Marathon masses: Vancouver's annual event attracts runners of all stripes

Competitors range from 40-race veteran to man on dialysis

By Candace Buckner, Columbian staff writer

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2013 Vancouver USA Marathon

Images from the 2013 Vancouver USA Marathon and Half-Marathon.

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The setting for any marathon, one that has reached mainstream status or is still taking baby steps toward the finish line of relevancy, could be an anthropological study in the motivations of mankind.

During the still-early hours of Sunday morning, the analysis began in downtown Vancouver.

The DJ's mix of high-energy music had not yet started but zonked-out zombies in race bibs still trudged under the inflatable arch at the entrance of Esther Short Park for the start of the third annual Vancouver USA Marathon.

Some runners looked more serious than others — stretching limbs, munching on Power Bars, downing supplement drinks in the hopes that the liquid wouldn't come up later. And while these marathoners prepared for the next 26.2 miles of their lives, Michael Rompogren simply searched for a pen.

"They spelled his name wrong," Darlene Rompogren said, explaining the dilemma of a "U" in place of the "M" on her husband's bib.

The 61-year-old Michael has run in marathons since 1983. Not for the glory. Not to stand up for his mechanical engineer brethren and prove that they've got the brains plus the brawn. But, for the one reason that makes sense.

"I love my food!" Michael declared.

He further explained that if he had not signed up for 40 marathons over the past three decades, "I'd be 400 pounds. I eat a lot."

Michael and Darlene ran in their hometown Tacoma City Marathon last month when they came across a pretty sweet deal. The hook: sign up now for the Vancouver event and get 20 percent off the entry fee plus a free jacket. So, why not? And now, Darlene has a new favorite item in her closet.

"That's a deal," Darlene thought. "I'll run 26 miles for a jacket!"

Michael's fashion choice — a black T-shirt so long that only the edge of his hip-hugging shorts could peek out — had nothing on the bold footwear selection by Biba Mustfic.

As Mustfic sat near the Salmon Run Bell Tower, all eyes stared at the moon-man-like boots adorning her feet. Mustfic sported $250 Kangoo Jumps — think of roller blades strapped on top of mini-trampolines and you get an idea of how she attacked the concrete.

"They absorb all the shock from the running," said Mustfic, a Portland resident. "It is fun for a few hours — I mean, an hour — but like, doing it for a full marathon …"

It's pure torture. Still, Mustfic has developed killer leg muscles because of the punishment, so there's that.

As Mustfic bounded away from her seat, she blended into the humanity near the starting line. There, the community came into full blossom.

It was on Columbia Street where runners from 38 states and eight countries showed the diversity of their multifaceted society. Where local runner Youssef Zirari spoke no words as he focused on leading the first wave and newcomer Matt Stanfill stole one last hug and photo with a friend, then scrolled his phone to Seals & Croft's "Summer Breeze" as his kickoff song. After prayer, the chatter silenced and heads bowed as runners remembered Boston. The community never forgets.

Over the next seven hours, more than 2,300 runners satisfied their full and half-marathon goals before getting their bracelets to enter the Summer Brewfest event happening in the park. Beer o'clock started at 9 a.m. and lasted well after participants got a taste of 40 taps.

Back on the street, DJ Paradox cleverly played the chorus of "All I Do Is Win" as Zirari broke the tape with arms raised high in victory. Zirari played it cool as Camas volunteer Shellie Damore tried to honor him with a medal, and he didn't accept a Dixie cup from a kid at the hydration tent. Zirari looked so relaxed after his dominating victory in 2 hours, 35 minutes and 18 seconds that the race announcer intoned over the loud speakers: "How does someone look so fresh after running 26.2 miles?"

Much different than Ben Chase.

After Chase finished as the second local male, his face flashed a smile but his body screamed in pain. Just a few feet behind a camera operator, Chase hurled forward and lost his breakfast.

"That stuff comes up," Chase said, still smiling. "I pushed as hard as I could today. … It comes up, that shows you're pushing real hard."

Just as dramatic, but not nearly as gross, Evan Klima also enjoyed quite the moment at his finish.

While most fathers around town still slept like kings waiting to be pampered on their day, Klima, a dialysis patient, woke up early with his 9-year-old boy Kane. The two got ready for Klima's second half-marathon in three months.

Klima, of Elma, gets treatment three times a week until he can have a kidney transplant. The condition once sapped his energy but Klima decided to take up running to build his cardio. Now, Klima says he can once again be active with his son and the two shared in victory on Father's Day. Kane, dressed in a red volunteer shirt, placed a finisher's medal around his father's neck.

"Almost brought me to tears because he's my No. 1 fan," said Klima, who admitted to exhaustion but the thoughts of finding his son at the finish line motivated him through the last mile. "That's what I was running for. Just to see him."