On February 15, 2015, I ran the Birch Bay Marathon.
I have run the Birch Bay area more than 4 times for different races: Birch Bay 15k, Birch Bay Marathon 2014, Birch Bay Ghost Marathon (15.1 miles), and this year’s 2015 Birch Bay Marathon.
The location of this marathon is approximately 10 minutes from the Canadian border. It’s a quaint little town. Nothing fancy about the route, but the elevation of this course is not so easy to handle. This year, I ran it 2 weeks after my first Ultra 50K race. So going into the race, I felt a little tired. This year, for some reason, they decided to get rid of the half, so it was a very small race with about 70-75 runners in total. As a result, it felt like a race on your own – very tranquil, but you had to be very self-sufficient, as there weren’t as many designated water stops as advertised on their web-page.
The very unique thing about this year’s race was that I saw 2 baby deer crossing the road onto the fields. That’s the degree of wilderness along the route. The race consists of running two large loops along the shoulder of the roads. You start out flat from the bay, but at about 3 miles, you start this mini climb onto the section with rolling hills. Not overly challenging until about mile 8. There was this long steady hill that many runners were walking up. I ran up (very slowly). Felt good once I got over the top. I caught up to 2 women; one was the leader guiding her friend to her first marathon. The younger woman seemed to be struggling a bit – but her friend said “I will carry you if I need to”. What friendship, that’s so nice to hear! Then I ran into a little older runner, who told me she had run over 100 marathons. We ran together for about 4-5 miles. Time passed by so quickly when there was company.
One the second loop, she sped up, and I ended up running myself the rest of the way. I struggled through the second loop – especially during the long hill. But I plodded along, one mile at a time. Again, this course was very rolling, and having to constantly watch for traffic along the road wasn’t my “ideal” kind of road racing. Most of the course wasn’t marked that well, so at times, it was quite treacherous. Certain “idiots” driving on the road wouldn’t budge for runners. They purposely sped up right beside us. Not nice at all! So half the time, we had to stop and wait for these big SUV’s to pass. Not that I was going to win the race, but it killed your momentum.
At about mile 20, two gentlemen were chatting at the water station – one of few along the course. They had their car parked, and I noticed two empty jugs of water sitting on the table. As I approached, one said, “No water left”. I thought, “crying out loud, they could have drove to fill it up with tap water!” It would have cost the organizers nothing. So I went without water until about mile 23…where little cups of water were left on the table, with no one manning it. Another car full of college kids drove super fast past me. I jumped to the side of the road. So dangerous and inconsiderate!
The nicest part of the whole race was at about mile 24.5, a sheriff slowed down to offer me a bottle of water. I couldn’t believe it – a little kind gesture like that really made day! I continued on, checked my watch, and with a mile and half to go…I was passed by those two women who I was chatting with during the first loop. In a normal circumstance, I would have turned up the last gear to chase them, but that day, I didn’t bother. So they came just ahead of me. As soon as I crossed the finish line, a lady ran over to congratulate me. She said “You just finished a very hard race. I ran the marathon last year and I know how it feels!” Wow, such nice people!
My recollection of this marathon compared to the ones before, it didn’t seem very special at all. But remember, two weeks ago I had just completed my first Ultra Marathon, and the week after, I had experienced a heavy personal event in my life. I felt like there was so much happening at the time that I don’t know how I even comprehended running a marathon. But, it just goes to show, “Mind over matter”. If you set out to do anything, give it your BEST SHOT! Conquer your inner demons! ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!! 48th marathon done!
By Mabel Fong