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Races keep Kitsap runners huffing and puffing all summer long
KITSAP COUNTY — Running season is out of the blocks, and lovers of a good foot race have plenty of local events to choose from to keep their sides aching all summer long.
Beginning this week and wrapping up Labor Day weekend, Kitsap County will play host to 13 separate races throughout the summer season. Many of the contests benefit local charities and scholarship funds, and all are designed to get Kitsapers off the couch and outdoors.
"All the races are meant to keep people active," said Greg Chapman, who coaches track at Olympic High School and organizes several local races throughout the year. "You don't have to be a serious runner to participate in any of these things."
The two biggest races in Kitsap are the Viking Fest Road Race, which occurs each May, and the appropriately named Whale of a Run, which enters its 29th year July 25 at Silverdale's Whaling Days. The Whale of a Run draws more than 1,000 participants, and Chapman, who puts the race together, said he spends about six months readying the course, sponsors and volunteers for the four-mile jaunt.
Trail runners will have a pocketful of races to keep them busy as well, with the July 12 Bear of a Run, Aug. 9 half marathon and Sept. 6 Roots Rock Trail Run 25K and 50K races. All three are set in the woods around Port Gamble and offer a sampling of the Northwest's famous rugged, yet serene, landscapes.
"Trail races usually have a little bit of a different feel than road races," said race organizer Brooke Hammett. "There's a more laid-back atmosphere. It's kind of a fun environment."
Prior to the Whale, runners have a month of other races to warm their legs up. The gun goes off at 9 a.m. June 20 for the start of the Mountain Fun Run, a 3.2-mile course at Wildcat Lake. The following weekend, on June 27, runners can choose between an old favorite and a brand new event. The inaugural Run It Forward Bridge 2 Bridge 5K kicks off at Bremerton's Evergreen Park, while Port Orchard sets up for the eighth annual Hot Foot 5K and 1 mile at the South Kitsap Community Park. The Bridge 2 Bridge is a road race benefiting a Bremerton High School scholarship, whereas the Hot Foot trail run generates funds for a South Kitsap community scholarship.
"It's actually really fun to give money away to students," said Hot Foot director Scott Lucke.
The nation's independence day brings two more races to the local scene. Bainbridge will host one of the county's oldest races: the 30th annual Grand Old Fourth, a 5K, 1 mile and kids' dash with proceeds going to Bainbridge Island Youth Services. That same day, Kingston hosts the revitalized July Fourth Fun Run. The event was put on hold for a few years before returning to the streets in 2008. Organizer Tom Ogden said the race committee will be prepared for a larger turnout this go-around, after seeing far more runners than expected last year.
"Last year we planned for 30, expected 12 and got 104 (participants)," Ogden said.
Seniors have a pair of races all their own, with Bremerton's Senior Games Run/Walk and 5K off-road race July 11. Both contests are exclusively for athletes older than 50.
Coming down the home stretch of the season are Bremerton's Race for Literacy on Aug. 15, the Kitsap County Fair Run on Aug. 29 and a big one to end the season: the 16th annual Blackberry Festival Run, also in Bremerton, Sept. 5.
Most races throughout the county award prizes and have participation fees of around $15, which Chapman said helps when attracting runners who do not wish to pay higher prices across Puget Sound.
"We do a pretty good job of keeping costs down," Chapman said. "You've got to make sure that when people leave, they're satisfied."
Other than breaking away from the pack of competing local events, the only other major hurdle for organizers to clear is predicting whether the sun will shine on race day.
"You really have to keep your fingers crossed that the weather will cooperate," Chapman said.
For more information on any of the races listed in this article, visit the Kitsap Track Club's online calendar.
Bremerton Patriot reporter Wesley Remmer contributed to this article.