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A mighty wind slows Whidbey Marathon runners

A marathoner grabs a cup of water on-the-run at the IDIPIC-sponsored aid station on Dike Road.  - Jim Waller / Whidbey News-Times
A marathoner grabs a cup of water on-the-run at the IDIPIC-sponsored aid station on Dike Road.
— image credit: Jim Waller / Whidbey News-Times

Numbers are up from last year, which means the 10th annual Whidbey Island Marathon was more than likely a financial success. But race organizers admit that’s probably not what will be remembered most about the 2011 event.

“They’ll remember the headwinds,” event Coordinator Tamra Sipes said with a laugh.

While participants in Saturday’s five-kilometer Fun Run/Walk enjoyed some sunshine, those who ran or walked in Sunday’s 26.2-mile marathon and 13.2-mile half-run and half-walk had to battle each other and frigid winds to reach the finish line.

The headwind was strong enough that finishing times for the marathon increased by about 20 minutes from last year, from 2 hours and 30 minutes to 2 hours and 52 minutes, Sipes said.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, sustained winds during race time peaked at 31 mph with gusts topping out at 40 mph. Temperatures during the same time period ranged between a low of 40 degrees and a high of 51 degrees.

“We certainly didn’t have anyone dropping from being too hot,” Sipes said.

Aside from the weather, the event is being chalked up as a success. For starters, the number of registered participants increased by about 250, from 1,850 in 2010 to 2,100 this year. That’s a record for the event since the city purchased the marathon in 2009 for $50,000 from founder John Kaiser.

Peak participation was in 2008 with 2,366 registered racers.

Sipes said it will be several more weeks before it’s known just how much the 2011 event grossed. However, she said the marathon is self-supporting and that much of the profit after expenses goes back into the event. Little things, such as quality prizes and medals, coupled with a beautiful and well laid out course, are what keep the marathon vibrant and attractive to racers.

And despite the chilly wind, people did have fun. The marathon’s oldest runner, 78-year-old Mel Preedy from Ravensdale, celebrated his birthday the day of the event. According to Sipes, the crowd joined family and friends to help him celebrate.

“They sang ‘Happy Birthday’ as he crossed the finish line,” she said. “It was very cool.”

Sipes extended her thanks to event sponsors and the 425 people that volunteered. Their hard work and dedication made the marathon possible, she said.

Race results can be found on page A9 of today’s Whidbey News-Times.

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