It’s that time of year again – the sun is shining and we Pacific Northwesterners emerge from our dwellings to spend every possible second outside. It’s the time when Bellinghamsters and greater Whatcom County residents alike lace up their running shoes, grab their paddles, ready their bikes and venture into the great wild spaces of Whatcom County.

The race is a great way to experience the beauty of Bellingham Bay. Photo credit: Brandon Sawaya.

The 17th annual Bellingham Traverse relay race takes place on Saturday Sept. 15. This is a fantastic opportunity to get involved in all of these activities, while soaking up those last crucial minutes of sun before the season ends.

Todd Elsworth, co-founder and executive director of Recreation Northwest, started the Traverse in 2002. The relay race raises money for the environmental community and brings awareness to the life cycle of local wild salmon.

A unique part of the race is an option to choose between team (Chum), tandem (Coho) or solo (Chinook) race formats, appropriately named after different types of salmon.

The race is open to families, single participants and local businesses. In fact, company teams have a lengthy history with the Bellingham Traverse and many of the race’s sponsors have teams competing in the adventure.

We sat down with four Bellingham Traverse company teams to find out why they participate, hear their favorite memories of the event and discover what they’re most looking forward to this year.

Village Books Company Team

Racers bike down the 18-mile road bike section of the Bellingham Traverse Multi-Sport Race. Photo credit: Brandon Sawaya.

The Village Books company team has competed in the Bellingham Traverse for the last four years and never has a problem finding enough eager competitors. With a large and engaged staff, they always have a squad ready to tackle the course.

Owner Paul Hanson says his favorite Bellingham Traverse memory was when he raced the mountain bike leg, competing against Village Book’s events coordinator, who happened to be on another team. He wished her good luck in the race, thinking he would win, but she immediately blew past him and gave him a nice little slap on the butt before finishing out her leg before him.

“It’s all about having fun,” Paul says as he recalls the story with a laugh. “It feels great at the end to finish with everyone and hear them say your company’s name.”

YMCA Company Team

Tammy Bennett of the YMCA team runs on the Greenways portion of the 2017 Bellingham Traverse course. Photo credit: Brandon Sawaya.

Perhaps better known by their self-proclaimed nickname, “The Department of Fun,” Healthy Living Director Tammy Bennett and the YMCA team want it clear: their team has the most fun.

That fun is on full display when they cross the finish line. A fundamental aspect of the Bellingham Traverse is that teams cross the finish line together. The Department of Fun kicks it up another notch, donning costumes right before their turn to cross.

Last year, they dressed as cowboys and each rode past the finish line on a stick horse. Tammy says they’re looking forward to their costumes this year, but she won’t ruin the surprise. She says you have to attend the race to see for yourself.

Coastal Insurance Company Team

Andrew Olive of Coastal Insurance mountain bikes down the 2017 Bellingham Traverse course. Photo credit: Brandon Sawaya.

Andrew Olive of Coastal Insurance has been participating in the Bellingham Traverse for years, but this year he’ll have a different role: organizer. Andrew will volunteer at the run/bike transition zone, while the all-women’s Coastal Insurance company team competes. The group also competed last year, made up of Andrew’s wife, his business partner Rachel, Rachel’s two daughters and one of Rachel and Andrew’s clients.

Andrew is looking forward to the day itself and the after-party that ensues at Boundary Bay Brewery. “The Traverse is great in that it brings a ton of people together,” he says. “It’s lots of fun. You’re racing, obviously, but at the same time it isn’t taken too seriously. There’s just a lot of fun and excitement.”

Boundary Bay Company Team

Team Boundary Bay heads toward the finish line in the 2017 Bellingham Traverse. Photo credit: Brandon Sawaya.

Boundary Bay is an important part of the Bellingham Traverse, as a sponsor who marks the finish line and hosts the after party. They’ve been a sponsor since the beginning, but it wasn’t until five years ago that they put together a company team.

Operations manager Casey Diggs says race day is all about having fun and finally getting that victory beer after you cross the finish line. Casey has done all legs of the race, as he used to participate solo, and his favorite is the trail run.

“I think the great thing about the Bellingham Traverse is there isn’t a lot of pressure,” he says. “Everyone is encouraging each other to finish and then we all come back to Boundary to have a good time.”

The Bellingham Traverse relay race takes place on Saturday Sept. 15 and offers great benefits for local businesses wishing to set up a company team. Company teams are highlighted both regionally and locally across the Pacific Northwest using Recreation Northwest’s company team multi-media promotion. For more information, contact Todd Elsworth at


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