Submitted photo

Participants in a past Windermere Marathon pace along the Centennial Trail. While the popular trail will again provide a significant part of the 2013 course, the first 7.6 miles will be raced in Liberty Lake.

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LL to host Windermere Marathon start
11/14/2012 11:18:03 AM

By Jim Ryan
Splash Contributor

Scenic Liberty Lake will be the backdrop for the first 7.6 miles of the fifth annual Windermere Marathon this coming May 19. The fifth annual event has in the past zipped by Liberty Lake along a route that journeyed from Post Falls to Spokane, but this year the community will play a greatly expanded role as host.

More than 500 runners and walkers are expected to answer the 7 a.m. gun at beautiful Rocky Hill Park. They will then stride through the city's neighborhoods, past Pavillion Park and skirt its lush, green golf courses before connecting to the Centennial Trail at the Harvard Road Trailhead. The participants then head west for Spokane, where, after enduring 26.2 miles, the runners will sprint toward the finish line at the Howard Street Bridge in Riverfront Park.

The event will also feature a half marathon, which will begin at 7 a.m. at Mirabeau Park in Spokane Valley. The anticipated 1,300 runners who will participate in that run will also catch up with the Centennial Trail and cross the same finish line as the full marathon.

According to Elaine Koga-Kennelly, race and event director for the Windermere Marathon, there will be a post-race party with food, beer garden and a music festival to celebrate each runner.


Koga-Kennelly said she decided to change the starting site for the race to Liberty Lake from an empty industrial site in Post Falls where it had been located, because of the beauty of the Rocky Hill site and the seven miles in and around Liberty Lake. She also feels that by starting and running part of the race in Liberty Lake it will showcase the area as a destination where participants, their families and friends will want to return to as a venue for future vacations.

"Coeur d'Alene is a destination city for North Idaho, and Liberty Lake can be a destination city for Eastern Washington," she said. "The reason it isn't a destination yet is because people don't know about it. It's a young and vibrant community. And because it is relatively young, it hasn't been on people's radar screen. An event like a marathon shines the spotlight on a city like Liberty Lake. Marathons attract people from around the country and around the world. After the race, they go back home and tell everyone about Liberty Lake and what it has to offer; it's wonderful word-of-mouth for our community."

The marathon's website touts local hotels for the participants and notes that a pre-race pasta meal will not be served. Instead, the site directs runners to the many dining establishments available in Liberty Lake and the surrounding area.

City of Liberty Lake Planning and Building Services Manager Amanda Tainio and Recreation Director Michelle Griffin have assisted Koga-Kennelly in transitioning the race. Tainio took Koga-Kennelly and her husband out on the initial tour of the area, and over the past few months has worked with her and her team to outline the perfect route for the event. She and Griffin also held a general logistics meeting with Koga-Kennelly that included the city police department, city engineer and the fire department to make sure everything will be coordinated smoothly for an event of this magnitude.

Griffin said the economic development component of getting people to Liberty Lake, showing them what the city has to offer and showcasing its amenities is important.

"We have terrific businesses and wonderful trails," Griffin said. "I think it is going to be a wonderful event and working with Elaine has just been fantastic."

"Since this marathon is a qualifier for the Boston Marathon, we believe it's going to bring a lot of exposure to Liberty Lake as far as filling the hotels," said Tainio. "I think this event is just going to continue to grow and add to Liberty Lake's image as a destination city."

Koga-Kennelly also gives high praise to Kathy Whybrew, who is the founder of the Liberty Lake Running Club, and who initially recommended the race start at Rocky Hill Park. Whybrew has agreed to be the chair of the race start in Liberty Lake and is organizing the volunteers for not only the starting line but also the many water stations and the course marshals.

"She has been an absolute tremendous help," Koga-Kennelly said. "In my view she is the ambassador for Liberty Lake. Because she knows so many people, she has been tremendously supportive in making all the necessary connections. I can't say enough about her."
The race is sponsored by the Windermere Foundation and raises funds for its charitable causes. For the past 23 years, the Windermere Foundation has donated a portion of the proceeds from every home purchased or sold toward supporting low-income and homeless families in its communities. What started in 1989 as a grassroots foundation serving families in need in Washington state, has grown to encompass 10 states, raising more than $22 million for programs and organizations that provide shelter, clothing, children's programs, emergency assistance and other services to those who need help the most.
Koga-Kennelly said that all money raised from the local marathon will stay in Spokane County to help those in need.
An added element of excitement to the full marathon is that the course will be USA Track & Field certified, which means runners will be able to use the event to qualify for the 2013 Boston Marathon. There will also be a wheelchair division for both the full and half marathons.

Koga-Kennelly said runners from both the United States and the international running community have already registered for the race.

The registration fees at the present time for the full and half marathons are $70 and $65, respectively. Those fees will increase for the participants as the day of the race grows closer.

The Windermere Marathon Expo and Packet Pickup will be held from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. May 18 at the Spokane Convention Center. It will closely resemble the Bloomsday registration venue, only on a smaller scale. Koga-Kennelly said approximately 40 vendors have signed up so far to feature products. The Expo will be open to both participants and the public.

Koga-Kennelly said one of the attractions of the race is the myriad of amenities the participants will receive during the event.  She said each runner and walker will receive an attractive long-sleeve micro smooth race shirt.  She said they have been so popular in the past that participants have asked if they could buy extras following the race. They will also receive "blinged out" shining and spinning medals.

Something that most races don't give out is flowers. The Windermere Marathon will be different in that each finisher will be handed a long-stemmed lilac rose in honor of Spokane being the "Lilac City."

Also something that is not offered at most marathons is that each participant will receive a "Victory Stand" photo to remember their accomplishment. Keepsake acrylic awards will also be given to the top three males and females in each of the 5-year age groups.

Those interested in participating in either the Windermere Marathon or Half Marathon can register online at

Submitted photo
Windermere Marathon Directory Elaine Koga-Kennelly is no stranger to distance running.


Husband, Paul, and sons, Michael and Kevin

Number of marathons completed

Favorite marathon course
Boston Marathon

Favorite pre-race meal

Marathon director is no stranger to going the distance

By Jim Ryan
Splash Contributor

Some people who choose to run one 26.2-mile marathon might do so to give them something truly impressive to scratch off their bucket list, but for one area woman it was just a warm-up for things to come.

For Elaine Koga-Kennelly, who was born and raised in San Francisco and spent her entire career in and around the Bay area before retiring to Newman Lake, one marathon was a challenge but running 99 more was her goal.

Koga-Kennelly is the event and race director for next May's Windermere Marathon, set to kick off at Rocky Hill Park in Liberty Lake. Windermere would be hard-pressed to find a more marathon-tested individual to head its fifth annual event.

She started participating in marathons at the age of 39, which is relatively late in a runner's life. She viewed it as a way to diffuse the stress from her many years of holding high pressure financial management positions. A few of the more recent companies she helped guide included: controller of The Sports Club/LA - San Francisco, which was a national chain of 10 luxury sports and fitness complexes; and controller of Inc., a pre-IPO start-up company that provided a complete Internet-based outsourced purchasing solution for small- to medium-sized enterprises.

 "For 25 years, I was in executive management, but then I had a career change and become a real estate broker in California for four years," she said.

Running is not for everyone, Koga-Kennelly explained.

"I just found that I enjoyed it in many respects because I had pretty high stress, demanding positions, and I found that running was a really great stress reliever," she said. "I began running at 39, and then I started joining running clubs and became part of a number of them in the Bay area, including the Dolphin South End Running Club, the Pamakid Running Club and the San Francisco Hash House Harriers."

However, when her husband, Paul, decided to retire two years ago, they elected to sell their home in Palo Alto and move permanently to their lakeside summer home in Newman Lake.

"It was a matter of choosing," she said. "I think moving here was a good decision. If you're going to retire, the cost of living and the lifestyle and all of that makes it a good decision."

Having completed the first 99 of her marathons before moving to our area, Koga-Kennelly hit the century mark with the Missoula Marathon last year. Apparently she figured if 100 marathons was fun, 101 would be better, so she laced up her shoes once more and crossed the finish line in the Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon in Western Washington. As someone who has completed 100 marathons, she was eligible to join the 100 Marathon Club of North America. She presently belongs to the local Bloomsday Roadrunners Club and the Marathon Maniacs.

Her list of accomplishments is highlighted by her running in the Boston Marathon, marathons in 16 states, as well as in Paris, London, Victoria, B.C., and the Great Wall of China. She has also run five "Ultra Marathons," which are anything longer than 26 miles. Among her most challenging was a race where she ran for 12 hours straight.

She is proud of the fact that during one year, she and her husband, who is also a runner, participated in 13 marathons - two of them within six days of each other.

Since becoming the race and event director for the Windermere Marathon, Koga-Kennelly has found it difficult to keep up her training schedule, so now she and her husband have to settle for running in area 5K, 10K and half marathons.

After reaching her goal of 101 marathons, Koga-Kennelly decided to sit for the managing broker real estate license for the state of Washington. After passing the test and receiving her license, she was interviewing for a broker position with the local Windermere Real Estate office.

"I was chatting with the partner who was interviewing me, and I mentioned that I was on the board of directors for the city of San Francisco Marathon," she said. "In addition to which I was the race director and organizer of my own running organization, and I had organized a 5K run called the Half-Moon Turkey Trot."

After learning more about her running history, the interview took an unexpected turn and she was asked if she would join the Windermere Marathon team as the event director of the 2012 race. Just a month after that marathon, the race director stepped down and she was asked to take on the duel positions of race and event director.

She explained that the partners of the five Windermere Real Estate offices initially decided to supply the seed money to begin the Windermere Marathon in 2009, which is a fundraiser for the Windermere Foundation to help low-income and homeless families in the Spokane area.

Koga-Kennelly said the biggest challenge since taking over as event and race director has been the relocation of the starting site, which in 2013 will be at Rocky Hill Park in Liberty Lake.

"Anytime there is a change you will have some difficulties; I had recommended we change the start from Post Falls to Liberty Lake," she said. "That is a major change and has been a challenge, but fortunately for me, the city of Liberty Lake has embraced the idea that the Windermere Marathon will be running the first 7.6 miles through Liberty Lake and has rallied around the event. They have been 100 percent behind the marathon. It will bring a lot of attention and publicity to the city. It is very much a win-win situation for Liberty Lake and Windermere."

She singled out Liberty Lake Planning and Building Services Manager Amanda Tainio and Recreation Coordinator Michelle Griffin as particularly helpful.

According to Tainio, Koga-Kennelly is very well organized and enthusiastic about her involvement in the marathon.

"I believe it will be very well run because of the type of person Elaine is and her passion for it," said Tainio.

Griffin said she was first contacted by Koga-Kennelly to hold the marathon starting in Liberty Lake, and everyone with the city was thrilled.

"Our working relationship with her has just been a delight," said Griffin. "You can tell she has joy and passion for the event."