THE RACE IS ON: 5K today, marathon and half on Sunday

Flora Palmer, 89, is the most senior registered participant in Oak Harbor’s first-ever 5K run/walk during the Whidbey Island Marathon. Her race happens today, the big one is Sunday. - Jenny Manning/Whidbey News-Times
Flora Palmer, 89, is the most senior registered participant in Oak Harbor’s first-ever 5K run/walk during the Whidbey Island Marathon. Her race happens today, the big one is Sunday.
— image credit: Jenny Manning/Whidbey News-Times

Age is only a number for Flora Palmer.

This sprightly 89-year-old Oak Harborite, who will celebrate her 90th in August, is the most senior registered participant in the 5K run/walk event.

The more palatable 3.1 mile course is new to the Whidbey Island Marathon Weekend. It takes place today, April 10. The main event, the 26.2 mile marathon, happens Sunday.

“We wanted to have something smaller that local people could participate in,” said Oak Harbor Mayor Jim Slowik of the 5K fun run slated for Saturday.

Flora, her son Oak Harbor City Councilman Jim Palmer and his wife Julie of Oak Harbor, and grandson Justin Palmer and his wife Lindzy of Arlington, will tackle the scenic course together.

“I’ll walk as far as I can,” Flora Palmer said with a big smile. “I can’t wait.”

Participation and fun are key for Flora, who doesn’t mind if she doesn’t make it to the finish line.

Through the years, Flora’s toned down her active lifestyle. Before moving to Oak Harbor just over a year ago, Fora called another “rock,” Hawaii, home. On the big island, Flora walked one mile and swam an hour each day with a group of friends. The hearty bunch did this for 15 years.

She now walks several times each week, oftentimes along her favorite pathway, the waterfront trail.

Forecasters predict partly cloudy weather with highs in the mid-50s and lows in the 40s on Saturday for the 5K race. Flora and her younger cohorts will head out at 9 a.m. from Flintstone Park on the waterfront for their 5K fun run or walk.

Meanwhile, more serious runners preparing for Sunday’s full and half marathon can expect decent weather by Northwest standards. Projections call for sun with temperatures similar to Saturday.

Mild weather is good for runners and volunteers alike, said Tamra Sipes, race sponsorship coordinator and volunteer director. More than 340 pairs of helping hands are enrolled to aid in Oak Harbor’s first-ever, city-run marathon.

As of Wednesday afternoon more than 1,900 runners, joggers and walkers had already registered for the three events, up from the 1,600 who participated last year in the full and half marathon races.

Oak Harbor paid $50,000 for the race rights, hoping to break even while keeping hotels and eateries in town crowded with participants and their friends and families.

The real logistical challenge will hit island motorists Sunday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. as more than 1,700 runners take to the pavement. The course is open, which means most roads will be open to traffic and runners alike.

Law enforcement from the Washington State Patrol, the city of Oak Harbor Police Department, Island County Sheriff’s Office and Whidbey Island Naval Air Station security will patrol the event to manage traffic and keep runners safe.

The marathoners will launch from the Deception Pass State park near the Cornet Bay Marina at 7:30 a.m. They’ll run south on Highway 20 to Ducken Road, then east to Monkey Hill Road. From there, they’ll continue south to West Henni Road and turn west on Imperial Lane before going south onto Jones Road and keep pounding the pavement past Dike, Frostad, Taylor, Sunset and West Crescent Harbor roads, then turn onto the Seaplane base.

The half marathon race kicks off at 8 a.m. from North Whidbey Middle School. They’ll head east on Whidbey Avenue, then north on Regatta Drive to Crescent Harbor Road, where the full and half marathon courses join up at the entrance to the NASWI Seaplane Base.

Both full and half marathon runners will head south on Torpedo Road, out the old “Icehouse Road” along Crescent Harbor Bay then back to Torpedo Road and into the city along Maui Avenue, chug west along Bayshore Drive, into Windjammer Park, making their way onto Scenic Heights Road. The course continues south along Scenic Heights Road to Balda Road, then east along Miller Road back to Scenic Heights. New for this year’s event, participants will turn around near Cliff View Lane — instead of Monroe Landing — and return back to Windjammer Park for the finish line.

Though runners and cars will coexist most of the way, there will be road closures Sunday as follows:

l Scenic Heights Road will be closed between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. to all traffic except local residents.

l Whidbey Avenue, east of Glencoe Drive, and Regatta Drive, between SE Fourth and NE Taftson, will be closed to all traffic between 7:45 and 9 a.m.

The big events

Expo: Saturday, April 10, noon to 8 p.m. at the Oak Harbor High School Gym, 950 NW Second Ave., featuring booths and food for everyone. Last chance to register for the marathon, cost $110 full; or $85 half.

5K fun run: Saturday, April 10, 9 a.m. start at Flintstone Park.

Full-Marathon: Sunday, April 11, 7:30 a.m. start at Deception Pass State Park at Cornet Bay, finish at Windjammer Park.

Half-Marathon: Sunday, April 11, 8 a.m. start at North Whidbey Middle School, finish at Windjammer Park.

For more information, visit

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