Neither wind nor rain or blasts of cold have stayed participants from racing in the Whale Run & Walk over its 33 year history. To set the stage, compare the start of the Whale Run & Walk in 1984 to 2007 races with  25 to 77 racers, raising $100 to $200 and a handful of sponsors—to the 2016 race with 855 participants, raising $18,447 and 62 sponsors.

Yes, we’ve come a long way!

Whale Run & Walk proceeds have always been returned to the community through high school scholarships and awards to female heads of households to further their education. Soroptimist International of Fort Bragg supports Project Sanctuary and many other non-profit organizations on the Mendocino Coast. 

33 years ago, as a small fund raiser, Big Brothers Big Sisters staged a race in the middle of Fort Bragg, down Franklin Street.

In 1990 Soroptimists International of Fort Bragg teamed up with BBBS to sponsor the race with a Fun Walk and 5K Run with as many folks as they could muster to race up and down in front of the stores on Franklin Street. Registration for the race was held at the Lutheran Hall in Fort Bragg.

By 1993, solely sponsored by the SIFB Soroptimists, the race moved to the Haul Road with a few small booths of local businesses hawking their wares in the parking lot. 

2000 was the first year the race was timed, offering actual results and medals, beautifully designed and created by Melissa Berman of Thompson’s PortaSeptic. Melissa has created all the medals for the Whale Run events to this day.

2000 was the first year the race was timed, offering actual results and medals, beautifully designed and created by Melissa Berman of Thompson’s PortaSeptic. Melissa has created all the medals for the Whale Run events to this day.

I created a registration database in 2006 and maintained it until 2013. Long time Whale Run Chair Joyce Gilbertson’s late husband Graham did the timing until 2010 when Capital Road Race Management electronically took over the timing and then the registration database in 2013 (both Graham and I sighed a breath of relief!)

After the Haul Road started to deteriorate, 2004-2005 brought us to the Point Cabrillo Light Station, a gorgeous, but challenging venue. First we had to create clear enough directions for everyone to find the place. The initial run/walk uphill to reach the main course, pleased few of the racers. But it was a magnificent day (in June that year) and participants were treated to jumping dolphins and spouting whales under a sweet blue sky once they ended up at the Light Station.

Location change was in the air after the second year (in March) when blistering rains soaked and gale winds mightily pushed around racers on the main road after fighting with the wind running up hill to reach the main course. Organizers also lost most of their tents to gusts, which also leveled tables at the registration area near the Light Station.

But we soldiered on! Back to Fort Bragg we came, this time holding the 2006 registration at the College of the Redwoods Campus. It was certainly a scenic course that year, as to make the length of a 10K run a most creative route was created starting out from the CR campus, down Todds Point, through the RV Park and out to Highway One across the Noyo Bridge, through the Pomo Reservation to the newly vacated Georgia Pacific Mill grounds, it being the first time the community was allowed to view those choice parts of the coastline.

A brief history of the

                   Annual Whale Run & Walk

We’ve Come A Long Way….

Alas, the next year GP was ordered to do a massive clean-up of their ponds, so the public was once more disallowed from walking along the old mill’s cliffs. 

The Whale Run returned to the Haul Road in 2007 and took place in June hoping for more favorable weather. But separating it from the March Whale Festival proved detrimental to both events participation-wise and financially. As well, competition from other races at that time of year brought the numbers  down to only 77 registrations. 

In 2008 the Whale Run was moved back to March, but the Haul Road west of Lake Cleone began to crumble.  That year the waves were so high there were fears racers might get swept out to sea. With the end of the road breaking apart entirely, accommodating a 10K Run became a logistical nightmare. Attempting to route the 10K runners across MacKerricher State Park made for many irate campers.  

In 2009 the Whale Run & Walk became firmly established in its course on the Haul Road, in March as part of the Whale Festival and its attendance has grown each year. The race now starts in the Skunk Train Depot parking lot with the ½ mile Kiddie Race (added in 2011 for the four to ten year old set) racing in the parking lot, the Fun Walkers are routed to the Noyo Headlands Coastal Trail and the competitive racers trek across the Pudding Creek Trestle with the 10K turn-around just south of Lake Cleone.

In 2012 the whale tail and head beautifully created by Edith Goble at the Start/Finish line were replaced by electronic counters from the Capital Road Race Management. Mailed in paper registrations were replaced by on-line registration and laptops in which participants entered their information at Laurel Deli the night before and in Fort Bragg Town Hall the day of the race. Also added was a new category to accommodate the 80-year-olds running in the race.

In 2014 Joyce Gilbertson moved out of the area after a masterful stewardship for a ten year run.  Linda Dutcher ably took over the reins. 

The yearly Whale Run has become a favorite for locals and people from afar to have family reunions and catch a glimpse of the migrating grey whales. One year eleven states were represented and even brought in a few racers from other countries. In the last few races seven Sacramento women have made it an annual treat to play in Fort Bragg and run in the race (when their partying goes late they end up walking).  Many run in colorful costumes (often inspired by the proximity to St Patrick’s Day) and in the Fun Walk strollers abound.

Baskets for the winners are made up of donations from generous local businesses and many of the Coast’s photographers graciously have volunteered their ample talent over the years including: Keith Wyner, Lynn Prunty, Jerry Murphy, Lynne Weinerman Calder, Roy Kornmeyer and Ron Bloomquist to name a few.

Steve Weingarten and Vicky Watts from KOZT have been among the announcers before SIFB member Sharon Valenti’s nephew Rick Robinson from Sacramento took on the task of announcing the racer’s times and entertaining the crowds at the finish line

Please join us at the Annual Whale Run & Walk
The event occurs every year in March during the Fort Bragg Whale Festival. Race along the majestic coastline aside grey whale spouts and an occasional tail. Soroptimist International of Fort Bragg thanks all who have participated in or donated to the event in its 33 year run. Your generosity has greatly helped the Soroptimists assist women and girls throughout our community.

To register and get information about the Whale Run & Walk go  to our website and have a whale of a good time.

Lynne Weinerman Calder

Whale Run Committee

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