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Nearly 600 runners show out for Chuckanut 50K

Italy's Francesco Puppi wins the 31-mile event

Men's winner Francesco Puppi of Italy crosses the finish line Saturday, March 16 during the annual Chuckanut 50K in Fairhaven Park. (Photo by Casey Griesemer)
By Casey Griesemer CDN Contributor

Francesco Puppi traveled from his hometown in Como, Italy, to set one of the fastest times ever recorded in the annual Chuckanut 50K endurance race Saturday, March 16 in Fairhaven Park.

Among nearly 600 runners Saturday, Puppi’s time of 3:26:31 has only been bested by Adam Peterman’s time of 3:24:07 during the 2022 edition of the race. 

The dry and fast trail conditions were primed for record-setting pace, but the warm late-morning temperatures left racers battling dehydration and heat in the final 10K. 

During the event, racers are put through what’s commonly called a “lollipop” course, with the front and back 10K taking place on the relatively flat Interurban Trail. 

The middle 30K brings runners up and down some of Whatcom County’s most desirable hiking trails in the region. Here, runners tackle over 5,000 feet of climbing and descending, ending with the infamous “Chinscraper” climb and its punishing descent. With only two legal feed zones on the course, athletes are forced to carry most of their water and food with them. 

Francesco Puppi (694) leads the charge off the starting line. (Photo by Casey Griesemer)

In Fairhaven Park, a large crowd of spectators gathered to welcome finishers as they crossed the line in front of a small expo center and food corral. 

Though in visible agony at the finish line, Puppi was pleased with his results.

“[The race] went really well … but I never fell into a “comfortable” pace,” Puppi said. “I just tried to run as hard as I could [until] I got a gap around mile 12. I tried to really run hard the last 10 miles, including the downhill and the flat trail back to the finish.

“It was a great day and I really enjoyed the course and [Whatcom County’s] special playground. To put my name among some of the American legends of the sport makes me feel privileged.” 

Peppi said he will stay in the United States while he recovers and prepares to run the Lake Sonoma 50-mile race in California in April.

Matt Daniels of Colorado came in second just a couple of minutes back, while Dylan Humberger, Joshua Potvin and Zachary Perrin rounded out the top 5 men’s finishers. Full results can be found here.

Runners trudge up Cleator Road during the second big climb on the course. (Photo by Casey Griesemer)

The first men’s finisher from Whatcom County was Spencer Paxson, a former Olympic Long Team member and self-proclaimed “reformed mountain bike racer,” who has participated in the last two Chuckanut 50K events. 

In the women’s race, a tough-fought battle saw the top 5 finish within five minutes of each other after a grueling 4-plus hour race. With a finishing time of 4:13:25, Claire Devoe of Seattle took the win only minutes ahead of Jade Belzberg of California. Priscilla Forgie, Keeley Henninger and Hanah Osowski rounded out the top 5. 

This year’s event celebrated the 50K’s 30th year running, with pauses in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID, by bringing racers some of the best weather the event has ever enjoyed. 

Early morning temperatures in the upper 30s led to fast early splits while temps rose throughout the day, hitting a high of 68 degrees by the early afternoon. Though many spectators enjoyed the Saturday afternoon warmth, local runners who are accustomed to running through winter temps in the 30s and 40s quickly found themselves battling the early spring heat while scaling the many monstrous climbs. Even then, an astounding 585 of the original 598 starters finished their race. 

The next event of similar magnitude in the area is the famous Ski to Sea multisport relay race on May 26. Starting at the Mt. Baker Ski Area and finishing at the Fairhaven Boat Center after seven grueling legs, the Ski to Sea attracts professional and recreational athletes from all over the globe. Those interested are encouraged to sign up quickly, as the event has less than 100 spots remaining. 

Casey Griesemer writes monthly. Email:

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