Half-marathon runners race through the back roads of Whidbey last year. (Photo by Jim Waller/Whidbey News-Times)

Marathon hits the roads of North Whidbey this weekend

The 15th running of the Whidbey Island Marathon is shifting back to some of its more traditional elements this year.

The marathon, along with its other running events (half marathon, 10K, 5K and 1K kids run) will return to Sunday, April 23, after a move to Saturday in 2016.

The switch came after feedback from last year, according to race director Jared Loranger.

“One purpose of the race is to bring people to Oak Harbor,” Loranger said. “We expect about 2,000 people to show up, and we want them to enjoy Oak Harbor and its businesses.”

A Sunday race better serves that purpose, according to Loranger.

The post-race party that was added last year has also been eliminated, Loranger said. “We are going to celebrate at the finish line, as in the past. We also don’t want to take business away from local restaurants.”

The only major change this year is the half-marathon course. The half started at Cornet Bay last year, but it will take off and finish at Bayshore Drive this spring.

As Sunday approaches, “things are going great,” Loranger said.

“Registration is up 25-30 percent; we expect about 2,100 runners,” he said. “Running participation, as a whole, is up this year, and we did a lot of target advertising in the area to increase participation.”

In 2016, 1,243 took part. The event high was 2,634 in 2014.

Loranger’s responsibilities have increased this year. The past six years he has been in charge of on-course activities. This year, he and Orswell Events are managing the entire event for the race’s owner, the City of Oak Harbor.

“The city is great to work with; the county as well,” Loranger said.

City Administrator Doug Merriman and his assistant Nicole Tesch have been particularly helpful, he noted, along with Jeff Orswell and George Searing of Orswell Events.

Melissa Riker is responsible for coordinating the event’s volunteers.

“Getting the volunteers has been wonderful,” she said. “We have such a generous community. It takes about 500 volunteers to make the whole weekend work. We get a lot of service organizations and Navy that come help.”

The marathon begins at 7 a.m. Sunday at Pass Lake and finishes at Bayshore Drive. All of the other races begin and end at Bayshore. The half starts at 8:30 a.m.; the 10K and 5K begin at 9 a.m.; and the kids run is set for 10 a.m.

The annual pre-race Expo is noon to 7 p.m. Saturday. Runners can pick up their packets at the Expo; late registration will also be available.

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