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Mount Baker Ultra Marathon is a midnight run for the ages

June 2, 2018

CONCRETE — The Mount Baker Ultra Marathon was resurrected a year ago following a rather lengthy hiatus.

Adventurous souls willing to endure an event that became the popular Ski to Sea Race will toe the line starting in Concrete (elevation 276 feet) at midnight Saturday for the 55-mile trek to and from Mount Baker’s 10,160-foot Sherman Peak.

Racers will have a soft finish of 6 p.m. Sunday to complete the distance.

“Last year, we had 17 runners,” said Bellingham ultra runner Dan Probst, who brought back the race. “Tentatively this year, we have 37. And they are from all over the United States and Canada, all coming for the original version of the race. This is it. This is the original.”

That’s 37 athletes willing to brave about 10,000 feet in elevation gain, including a traverse of Squak Glacier.

Probst is no stranger to ultra marathons. Since 2004, he has ran 100- and 200-mile races throughout the world.

This race follows in the footsteps of the Mount Baker Marathon, which was run from 1911-13.

There is a ton of history surrounding this rather short-lived adventure race. The Concrete Theatre will show “The Mountain Runners,” a docudrama about the early event, at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

From downtown Concrete, the course consists of 47 miles of U.S. Forest Service gravel roads, five miles of snow-covered trails and three miles upon Squak Glacier via fixed ropes.

“We set 9,000 feet of rope on the glacier,” Probst said. “Runners will wear harnesses and clip in. We couldn’t have accomplished getting all that rope set without the help of the Northwest Glacier Cruisers Snowmobile Club. They cached ropes on the mountain two weeks ago. This ultra marathon is a total team effort.”

Once the peak is reached, it’s a descent back to the finish line in Concrete.

“This is a solo race,” Probst said. “It’s an individual competition. There are six aid stations along the route. The ones below the glacier will be stocked with what runners need. The ones on the glacier will have limited food and will be boiling snow for water. We have about 50 volunteers from Concrete all the way up the mountain.”

Runners can expect varied conditions. After all, it’s the mountains, where it can be warm one minute and a ferociously blustery the next.

Over the three years of the early race, two other routes were used. In 1912, the Concrete route was created and proved to be the best option for the modern version of this ultra marathon.

“The Mount Baker Ultra Marathon is actually one of two projects,” Probst said. “I wanted to revive the race and I want to build a trail system from Bellingham to Mount Baker. The latter is going to take some time. Maybe 10 years and about $100,000. That’s my goal.”

The entry fees for the ultra marathon are destined to help pay for the trail.

In the meantime, Probst’s focus is on the ultra marathon.

“There is no other race in the world that takes you up a glacier and an active volcano,” he said.

And what does the first to cross the finish line receive for his or her efforts?

“They get to live and tell the tale,” Probst said. “We put this on to provide an experience. And I will hand them a beer at the finish line.”