Former WWU runner returns to Bellingham to capture Chuckanut Foot Race title
July 8, 2012
BELLINGHAM, Wash. -
By Andrew Lang -- The Bellingham Herald
Blake Medhaug always wanted to compete in the annual Chuckanut Foot Race while living in Bellingham. He just never got the chance.
"I used to work at Fairhaven Runners when I went to school up here, and I'd usually have to work there each time they had this race," said the 24-year-old 2011 Western Washington University graduate, who also ran cross country and was a distance runner for Western's track and field team.
Medhaug made certain he didn't miss his first chance to navigate the scenic seven-mile Interurban Trail run, spanning from Marine Park in Fairhaven to Larrabee Park. The former Viking made the trek from his home in Bothell and topped the 629-person field with a time of 37 minutes, 52.3 seconds during the 45th Annual Chuckanut Foot Race Saturday morning, July 7.
"I've always loved running around Chuckanut," Medhaug said. "I've run this trail so many times. I got to stay last night with some old college buddies. It was like old times. It's always nice to come back here."
In only his second race since recovering from a sports hernia injury, which kept Medhaug out of serious training for nearly a year, he said he entered the Foot Race simply looking for a challenge.
"I'm definitely happy," Medhaug said. "It's a great run and a sweet course.
"I just wanted to challenge myself. You never know who is going to be at these races, but I just wanted to put myself in contention."
Medhaug had a premonition at the start of the race that a good run might be in his future.
"I knew it might be my day when someone stepped on the back of my shoe at the start of the race," Medhaug said, "My foot slipped out of my shoe, but I got (my foot) to go back in immediately. Then I knew it was my day."
Medhaug said he ran stride-for-stride the first two miles with second-place finisher Jonathan Marcus and third-place finisher Charles Sunderlage. He used his hill-climbing ability to put some space between himself, Marcus and Sunderlage and maintained a sizable lead the rest of the way.
"It was a bit lonely at the end, but it was nice getting first," Medhaug said.
Marcus finished in a time of 38:25.8, Sunderlage finished in 39:04.1, Blaine High School cross country athlete Tom Bradley placed fourth with a 39:19.4 and Ferndale resident Lee George took fifth with a 39:32.1 run.
Former Mount Baker High runner Kristen Rohde, who helped the Mountaineers win a string of cross country state titles from 1999-2001, won the female division with a 42:36.7 and received a first-place gift that was certain to be the first of many gifts she'd receive Saturday.
"I'm up here because I'm having my bridal shower today," said Rohde, who lives in Portland, Ore., and ran at the University of Portland. "My fiancé (Marcus) got second place."
Rohde earned her third Chuckanut Foot Race title. She won the race in 2008 and again in 2011.
"It was good," Rohde said. "I went faster this year than I did last year. I ran with Bronwyn (Crossman) the first three miles, then I was able to build a lead on the hills."
Crossman, who ran at Squalicum High School and wrapped up her career at the University of Oregon last spring, finished second in a time of 43:18.7. Squalicum distance runner Brittany Gappa, who earned second-place medals in the 1,600 and 3,200 during the 2A-3A-4A Washington State Track and Field Championships in May, finished third in a time of 43:37.7. Bobeya Krishnek placed fourth with a 47:27.9, and 13-year-old Ruby Watson rounded out the top five with a 47:36.4 run.
Although Rohde has competed in a number of races since moving to Portland, she said there's nothing quite like a Bellingham community race such as the Chuckanut Foot Race.
"It's a lot smaller community here," Rohde said. "It's a cute small town. In Portland a lot of the races are sponsored by beer companies, so the focus of the races are a bit different. You're always running the same streets, too. There aren't really trails that are as beautiful as this one. It's always nice coming here and recognizing people."
Although Rohde finished first and Marcus took second, the former Whatcom County runner joked she won't be bragging about her better finish.
Many runners entered Saturday's race with the thought of a top finish, but plenty others spent their time leisurely running and marveling at the beauty of the seven-mile long scenic course.
"I think we have a great community of runners," volunteer Race Director and Greater Bellingham Running Club member Kelly Krieger said. "I have talked to 10 different runners today who are in their 40s and have done this race since they were in high school. It's such a great event. The Interurban Trail is relatively flat, and it's very scenic. You can see wildlife. I love to run here even though I've only run in the race once myself."
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