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CHARLESTON — Sarah Miller didn’t know how far she had to go.

Running the marathon portion of the second annual Salmon Run in Charleston, the Bandon resident was all alone but the GPS on her watch stopped working. Losing focus while trying to sort out her technology issue, Miller thought she was four or five miles away. She was wrong.

A spectator rings a cowbell Saturday as runners approach the finish of the second annual Charleston Salmon Run.

“I got to before the gravel where the (volunteer) lady was pointing us this way,” Miller said. “And I said, ‘So I have like four-and-a-half miles left?’ And she said, ‘No! You have a mile-and-a-quarter left.’ She said, ‘Get down there!’ I was like, ‘Oh my gosh! I better hurry.’”

Miller did just that, taking top honors in the second full marathon on the South Coast, finishing in 3 hours, 22 minutes and 45 seconds, more than five minutes ahead of men’s winner Brett Hergert (3:28:01). The top South Coast man was David King of North Bend, who was seventh overall (4:02:20). 

Coos Bay runners swept the half marathon with Jeremy West defending his title in 1:20:04 while Gabby Hobson won the women's half in 1:42:07 (sixth overall). Fabiola Lopez of Beaverton won the women’s 10K in 51:46, finishing fourth overall and eight minutes behind men's winner Drew Hiatt of Meridian, Idaho, the first runner to cross the finish line among the three events in 43:42.

“I heard it was a challenging course,” Miller said. “I heard it was hilly and challenging I did (the) Boston (Marathon) last year, and that was challenging for me. So I figured I’ll do it. What the heck? I did the Circle the Bay. I did the Pre just a month ago.”

The rolling hills of Cape Arago Highway made for a challenging middle and end to the race. Hergert said he was expecting flat, and was surprised by the relatively small but still unexpected elevation changes.

“I was going to the beach to go for a run,” Hergert joked. “But the Oregon coast is not flat.”

The word about the Salmon Run is starting to spread around the region, country and even continent.

A large contingent of Canadians made the trip, as did folks from 22 states, as far away as North Carolina. Hergert lives in the small town of Eatonville, about 40 miles east of Olympia in Washington. Normally a half marathoner, Hergert was looking for a full marathon this weekend and came across it online.

He mentioned to a friend that he was heading south to Coos Bay for a marathon and she knew what it was.

“What? Really? It’s only a year old,” Hergert said then. “Even people that are a ways away are already familiar with it.”

Lopez, a member of the Bowerman Track Club out of Portland, hopes to bring a larger contingent of fellow club members to next year’s race.

Lopez was initially struck by the “beauty” of the Salmon Run’s logo in the Native American style and, immediately following receiving her awards on Saturday, went fishing with her husband.

“Everything was really well done,” Lopez said, adding she wishes she would’ve run the half marathon so she could have a bottle-opening fish medal. “We might have to come back next year for the half marathon.”

Local runners claimed the top seven spots in the half marathon. 

Jerry Roberts, a 66-year-old runner from Myrtle Point, was second in 1:36:44, followed by Moises Garcia of Coos Bay (1:37:17), Ryan James of Coos Bay (1:37:28), Brandon Mead of North Bend (1:41:51), Hobson and Luke Rector of North Bend (1:44:15).

Participants run Saturday along Cape Arago Highway during the second annual Charleston Salmon Run.

The top local finisher in the 10K was 63-year-old Jamie Fereday of Coos Bay, who finished third in 50:51.

In just its second year, the Salmon Run is already running noticeably smoothly.

There are bathrooms everywhere and hydration everywhere and snacks for the runners all along the route. The gear — shirts and sweatshirts and trophies and medals — were all received well.

But it’s the little stuff that impressed the runners. Things like blocking off a full lane of traffic for runners seems insignificant, but to runners it means first it’s put on by people who run, but second that the organizers are thinking things through, trying to make it the best experience possible for the people who’ve traveled significant distances to participate.

“They did a very good job setting this event up,” West said with bells ringing as runners finished around him. “As you can see, it’s very good attendance.”

Locally, it’s becoming entrenched as well.

With the popular Circle the Bay 30K in August and Prefontaine Memorial 10K in September, the Salmon Run is filling the marathon niche, as well as providing a local run at a time when there aren’t any other races going on.

Lead organizer Jessica Engelke was ecstatic with Saturday’s festivities, but is still looking ahead at what her pet project could grow into.

“We still believe that this has room to grow,” she said. “There’s not a shadow of a doubt that this could be something where every hotel room is filled on the coast from here to Florence. Truly, that’s what I’m gonna go for. It’ll take a couple years to get there, but we’re slowly building.”

There were a total of 22 finishers in the marathon, 105 in the half marathon and 58 in the 10K. Results for all three races will be included on the Community Sports page in Saturday's edition of The World. 

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