Chuckanut – A PNW Classic

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After a wet, cold winter the perfect spring day welcomed nearly 500 runners to the start line of the 29th edition of the Chuckanut 50-kilometer race held every March just outside of Bellingham, Washington. A frequent first 50-kilometer for locals and those around the region, the race also welcomes a competitive elite field every year who are ready to test their speed and grit against historic times – this year was no different.

Women at the start line of the 2023 Chuckanut 50-km
(L-R) Devon Yanko, Kat Drew, Clare Gallagher, and Taylor Nowlin at the start line of the 2023 Chuckanut 50-kilometer race.

Chuckanut is known for being a little fast and furious with the first ten kilometers of the race utilizing the Interurban trail before runners pack roughly 5,000 feet of climbing into the middle 30-kilometers of the course. Runners then have the sometimes dreaded (if you are being chased) ten kilometers of the Interurban trail to make it back to Fairhaven Park where race director Krissy Moehl is waiting to greet you at the finish line.

Three men chase up Cleator road during the 2023 edition of the Chuckanut 50km
Runners make chase up Cleator road during the 2023 edition of the Chucaknut 50-kilometer race.

At the very front of the race early charges are often not rewarded with lead changes happening over and over again with each new ascent and descent. While Clare Gallagher got away and stayed away by about midway through the race on Saturday, the men’s race saw podium position shakeups until the very last mile of the course. Definitive moves don’t always happen on Cleator road, the Ridge Trail, or the infamous Chinscraper Climb – and instead we are treated to a drag race over the flatter final miles into town. Who doesn’t love a little drama?

Adam Merry after winning the 2023 Chuckanut 50km
Adam Merry is that a grin or a grimace? Either is fine after a win at the 2023 Chuckanut 50-kilometer.
Seth Ruhling on the ground after leaving it all out on course during the Chuckanut 50km
Okay, definitely a grimace! Seth Ruhling finds the ground after ultimately finishing second at the 2023 Chuckanut 50-kilometer.
Clare Gallagher hugs second place Kat Drew after they finished with the 2nd and 5th fastest women's times for the Chuckanut 50km.
Race winner Clare Gallagher wraps second place Kat Drew up in a hug at the finish line of the 2023 Chuckanut 50-kilometer.

Watching from the final aid station the race for the podium was intense. Each runner came off the Fragrance Lake Trail in hot pursuit of whomever was just ahead of them – there was going to be no settling. With a pass in the final mile of the race Adam Merry overtook Seth Ruhling to nab the win in 3:33:26, good for a third fastest time in history. Seth Ruhling finished just over a minute later in 3:34:46. The men’s top five was rounded out by Kris Brown (3:37:51) in third, Eric LiPuma (3:38:02) in fourth, and Mario Mendoza (3:41:24) in fifth. On the women’s side Clare Gallagher held off a charging Kat Drew to take the win in the second fastest time in race history running 4:07:34. Jodee Adams-Moore’s time from a decade ago still holds onto course record status at 4:01:23. Kat Drew nabbed herself a fifth fastest time in history running at 4:10:54 in her seventh running of the event. Rounding out the women’s top five were Canadian Andrea Lee (4:15:31) for third in her debut 50-kilometer, Bellingham local Katelyn Steen (4:21:11) in fourth, and Devon Yanko (4:24:52) for fifth.

Want to relive the race? Check out Ryan Thrower’s race day highlights below!

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