Beautiful Bellingham Bay Marathon offers unique and vibrant race experience
Full marathon begins with Lummi Nation ceremony
There are a lot of reasons to Bellingham Bay Marathon this year, and for Canadian runners, especially those in the Vancouver area, the short drive south to an idyllic seaside town is right up there close to the top.
Since it was first established in 2007 as a fundraiser for the Bellingham Bay Swim Team, the Bellingham Bay Marathon (BBM) has grown into a popular destination race in the Pacific Northwest offering incredible scenery, great USATF certified courses, Boston Marathon qualification. Not to mention, it’s a fantastic town for visitors and a first-rate team of volunteers that create a special atmosphere on race weekend, Sept. 29.
“The number one reason why we hear participants return year after year is the incredible volunteer support and energy the kids and their families bring to the event,” says Brooke Larrabee, BBM’s race director. “All throughout the weekend you will see the children and the families whose organizations are beneficiaries of the marathon playing major roles like volunteering at registration, hydration stations, gear check, handing out medals at the finish line and cheering the runners and walkers on.”
Each year, around 3,000 runners descend on Whatcom County in this well-loved community event with 100 per cent of the net proceeds benefitting local youth nonprofits.
The Bellingham Bay Marathon offers a full and half-marathon as well as a 10K, a 5K and a marathon relay. Each participant receives a free technical T-shirt, and each visitor a commemorative medal.
The town of about 80,000 residents is situated just an hour south of Vancouver along Bellingham Bay off the Strait of Georgia. And it offers some pretty stunning views of Bellingham Bay, San Juan Islands, and North Cascades mountains.
Is it the prettiest marathon in the Pacific Northwest? Maybe.
Local resident Todd McKernan first ran the BBM in 2014 as part of a workplace fitness challenge, and he’s been running it ever since.
One unique aspect he enjoys about the full marathon is that it starts 1.5 hours before the half-marathon, and offers a completely different perspective.
The full marathon begins on Gooseberry Point in the Lummi Nation Reserve, where members of the Lummi Nation conduct a ceremony for participants, sing songs, dance.
“It takes your mind away from the impending doom you are setting yourself up for,” says McKernan. “And for the first 17 miles or so you are out there just with the marathon people and it’s nice. There are a lot of scenic views out there and the course takes you through different parts of town.”
Later, the marathon group connects with the half-marathon group with fresh legs having just begun the race a few miles back.
“It gives you an extra boost,” he says.
Runners celebrate their achievement at a rocking finish line festival at the end of the race in downtown Bellingham at Depot Market Square where runners will be greeted with a live band, food trucks, a massage booth, vendors and a beer garden that every year highlights a different local microbrewery.
Every full marathon, half marathon and marathon relay participant is entitled to one free drink in the beer garden — beer, hard cider or kombucha on tap.
For McKenna, who is set to run his third full marathon this September, he’s kind of partial to the foil jacket he gets wrapped in after crossing the finish line.
“Afterwards, I’m usually having trouble walking,” he says. “But there is always music playing and a good time.”
This is a race that is highly recommended for Canadians looking for something a little different. And there is plenty to see and do in Bellingham after the race is complete. Be sure to check out the historic neighbourhood for instance, or take a nice long (and slow) walk along one of the trails in the stunning Chuckanut Mountain Park, then partake in one of the many incredible restaurants in town.
“We do get quite a few people from the Vancouver area travelling across to border to participate in this event,” says Larrabee. “We’d love to see more!”
Take advantage of Bellingham Bay Marathon’s early registration savings by registering before March 31. Get out there!