The Bellingham Bay Marathon does not have the tag as the World’s Toughest Marathon, but on Sunday, Sept. 25, the 443 finishers of the fifth annual race could have made a good argument for the title.

On a day when the wind was howling off the bay at gale-force intensity, former Griz runner and current volunteer assistant tennis coach Collin Fehr placed second in his first career marathon, running a 2:38:21.

“When we got there that morning, the wind was already howling,” Fehr recalled this week. “I went in hoping to run around 2:30, which I felt was doable based on my training runs, but I knew with those conditions that it wouldn’t be a super-fast day.”

Fehr ran 1:16:13 for the first half, then 1:22:08 for the second half, when the hills of Bellingham and a constant headwind over the closing miles took their toll on Fehr’s goal and mindset.

“I was on pace through mile 21, and then the end of the race gets so technical with the hills. Then going into the wind and running by yourself, the last four miles were torturous.

“I lost a little bit of my competitive edge at the end. With those conditions I had to fight just to finish the race.”

Compared to the other runners making up the race’s top 10, Fehr battled the conditions better than most. The seventh-place runner was 31 minutes slower over the second half of the course, the fifth-place finisher 23 minutes slower.

On average the top 10 were over 12 minutes slower through the second half of the course.

Hardly bothered by the conditions was winner Uli Steidl, who set a course record with a time of 2:31:35. An assistant cross country and track coach at Seattle University and eight-time winner of the Seattle Marathon, Steidl had splits of 1:14:52 and 1:16:43.

Fehr is a 2006 graduate of Corvallis (Mont.) High and graduated in May with a degree in health and human performance after a tortuous collegiate athletic career.

He spent two years playing basketball at Montana Tech, competed for the Griz tennis team in 2008-09 and ran for the UM cross country and track teams his final two years at Montana.

Now he’s pursuing a master’s degree in exercise science while working with the UM men’s and women’s tennis programs.

“I’d like to end up in a tennis coaching position, hopefully at the college level,” Fehr says. “I’ve been able to experience a wide scope of coaching personalities and styles (in my collegiate career). Now I’m just trying to add more perspectives.

“I’m studying exercise science because I want to use that knowledge to coach my athletes better. At the physiological level I want to make sure their bodies are in the optimal position to perform at their best.”

But it won’t be all books and coaching for Fehr, who still has an abundance of running jones after a two-year cross country and track career marked more by injury than runner’s highs.

“The marathon definitely fits my personality,” he says. “The type of training I think fits me the best.

“But I’m still interested in racing the shorter events to see how fast I can go. I don’t think I even scratched the surface of my potential for the shorter events during track, because I was injured too much to really see what I could do.”

Montana Sports Information  --