In 1911 it was called the Mount Baker Marathon. That year 14 competitors travelled by car or rail from Bellingham to the base of Mount Baker, then up the mountain and back again. It lasted only three years, and that first year the prize was $100 in gold coins.
Those early racers–including a logger, a postman, and a milkman–braved weather, derailed trains, crevasses and even death in this controversial competition, which finally ended due to the grueling conditions.
Seems adventure races back then had just a little too much adventure in them. Today the Ski to Sea is completed in legs with 8 team members working together. I, myself, have sea kayaked across the finish line in Bellingham and rung the bell at Marine Park, at the time knowing nothing of the fascinating history of the race.
In this year’s Ski to Sea competition 4,000 contestants raced in the seven-leg course including cross country skiing, downhill skiing/snowboarding, running, road biking, canoeing, mountain biking and kayaking. However, when it came time for the sea kayakers to complete the last leg this year, race officials cancelled the sea kayaking due to dangerous sea conditions. Over half of the field had already started the kayak leg, and thanks to the rough seas approximately 30 kayakers capsized, and many stayed in the 50F water of Bellingham Bay for up to 15 minutes.
Like the early Mount Baker Marathon, it could have ended tragically. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case this year.
The Mountain Runners is set to open in early 2012, and it should be an interesting one to watch. Using vintage photos, re-enacted dramatizations and interviews with historians, race descendants and modern athletes including climbers Steve House and Chad Kellogg and ultra-runners Krissy Moehl and Scott Jurek, this film not only incites the past of the iconic Bellingham race, but also unearths the root of today’s adventure racing.
So what do you think? Will you put this one on your must-see list? Should adventure racing be risky?