Community Sports

Lummi runners embrace health using Bellingham marathon

“I just melted into her arms,” Laura Porter (right) said remembering this moment near the completion of her first marathon. At mile 22 of the 2013 Bellingham Bay Marathon, Reatha Tom embraces Porter in a tearful hug before they continue on to finish the race together.
“I just melted into her arms,” Laura Porter (right) said remembering this moment near the completion of her first marathon. At mile 22 of the 2013 Bellingham Bay Marathon, Reatha Tom embraces Porter in a tearful hug before they continue on to finish the race together. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Racing against herself, against fatigue, against quitting. Tears were streaming down her face and her muscles had no strength left to spare with the finish line in sight. Someone said, “the girl with the tutu is coming!”

Laura Porter was the last to cross the finish line of the 2013 Bellingham Bay Marathon. It was her first race and she finished in 6 hours, 29 minutes and 6 seconds. Now, the trophy case her friend bought her after that race is full of medals and race bibs and Porter is running the full marathon for a third time on Sunday, Sept. 27.

“The emotional roller coaster you go through, running 26 miles, thinking about my healing and my strength and my perseverance and what that means to me,” Porter said. “What it really means to me didn’t hit me until that first marathon.”

The full marathon begins at Lummi Nation School, continues through the reservation and ends in downtown Bellingham. It has been a race that in recent years worked as a catalyst to connect Lummi tribal members to the Bellingham running community and consequently support a movement of health and wellness lifestyle changes among the Lummi people. The full marathon is 26.2 miles but a half marathon (13.1 miles), 10K (6.2 miles) and 5K (3.1 miles) will also take place on Sunday, beginning at the Depot Square Market.

Porter, who also pulls canoe in traditional Lummi races, began her journey to becoming a runner when her childhood friend Reatha Tom decided to turn her life around and give priority to health and fitness. Tom ran the Bellingham Bay 5K in 2011, her first race, and has since run the half marathon twice and both women have run many races outside Bellingham.

“I’m a stronger person because of it,” Porter said. “I am able to overcome obstacles that before would have crumbled me. Now, if I can run 26.2 miles, I can handle this.”

Tom, who teaches classes at the Lummi Fitness Center, said running and walking is the best way to start exercising because it does not cost much, or anything. You do not need expensive gear to step outside and take off walking, she said.

“I started running not necessarily because I’m this amazing runner but just because I wanted to share it with people,” Tom said. “It’s been something that has really helped me through a lot of difficult times.”

More than 65 people from the Lummi community signed up to run in the different races this year. The Nooksack tribe has also become involved, resulting in a total of more than 100 local tribal members running Bellingham Bay, Tom said.

“It was very very important to me because the Bellingham Bay marathon actually starts here on the reservation, runs through the reservation, and I know that a lot of people out here don’t even know what is going on,” she said. “As I became passionate about running, seeing people (ask about the runners) and be confused, I realized the two communities didn’t really speak on that level about those things.”

To change this, Tom and other runners began an official running club and the first Lummi-sponsored team, called LummiFit, to run the marathon.

Since then, running and walking events are growing on the reservation.

There is a Turkey Day 5K on Thanksgiving, which more people have been participating in, Tom said. There is also a noon-walk every Thursday called The Safe Streets Walk, aimed at getting people out of their houses and moving around. It also doubles as a way to make the community safer by occupying the streets.

“People love to run out here and it is beautiful, I’d love to see the positive things that happen on the reservation multiply,” she said. “I think that through these healthy activities that they can do that.”

Tom and Porter are both inspired to keep pushing themselves as runners by family and friends, many of whom cannot complete a race themselves for health reasons.

Tom’s mother-in-law recently had a stroke that caused partial paralysis and difficulty walking. In support of her, Tom and her family are walking the 5K on Sunday with a group of first-time racers.

For Porter, it is her younger sister she runs for. With cerebral palsy, a chronic condition that hinders motor skills, Porter’s sister has been in a wheelchair her entire life.

Earlier this month was the Lummi Victims of Crime half marathon and Porter ran part of it pushing her sister’s wheelchair. After seeing how much she loved to be involved, Porter is now planning on running the last bit of the Bellingham Bay Marathon with her sister too.

“She was laughing; she can’t speak but I could tell she was happy,” she said.

With parents who have struggled with diabetes for years, Porter considers it a priority to set a healthy example for her own children and her grandchild. Her 21-year-old daughter is running the half marathon this year, inspired by the effort her mother has made.

Looking back, she cannot remember why she agreed to go on that first run with Tom. All she can remember is the exhaustion, thinking there was no way she could do this, Porter said. It is one of her fondest memories.

Porter now runs every day.

“As a tribal member running through my reservation, I am running through the roads that I grew up on,” Porter said. “It is uplifting to me because I have seen what drugs and alcohol have done to our community, I am heavily involved in funerals when we lose someone, and I can’t help but think when I run past a place about the person who died in a car accident there. I am still here and I am living a healthy lifestyle because that could have been me.”

There is a long history between Lummi and Bellingham, she said. The marathon is good event to bring the communities together using a positive message.

Bellingham Bay Marathon

When: Sunday, Sept. 27


Start: 7:30 a.m. (walkers start at 6:30 a.m.) at Lummi Nation School

Finish: Depot Market Square


Start: 9 a.m. at Depot Market Square

Finish: Depot Market Square


Start: 9:45 a.m. at Depot Market Square

Finish: Depot Market Square


Live music: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Food and vendors: 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Awards ceremony: 11:15 a.m.

Post-race sports massage: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Beer garden: 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Closing ceremony: 2 p.m.

Marathon traffic impact





Blackhawk Way


6:30-7:45 a.m.

Lummi View Drive

Blackhawk Way and Lummi Shore Road

Southbound lane closed

6:45-7:45 a.m.

Lummi Shore Road

Lummi View Drive and Smokehouse Road

Northbound lane closed

6:55-8:20 a.m.

Lummi Shore Road

Smokehouse Road and Cagey Road

Northbound lane closed

7:20-8:20 a.m.

Lummi Shore Road

Cagey Road and Kwina Road

Northbound lane cloased

7:30-9:20 a.m.

Kwina Road

Lummi Shore Road and Haxton Way

Westbound lane closed

8-9:35 a.m.

South Silver Road

Haxton Way and Slater Road

Local traffic only

8:20-10:10 a.m.

Slater Road

South Silver Road and Ferndale Road

Cone in eastbound shoulder,

speed reduced to 25 mph

8:30-10:20 a.m.

Ferndale Road

Marine Drive and Slater Road

Northbound lane closed

8:35-10:55 a.m.

Marine Drive

Rural Avenue and Ferndale Road

Westbound lane closed

8:45-11:10 a.m.

Marine Drive

Alderwood Avenue and Wynn Road

Westbound lane closed,

Sheriff’s Department-controlled traffic

8:50-11:40 a.m.

Marine Drive

McAlpine Road and Alderwood Avenue

Westbound lane closed, local traffic only

9:15-10:15 a.m.

Marine Drive

Bellingham city limit and Bennett Drive

Westbound lane closed

9:15-10:15 a.m.

Alderwood Avenue

Marine Drive and Airport Drive

Southbound lane closed,

northbound traffic moved to southbound lane

9 a.m.-noon

Airport Drive

Williamson Way to Alderwood Avenue

Southbound lane closed,

northbound traffic moved to southbound lane

9:30 a.m.-noon

Bennett Drive

Alderwood Avenue

Up to 30-minute delays as runners cross

9 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Cottonwood Avenue

Bennett Drive and Greenwood Avenue

Local access only when gap in race pack

9:10 a.m.-noon

Railroad Avenue

Maple Street and Chestnut street


5 a.m.-3 p.m.

Eldridge Avenue

Henry Street and Bellingham city limit

Westbound lane closed

9-10:45 a.m.

Seaview Avenue


9-11:30 a.m.

Cottonwood Avenue

Greenwood Avenue and Maplewood Avenue

Local access only when gap in race pack

9:30-11:30 a.m.

East Maple Streeet

State Street and Cornwall Avenue

Local traffic only, no crossing Railroad Avenue

8:30 a.m.-2 p.m.

East Laurel Street

West of State Street

Local traffic only

8:30 a.m.-2 p.m.

Cornwall Avenue

Holly Street and Wharf Street

Local traffic only

9:30 a.m.-2 p.m.

Wharf Street


9:30 a.m.-2 p.m.

Boulevard Avenue

South State Street and Wharf Street

Closed, traffic rerouted to State Street

9:45 a.m.-1:30 p.m.

NOTE: There will be short closures on Railroad Avenue, Holly Street, Prospect Street, Dupont Street, Broadway, Madison Street and Henry Street from 9-9:30 a.m. and 9:15-10:20 a.m.