Ragnar racers raise concern in Coupeville

Two spots of congestion that took place in Coupeville during a popular relay race are prompting concerns about runner safety.

The Ragnar Relay, which starts in Blaine and finishes in Langley each year, winds its way through Coupeville as one of the last legs of the race. However, the number of racers, combined with the traffic associated with the farmers market, caused a deal of congestion last weekend around the area of N. Seventh Street near the Coupeville United Methodist Church.

“I was worried someone was going to get hit,” Coupeville Town Council member Jackie Henderson said during Tuesday’s meeting.

Then, on the other side of town, complaints were made about congestion around Coupeville High School, where racers and volunteers could take a break and enjoy breakfast.

Coupeville town officials have been hearing concerns voiced by resident about the congestion. Staff members are still talking with concerned residents about the race before approaching race officials to discuss the issues.

There appears to have been confusion about the intended race route. Town officials said the permit approved indicated racers must turn left on Alexander then turn onto Front Street before heading onto Main Street.

Leslie Keener, race director for Ragnar Relay Northwest Passage, said the racers followed the established route, where they turned right onto Alexander and left onto Seventh Street to run by the Methodist Church.

Town Marshal Lance Davenport said there might have been a communication issue and the map the town received was different from the map organizers used.

Keener said there was some congestion in the area and that, coupled with complaints from a nearby business, will likely prompt organizers to tweak next year’s route to continue on Coveland Street before turning onto Main Street. That was the route racers used last year.

The Ragnar Relay Northwest Passage is an annual race that takes place every summer. Approximately 4,500 runners, comprising 388 teams, run along the side roads and state highways through Whatcom, Skagit and Island counties before finishing on South Whidbey.

The relay is named after a ninth century Norse Viking. The race’s founders named it after him because “he was an adventure seeking, conquering tough guy,” according to the Ragnar Relay website.

Keener said Coupeville is a favorite stop for the runners because they can enjoy a pancake breakfast prepared by residents.

She added that this year’s race held Saturday, July 21, had 88 more teams than in 2012.

To help improve conditions next year, the relay may hire an off-duty Coupeville deputy marshal to direct traffic during race hours, Keener said. Organizers are still working on a date for the 2013 version of the race.

Coupeville Mayor Nancy Conard said she expects discussions with the race organizers will go well.

“I don’t expect there’s going to be any issue in getting this resolved,” Conard said.


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