SPORTS: Thousands expected for North Olympic Discovery Marathon on Sunday

Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Bridge or no bridge, they will come.

At least that is the thinking of the organizers of the seventh annual North Olympic Discovery Marathon, scheduled for Sunday in Port Angeles and Sequim.

No Hood Canal Bridge, no problem for an event that draws more than 2,000 runners and their family and friends from out of the area every year.

“We thought about whether we should have it with the bridge out or to move it to when the bridge reopens,” Larry Little, principal founder and race director since the beginning of the marathon, said.

The decision was a no-brainer for this hardy group of organizers.

“We decided to have it with the bridge still out, because after all, the point is to bring people here,” Little said. “We wanted to give them a reason to come with the bridge out.”

But it’s just not the Hood Canal Bridge that’s bringing down the numbers, according to Little.

Bad economy doesn’t help

The struggling economy is keeping some people from traveling and Seattle Marathon has moved up its summer event to later this month, which will compete directly with the North Olympic Discovery Marathon.

“They are expecting 20,000 runners,” Little said. “That will hurt our numbers.”

That said, Little and other members of the Port Angeles Marathon Association (PAMA), are expecting 10 percent less runners than last year’s record-breaking year of about 1,800 competitors in all races.

There were 1,375 signed up as of Tuesday evening. But Little is expecting some last-minute registrations up until sign-ups close.

Online registration concludes Friday and all sign-ups end Saturday, the day before the race.

The irony is Hood Canal Bridge could open early, and may be ready for business this weekend.

“We’re maxing out on what we can handle right now,” Little said.

PAMA will not close registration early but a last-minute rush on sign-ups could put a strain on the organization to make sure it has enough water, refreshments and volunteers on hand to service the bigger crowd.

“We could get 200 sign-ups on Saturday from Poulsbo and communities on that side of the bridge if the bridge is open Saturday,” Little said.

PAMA has been watching the registration numbers closely.

“We are about two to three weeks behind last year’s numbers but we are about two weeks ahead of the 2007 numbers,” Little said.

Overall, PAMA is happy with the numbers.

“I couldn’t hope for things to be better,” Little said.

So far, 40 states are represented and 7 percent of the registration is from British Columbia.

Overall, PAMA will be running six events this weekend.

The Kids Marathon is set for Saturday with a 4 p.m. start at Port Angeles City Pier. Children can sign in starting at 3:15 p.m. at the pier.

Little expects most of the schools on the North Olympic Peninsula to be represented in the Kids Marathon, including Neah Bay and Port Townsend schools.

The 26.2-mile Marathon Walk, Marathon and Relay Teams all start at Sequim’s Carrie Blake Park on Sunday morning.

The walk begins things off at 7 a.m. with the marathon and relay starting at the same time, 9 a.m.

The Half-Marathon starts at 9 a.m. Sunday at Agnew Soccer Fields.

All events end at City Pier in Port Angeles.

OMC races

In addition, the Olympic Medical Center ninth annual 5-kilometer and 10-kilometer walks and runs begin at 9 a.m. Sunday at City Pier.

The courses go out halfway, then turn around and end back at the pier.

The OMC races will be on Sunday for the first time. Last year, the first time PAMA ran them, they were held on Saturday, the day before the marathon.

“This year, I’m pretty excited about the OMC races,” Little said.

Mostly only OMC employees participated in the event last year. This time around, at least 150 runners who are not OMC employees have signed up for the event, Little said.

And Little gives a thumbs up on a new OMC course.

“I’m very excited about the course,” he said.

The old turnaround loop was located in a gravel area near the water tower.

“That was not a good place,” Little said.

Now the 5K course follows the old truck route, which follows Ennis Creek.

“It’s a nice course,” Little said. “It’s scenic and just pleasant.”

Weather for Sunday’s races is expected to be near perfect for the grueling events.

The forecast is for the highs in the 60s and the lows for the start probably in the high 40s.

“We will have the best weather in the country for a marathon right now,” Little said.

Bridge or no bridge, PAMA members are expecting another great event.

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