IT COMES AS no surprise that the 11th annual North Olympic Discovery Marathon is filling up fast with less than a month to go.
One of the more popular smaller marathons in the country, event registration still is available in all races except for the corporate and high school marathon relay events.
“We have a record number of corporate relay teams this year,” Larry Little, who has been the director of the event all 11 years, said.
The 3013 marathon is set for Sunday, June 2. The marathon starts in Sequim and finishes at the Port Angeles City Pier next to Hollywood Beach and the Red Lion Hotel.
There still is a lot of excitement and enthusiasm for the race despite the violence and tragedy of the Boston Marathon on April 15. More on that below.
The event is much more than the marathon, which has been attracting less than 400 marathoners of the nearly 2,000 total runners in recent years.
In addition to the 26.2-mile marathon, there also is the 13.1-mile half marathon — which attracts the bulk of the runners — the Olympic Medical Center 10-kilometer and 5K races and the kids marathon.
No, they don’t make the children run 26 miles on race day. They will run the final 1.2 miles of their race on Saturday, June 1, after tracking 25 miles for six to 10 weeks leading up to marathon weekend.
These kids aren’t just the ones you see playing in your North Olympic Peninsula neighborhoods. Some of them travel here with their families from all over the country and the world.
Anne Newlin of Sparks, Nev., wrote on the NODM website: “After three days, I finally had to peel off my daughter’s kids marathon T-shirt to wash it. She was so proud of her accomplishment that she wore her shirt and medal for two weeks straight.
“Our family traveled from Nevada to cheer for my mom and husband running the half-marathon, but watching my girls participate in the kids marathon was the definite highlight for all of us.”
Any runners sitting on the fence about whether to run or not this year need to make up their minds quickly because these races always fill up before the day of the event and registration is cut off.
Organizers are trying to keep the total number of participants in all the events to no more than 2,000 for quality purposes.
“We’re expecting our numbers should be really similar to what they have been the last three years,” Little said.
That’s right around a total of 2,000.
“We have that cap for now to maintain that quality we have,” he added.
And what a high quality that is. Because of the area scenery, the time of year of the race, the weather and the friendliness of area residents, it has become a yearly designation for some families and a few hard-core runners from around the country and different parts of the world.
The event started in 2003 with 248 marathon finishers, which ballooned to 365 the next year and then to 432 in 2005.
That was the peak, though, for the 26.2-mile race.
Marathon runners finishing the race fell to 391 in 2006, broke the 400-barrier again with 405 in 2007 but then fell back to 367 in 2008.
Thanks to the poor economy, the event hasn’t broken the 400-barrier since but did get close with 396 in 2010.
Port Townsend’s Ian Fraser opened the new course and event in 2003 by winning the marathon with a quick time of 2 hours, 35 minutes and 56 seconds.
Fraser was 29 when he won the event.
That course record held until 2006 when Renton’s Preston Brashers broke it with a time of 2:35:47, bettering Fraser by only nine seconds.
Brashers’ record time has not been broken since.
The women’s marathon history has been an interesting one.
Gig Harbor’s Jennifer Hansen, 25 at the time, won the first 2003 race in 3:15:49 and held the record for two years before 34-year-old Lori Buratto broke it with a time of 3:12:09 in 2005 to become a two-time defending champion after winning it in 2004..
Buratto, then 36, broke it again in 2009 with 3:10:49 to become the only three-time winner in the history of the race.
The women’s record has been broken twice since then with Margreet Dietz, then 38, of Squamish, British Columbia, shading Buratto’s time with 3:10:39 in 2009.
Tanaya Gallagher, then 25, rewrote the record books with a time of 3:05:17 in 2011.
No hometown was listed for Gallagher in that race, but Gallagher, now 27 and living in Sedona, Ariz., won the Whiskey Row Marathon in Prescott, Ariz., in 3:19:38 five days ago, according to prescottnews.com.
But this is a different world since Gallagher set the women’s record in Port Angeles two years ago.
Marathons are looked at a little differently since two terrorist bombs exploded at the finish line of the Boston Marathon almost a month ago, killing three runners or spectators and injuring — some quite seriously — scores of others.
“We will be honoring the victims of the Boston Marathon,” Little said.
“Every running event this year will be doing that. [The tragedy] has really affected the running community, as well as the whole country.
“We are getting a lot of support because of that on Facebook and on our Website [nodm.com].”
New for North Olympic Discovery Marathon this year is a Team Run for Joe team.
In 2012, Captain Joseph Schultz’s family members — some living in Port Angeles — fellow soldiers, friends and others who were inspired by Joe’s life came together to run for and support the first Team Run for Joe at the Big Sur Marathon.
Betsy Reed Schultz of Port Angeles, a mother who lost her heroic son, Joseph, to a bomb blast in Afghanistan, has built the Captain Joseph House as a respite and retreat for other families who have lost sons and daughters in wars since 9/11.
Team Run for Joe provides an opportunity for those who knew or were inspired by Joe to celebrate his life and to raise money for the Captain Joseph House Foundation, based in Port Angeles.
Soldiers and runners are participating in Team Run for Joe in races around the country.
This year, Team Run For Joe is heading to Port Angeles for the North Olympic Discovery Marathon, and will be raising money to help support the foundation.
The NODM will be the home base for Team Run for Joe starting this year, Little said.
Just another good reason to participate in the marathon in 2013.
To register for Team Run for Joe, or just to sign-up for any of the races, go to nodm.com.
________Sports Editor Brad LaBrie can be reached at 360-417-3525 or at [email protected]