Whidbey Island Marathon gains attention over its scenic beauty, impressions

Runners last year cross the Deception Pass bridge near the start of the Whidbey Island Marathon. The bridge will be closed from 7:15 a.m.-7:45 a.m. Sunday. - Jim Waller/Whidbey News-Times
Runners last year cross the Deception Pass bridge near the start of the Whidbey Island Marathon. The bridge will be closed from 7:15 a.m.-7:45 a.m. Sunday.
— image credit: Jim Waller/Whidbey News-Times

It’s no surprise to Dale Folkestad that the Whidbey Island Marathon is considered one of the more intriguing places to run a distance race.

The Whidbey Island event, which takes place Sunday, is currently the featured race this month in Running Times at Men’s Fitness magazine recently referred to the race the “coolest marathon you’ve never heard of.”

Three years ago, Lonely Planet, the world’s largest travel guide book publisher, listed the Whidbey marathon among the top 10 places to run a marathon.

In the world.

It was the only race mentioned in North America.

“It is the beauty,” said Folkestad, a Coupeville resident who ran the race the first 10 years until hip surgery sidelined him last year. “Not to be negative, but I think it was even a more beautiful race when it ended in Coupeville by the cove there. That was just gorgeous.”

Assembling near Pass Lake at Deception Pass State Park, nearly 300 marathoners will cross the bridge and continue on their 26.2-mile journey through North Whidbey before ultimately winding up at the waterfront of downtown Oak Harbor at Windjammer Park.

The race is scheduled to start at 7:15 a.m. and will force the closure to vehicles over the bridge until 7:45 a.m.

Officially tabbed the Whidbey Island Marathon and Half Marathon, the event is expected to draw nearly 2,000 participants with nearly 1,600 competing in the half marathon.

The half marathon starts at 8:15 a.m. Sunday at Windjammer Park and ultimately ends there.

Traffic near the Seaplane Base of Naval Air Station Whidbey Island will be limited due to the runners with normal flow expectd to resume around 1:30 p.m.

About 250-300 runners and walkers are expected to participate in Saturday’s 5K run/walk. That event starts at 9 a.m. at North Whidbey Middle School and will return there, which is a change this year. The free Event Expo will take place Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the middle school.

Tamra Sipes, in her third year as director of the Whidbey Island Marathon and Half Marathon, said that marathon entries are up this year and half marathon participants are about the same.

She said both races have drawn competitors from six different countries and 33 states.

The prize is $500 each for the male and female winners. Half-marathon winners get $300.

Sipes said the Whidbey Island Marathon gets such positive attention from elite runners’ impressions over the years.

“It’s good to have all of those runners coming to our event,” Sipes said.

“Here’s the bigger picture: The event wouldn’t be really cool or one of the greatest events out there if it wasn’t for the 500-plus volunteers who are putting on this event.”



Reach Whidbey News-Times staff reporter Ron Newberry at 360-675-6611 (ext. 5070), or


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