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The Great Ferry Race (Half Marathon)

Updated: Dec 2, 2021

On June 13th, 2021 Dave and I rounded out our 12 day vacation to the Pacific Northwest with a half marathon on Bainbridge Island, WA. It was state #44 for us, The Great Ferry Race. The race is put on by an organization called Orca Running. They organize a variety of races throughout the PNW with an emphasis on charity and environmental sustainability. Bainbridge Island is a 35 minute ferry ride across the Puget Sound out of the Port of Seattle hence the name, The Great Ferry Race. The day before the race, as we were driving from Mt. Rainier we decided to stop at the port and scope out the area and parking situation. We received an email from the organizers giving us tips on where and how much parking would be. It seemed simple enough and since the race took place on a Sunday we didn't experience any traffic.

After leaving Seattle we headed to our vacation rental in Edmonds, WA. On the way we stopped at Portofino Restaurant & Bar to pick up our pre-race dinner. Due to covid they were only open for take-out and delivery. We ordered the lasagna for Dave and I had the Pear Pasta. We also took back an order of Fettuccini Alfredo with Shrimp for after the race.

We signed up for the race in December since they cap it at 600 people and it usually sells out. The cost was $70 per person. Due to covid precautions there was no packet pick up or expo before the race. Our bib was mailed to us about a week before the race. However, since we left home almost two weeks prior we didn't receive it in time. Not a big deal though, check in for the race was at the ferry terminal where we were given a new bib with a different number. At the terminal we were also given our ticket to board the ferry as well as a collapsible water cup for the hydration stations along the race. The picture above of the ferry is from the day before when the weather was beautiful. On the day of the race it was a little chilly and it rained.

We boarded the ferry and it left exactly at 7:55am. As we neared Bainbridge Island we made our way down to the vehicle deck where the gear check car was. We left our bag in their blue Honda Odyssey and waited for the ferry to dock. After disembarking, all of the runners assembled on the docks where the race started. We took off in waves of approximately 30 people in order to space us out. 1/3 of the race was on a fairly narrow dirt trail and with all of the rain it was quite muddy. A good portion of the race was also run on the sidewalks so keeping us spaced out worked.

We were warned that by road race standards this was a "hilly" race. However, supposedly it is considered a fairly "flat" race by trail race standards. Well, out of the 44 half marathons we have run so far this was one of the most difficult. Actually, it was probably the toughest one yet. As soon as we would conquer a hill we would be faced with another equally as steep hill. It seemed never ending. We later learned that there was a 1,400' elevation gain. It was a good challenge and at least we weren't the only ones struggling. Fast Focus Photography took some great pictures of us that were available to download for free. And, of course we took our selfie stick along for the run as well.

After we completed the race we collected our medal, shirt and some extra goodies from the post race party. Volunteers from the West Sound Wildlife Shelter were giving out free water bottles and masks. On our half mile walk back to the ferry terminal we met up with a father and son from the Denver area who are also attempting to run a half marathon in every state.

We walked through downtown Bainbridge where the shops and sidewalk cafes were now open. We never really got good directions back to the terminal and ended up walking an extra half mile before finding our way. After Dave and I boarded the next ferry back to Seattle we rested our legs a little before venturing to the outside deck to take post race selfies with the Space Needle in the background.

The Great Ferry Race was definitely one of the most unique challenging half marathons that we have participated in, right down to the medal. Orca Running did a great job adjusting to the covid restrictions and still producing an in-person race. State #44 completed!

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