Gina Chupka started the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013, but never got the chance to complete her goal of running a marathon in all 50 states. Terrorism got in the way. But Chupka, a chemist from Golden, Colorado, pounded 50 miles of trail, pavement and mud in the 2013 Rainier-to-Ruston Ultra and Relay (R2R) on June 1st to accomplish another feat: Her first ultra. Boston will have to wait another year, but Chupka’s run was a top highlight of the 11th Annual R2R on June 1st, National Trails Day. This year’s event attracted 994 entrants and a record 93 ultra runners. There were no cheering crowds when Chupka crossed the finish line on Tacoma’s Ruston Way. In fact, her day’s journey from the foothills of Mount Rainier to Commencement Bay took nearly 12 hours. She struggled across the finish line only eight minutes before the race was to officially shut down at 7 p.m. When race director Richard Pasquier put the finisher’s medal around her neck and handed her the ceremonial railroad spike, she broke into tears and embraced Pasquier with a crushing hug. As she regained her breath, she told Pasquier her husband and parents had been waiting for her in a Boston restaurant when one of the explosions showered them with glass. “It was quite an accomplishment for her, and quite the emotional experience,” Pasquier recalled later. Chupka, whose age is “over 35,” now has done 53 marathons in 49 states. Last year she ran 24 marathons in 24 states. Pasquier, directing his first R2R, told another story that captures the essence of the R2R. Driving home long after the end of the race, volunteer John Downs spotted two women runners slowly making their way toward Ruston Way. He alerted Pasquier, who had already stopped in his car to give two other late finishers their medals and spikes. The two women were the Bondar sisters, Linda and Janice, 59 and 62 years old. They were stunned and immensely grateful to find Pasquier waiting with medals and spikes when they reached the finish at 8:52 p.m. By all accounts, the 2013 R2R was a great success. The weather was excellent, there were no reports of serious injury, and the addition of a beer garden at the finish line was hugely popular. Every ultra runner was treated to a free beer. A team from Sumner won the first ‘Mayor’s Cup’ in a relay competition among cities on the route. Allen Hughes won the ‘Founder’s Award’ for organizing effective radio communications along the race route. The worst glitch was a computer problem that prevented accurate time results. Pasquier vowed he would make sure that this won’t happen next year. The results were posted two days later on the R2R website. Pasquier praised the work of more than 125 volunteers. “They really pulled through to make it all happen,” he said. Pasquier is already at work planning the Foothills Rails-to-Trails Coalition’s second half-marathon from Buckley to Orting to be held on July 27, 2013.
Those wishing to participate in the half-marathon may do so by visiting the following Website to sign up: http://www.rainiertoruston.com/FoothillsBOHalf.html