Whidbey marathon to attract 2,000

Having played baseball, basketball, soccer and football, 13-year-old Dalton Martin, the youngest participant in the 2011 Whidbey Island Marathon says he is ready to complete his first marathon event.   - Justin Burnett / Whidbey News-Times
Having played baseball, basketball, soccer and football, 13-year-old Dalton Martin, the youngest participant in the 2011 Whidbey Island Marathon says he is ready to complete his first marathon event.
— image credit: Justin Burnett / Whidbey News-Times

At age 13, Coupeville resident Dalton Martin is going to be the youngest participant in the 2011 Whidbey Island Marathon’s half-walk.

But he’s not just the youngest. This is also his first marathon event, ever. In just a few days time, he’ll be staring down 13.1 long and lonely miles of pavement. He’ll also be facing about 250 other competitors but he’s not worried.

“I’ve been practicing,” Martin said. “I ran eight miles the other day.”

But, he admits, he was “only” able to make it five miles without stopping. And it took “a long time,” he said. By a long time he means about two hours.

Martin plays basketball, baseball, football, soccer, and sometimes swims. With the race rules placing a time limit of six hours, it’s probably pretty safe to assume that he’ll finish the race on time, if not competitively.

Martin will be among an estimated 2,000 participants in this year’s Whidbey Island Marathon, according to coordinator Tamra Sipes. As of April 1, about 1,700 had registered – some from as far away as the Czech Republic – but Sipes said she expected several hundred more to register over the next week.

In all, Sipes said she expects more than 5,000 people to show up for the two-day event, which spans Saturday and Sunday, April 9 and 10, as statistically each participant is usually accompanied by one to 1.5 friends or family members.

“It’s an internationally known event,” Sipes said. “People don’t how big it is.”

The marathon is actually four separate races. A 5 kilometer Fun Run/Walk kicks off the event Saturday afternoon and is followed Sunday by a 26.2-mile marathon, and 13.1-mile Half-Run and Half-Walk.

Founded in 2001 by former owner John Kaiser, the event’s path along Whidbey’s waterfronts and view roads proved an immediate hit with runners from the start, growing from 500 participants in the first year to 2,366 by 2008.

That same year the course’s longtime finish line in Coupeville was diverted to Oak Harbor due to safety concerns and restrictions imposed by the state Department of Transportation. The city of Oak Harbor purchased the marathon the following year for $50,000 and participation numbers shrank to 1,617.

The numbers would increase in 2010 to 1,850 and hopes are they will increase again this year. That seems likely since the marathon was recently honored by international travel company Lonely Planet as one of the 10 best in the world.

While Sipes is expecting over 2,000 total participants, she said the number could be dependent on the weather. Oak Harbor will be ready for Mother Nature’s worst, however, with heavy-duty tents set up for the public. Tents may not be necessary, however, as the extended forecast by calls for a mostly sunny Saturday and partly sunny Sunday.

Like last year, live music will be playing at the finish line in Windjammer Park. One new addition will be a beer garden set up in a parking lot near the park; it will open at 9 a.m. Although some food will be provided, Sipes said they decided not to host a major dinner like other marathons.

“We chose not to so restaurants could reap the benefits,” she said.

She advised food establishments throughout North Whidbey to prepare for an onslaught of hungry marathoners, such as Martin. While he’s only signed up for the Half-Walk, he plans on going a bit faster.

“I’m going to run as long as I can,” he said. “But if I get tired, I’ll slow down.” When it’s all over, it’s a safe bet he’ll be hungry.

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