Vancouver USA Marathon a source of local pride

By Paul Valencia, Columbian High School Sports Reporter



Ralph Brewer of Vancouver ran the inaugural Vancouver USA Marathon with Beyonce and Rihanna.

“You gotta have the beat,” Brewer said, referring to the tunes on his iPod, the earbuds in place just prior to the beginning of the race Sunday morning at Esther Short Park. “That’s what we train to. A little Gaga, too.”

Can’t forget Lady Gaga.

Brewer and friend Don Merzoian were among the roughly 1,000 runners who signed up to run the 26.2-mile course. Athletes from all over the world registered, but this was a particularly special day for those in the local running community.

Brewer and Merzoian, runners for years, had never attempted this distance.

“We’re marathon virgins,” Brewer said. “I’ve signed up for Portland, but never ran it because I don’t like the hills.”

“I decided this would be my first marathon because it was in Vancouver,” Merzoian said.

Civic pride led Marc Lesperance to try his first marathon, as well. A full-time soldier with the Army National Guard, he was running with fellow soldiers Tim Spencer, about to attempt his sixth marathon, and Matt Nestor, beginning his second.

“We’re in the Army, so we run …” Lesperance said.

“… when we’re told to run,” Nestor said, finishing the sentence.

“I think this is awesome,” Lesperance said of Vancouver’s first marathon. “We’re always running around here, especially the Vancouver Barracks. And it just brings the crowds into our town. It’s good for business.”

As Lesperance was talking, another friendly runner joined in the discussion.

“It will change your life,” Ginny Turner of Hillsboro, Ore., said.

She would know. Vancouver’s first marathon is Turner’s 161st.

“I’m looking forward to the different views,” said the grandmother of six who in 2006 ran the North Pole Marathon.

Charlie Bretz of Colton, Ore., got a good-luck kiss from his wife, Valerie, as he was about to start his 11th marathon.

“You do marathons for yourself, but you gotta have support,” he said.

Valerie, who has been at the course for all of Charlie’s races, appreciates the buzz that a marathon has; it is not just for the runners.

“It’s always exciting,” she said. “The time goes by so fast. It’s a lot of fun, the energy, the people. And everybody’s in tip-top shape.”

The marathon is not just for runners, either.

“Running just jiggles your gizzards, so I walk,” said Kimberlee Parkin-Rego of Battle Ground, who was preparing for her fifth marathon. “And I can walk forever.”

She was going to hang with friend Patty Loster of Vancouver, attempting her second marathon.

“It’s a challenge,” Loster said. “It was on my bucket list. I did it once, and I want to do it again.”

They also loved being part of Vancouver’s first foray into the long-distance event.

“Look at all the people here,” Parkin-Rego said.

It had better be a quick look. Moments later, they were off and running — or walking, if that were the case — after being sent off with encouraging words from Mayor Tim Leavitt.

Soon after the start, race director Brian Davis had about a minute to talk before trying to complete another task associated with the event.

“That was pretty exciting. It was nuts,” he said of the start. “There are a lot of components to putting it on. Shutting down a city is a lot of work.”

Davis, who lives in Vancouver, said he just knows the city and the runners will make him proud.

“I think we are going to surprise people who are from out of town, who will see our beautiful city,” he said.

NOTE: Race results are available at