Marathon madness hits Whidbey

Sixth annual event largest in history

  • Wednesday, April 18, 2007 1:00pm
  • Sports

Competitors in Sunday’s sixth annual Whidbey Island Marathon were as diverse as their ages, what part of the country or the world they were from or what distance they chose to run.

Some were clad in fancy Spandex suits while others were content with sweatshits and running shorts.

Hats were popular among both men and women as were iPods strapped to competitors’ upper arms to keep runners “tuned up” during their 13 or 26-mile jaunt.

Matching shirts were in abundance and several runners captured the moment by taking pictures with cell phone cameras.

Canines were present among the throng and even a few strollers were observed carrying marathon “first timers.”

Some were running in hopes of recording a qualifying time that would allow them to participate in New York or San Francisco marathons, while others were running simply to record a personal best from a time they’d run in a previous race.

Others, well, they were simply running to be able to say, “I did it. I covered 13 (or 26) miles and I’m still alive.”

One attribute was universal among all the runners — enthusiasm!

Equaling the population of a small town, more than 2,400 runners, the largest turnout in Whidbey Island Marathon history, stepped off from two locations Sunday morning and surprisingly enough, the sometimes iffy April weather in the Pacific Northwest cooperated.

The Rosario Road and Highway 20 starting point for the full marathon north of the Deception Pass bridge was crowded with runners from 42 states, while foreign countries as far away as Pakistan and South Africa were also represented. Sunny skies and a lack of wind made the 8 a.m. start pleasant.

Despite facing just over 26 miles ahead of them before crossing the finish line at Coupeville’s City Park, beaming smiles on the runners’ faces made the already sunny day seem even brighter.

The same was true for the throng of runners heading out from Olympic View Elementary School on Regatta Drive at the 8:30 a.m. start of the half marathon.

Here you could find the walkers and strollers, a few more dogs and maybe a bit less of a competitive attitude.

Off they all went headed south, first through downtown Oak Harbor and then Windjammer Park to Scenic Heights Road. From there it was along Madrona Way beside Penn Cove and eventually to the finish line in Coupeville.

Less than an hour-and-a-half later, some of the more proficient runners had covered the 13-mile half marathon.

First woman raised here

The first woman to cross the finish line was Nikki Gamble, a former Oak Harbor resident, who completed the half marathon in a time of 1:26.54.

“I grew up in Oak Harbor and now I’m living in Kirkland,” the University of Washington graduate said. “I had a lot of fun running the race today. Well, maybe I should say it was fun at the beginning and fun when it was over,” she added with a smile.

Gamble said she is enrolled as a first-year law student at Seattle University so who knows, maybe her running persistence will carry over to the grueling hours required to obtain a law degree.

In the men’s half of the race, Chad Trammel was the winner in a time of 1:11.54.

Trammel said he is originally from Yakima, but is now studying at the University of Washington’s dental school

“The weather was perfect and I thought it was a great race today,” he said. “I’ve run in a couple of other half marathons before, but this is my first time running in the Whidbey Island one. I will definitely be back next year.”

You didn’t have to be a winner to have a good time at the town park at the conclusion of the half marathon.

Swimming pals Carolyn Vasquez and Daniel Saiku, who are both Oak Harbor High School students, were all smiles as they cooled down after the race.

“I ran a 1:36, and that was a personal best over last year,” said Saiku, who is a junior on the Wildcats’ swim team. “I thought that was pretty cool.”

A sophomore member of the OHHS girls swim team, Vasquez said she didn’t do as well in the half marathon as she did last year.

“Oh well, I had a good time and it keeps you in shape for track and swimming,” she said.

Whidbey Island Naval Air Station was well represented in both the 13 and 26-mile races.

Sonar technician Amanda Comte said she had a great time and did a lot better than she thought she would.

“This is my second time running the half marathon and I was almost 30 minutes faster than I was the last time I ran,” she said.

Running the half marathon was a family affair for Elizabeth Page, a senior at Oak Harbor High School.

“My brother, Benjamin, my mother and my stepfather all ran in the race today,” she said. “This is my second year in the half marathon and my brother’s first. My mother is walking and my step dad is running with her. It gets really hard about the mile six point if you don’t do much training, but I found a nice lady from St. Louis and we chatted and ran the entire way to the end.”

Page said she expected she and her family would all be lounging around the house on Monday.

Islanders go the distance

After about three hours, the full marathon runners began showing up and the first of the Oak Harbor contingent to cross the finish line was Glen Barnett.

Barnett, Tennessee native, an intelligence officer at the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station, and his wife, Julie, were both entered in the marathon.

“I’m a full and she’s a half,” Glen Barnett said. “My real name is Allen and this is the first one of these I’ve ever run in. I’m not sure where I finished, but I had a great time and we are going to do it again next year.”

“Me, I’ve never run any further than seven miles,” Julie Barnett said, giving her husband a hug.

Jim Nelson from Oak Harbor, a reservist at the base for VP 69 and a pilot for Alaska Airlines, said he had fun but then recanted.

“I take that back, it wasn’t that fun. The last 100 yards were fun,” he said with a grin.

Winning the women’s portion of the full marathon was Jessica Norton from Seattle.

“I loved it. This was my first marathon and I absolutely loved it,” the Seattle Central Community College student said.

John Shea’s day job left no doubt why he was able to run a time of 2:49.09 to be crowned the men’s marathon winner.

“I work as a climbing guide for Rainier Mountaineers,” the Ashford native said.

Shea said he never competed on Whidbey Island before, but has run in several other marathon races.

As a result of their victories, Norton and Shea’s faces will appear on boxes of Nature’s Path cereal for the next year.

Nature’s Path is the corporate sponsor of the Whidbey Island Marathon and distributes more than four million boxes of organic cereal per year.

Whether their faces made the box or not, nearly 2,400 runners can cherish the fact that they survived the 2007 Whidbey Island Marathon and had a good time doing it.