If you are looking for a small, low-key, cheap, close to nature marathon, the Birch Bay Marathon could be your ticket.
It was held on February 21, 2010 in Birch Bay, Washington, about 30 minutes from Bellingham. There is also a 25k option. If you sign up early, it costs around $40 for the marathon and then goes up to $70 on race day.
What makes this race worth during is the natural beauty. Much of the race is ran along the bay, and you can see Canada during one section of the race.
It’s a double loop course with rolling hills and one LARGE hill that you have to go up twice. Otherwise it’s pretty nice. They don’t close any of the roads so you are basically running on the side of the road, but they are small county roads that are pretty vacant at 8am on a Sunday.
This is a pretty bare bones event, and there isn’t much course support. I think there were 5 aid stations that only had water. I brought my own gels but didn’t pack any water.
The start line was an orange cone and the gun was just a “GO!” yell. There wasn’t any chip timing either. But with only 140 people you don’t have to worry about your start time and chip time. My garmin was only 1 second off from the clock.
Because there aren’t that many runners, you might be running alone for a lot of the race. Something to think about if that isn’t your sort of thing. But it was really easy for my family to follow me along the course or drive ahead and wait for me. So if you have a cheer crowd, this is a great race for them. They could drive along the road with you for about 24 miles.
The parking was very easy too and plenty of it.
This race might be for you if:
*You don’t want to spend a lot of money on a race.
*You don’t want to deal with big race logistics like parking, shuttles buses, etc. There is no hassle here, very easy to get to and start and leave.
*You don’t want to run in a concrete jungle. Really, this race is gorgeous, probably the most beautiful course I’ve ran. It’s a harder course but visually gorgeous.
*You have spectators who actually want to see you. My parents weren’t able to see me once when I ran Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona. With this race they were able to follow me like a bad stalker.
This race probably isn’t for you if:
*You need to feed off the excitement and stimulation of other runners. Depending on your pace, you might run a lot of these miles alone.
*You want mile markers, music, pacers, lots of aid stations, any frills. There just aren’t any extras here.