountains,” Twigg said. “We also commissioned a Lummi artist, Neeka Cook, to do regional artwork for the shirts and medals. All of that goes into the recognition. We’re already the largest in our little region, Whatcom County, but we want to take it to the next level.”

Prior to the race, participants can pick up race packets and their bib from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 27, at the Lakeway Inn and Conference Center. There also will be an expo at the packet pick-up featuring local fitness retailers, tourism information, fitness information and information on other local races. The expo is open to the community, Twigg said.

There will also be a pasta dinner hosted by the race from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. in the Lakeway Inn and Conference Center. Cost is $17.50 for adults or $10 for children under 10, and tickets can be purchased at the expo or by email at run@bellinghambaymarathon.org.

In the original version of the story, Laura Porter was incorrectly identified as the first participant from the Lummi Nation to finish the marathon. There have also been other Lummi running clubs, including Team Awesome and Lummi Fit Runners and Walkers Club.

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