Runners raise money for Mongolian students

This is the first year the Windhorse Half Marathon partnered the Blue Sky Education Project with the Bellingham Sister City Association to raise money for education in Mongolia.
The 13.1-mile half marathon, held on Saturday, July 19, began and ended at Fairhaven Park in Bellingham.
“[The Windhorse Half Marathon] is a really low-key race,” race coordinator Cami Ostman said. “It starts at Fairhaven Park. They head out on the trail and they turn around at roughly 6 1/2 miles and come back.”
Mark Cook, a United States Navy Chaplain and University of Washington alumnus, finished first overall with a time of 1:32.49, just 1 minute and 12 seconds off the race record set in 2012 by Bryan Marenstein and Chris Bates.
“I love it when races have charities and raise awareness for good causes,” Cook said. “I was in Afghanistan in March and April and just saw firsthand how other places in the world need all the help they can get.”
This race was designed by the Blue Sky Education Project to raise money for underprivileged children in Tsetserleg, Mongolia to attend school, which is one of Bellingham’s sister cities, Ostman said.
“While education is free for a lot of Mongolians, you have to have uniforms and school supplies,” Ostman said. “Sometimes those kinds of things can actually prevent people from getting an education.”
Iggy Munkhuu, Western alumna and former resident of Mongolia, said the money the BSEP raises even the smallest amount helps the kids get supplies needed for their education.
“If they don’t have those supplies they’re not going to school and they won’t have an education,” Munkhuu said. “Enabling their future, that’s an amazing thing.”
To participate in the race, runners paid a $30 fee or $35 if they signed up on race day, Ostman said.
This year was the first year that the Blue Sky Education Project officially partnered with the Bellingham Sister City Association to host the race, Ostman said.
“In the past they were definitely there supporting us,” Ostman said. “This year we are actually splitting the funds between them and the Blue Sky Education Project.”
The BSCA promotes understanding between international cultures and develops grassroots relationships between individuals at the municipal level, race coordinator Ross Grier said.
Grier said that the BSCA is essentially a world peace movement, events like the Windhorse Half Marathon move us closer to world peace.
The two main projects that the BSEP runs are the student sponsorship program and the teacher education program, Smith said.
Through the teacher education program, BSEP gives students full ride scholarships to attend college for a teaching degree, Smith said.
“I was born and raised in Mongolia and I can see that’s one of the main things that can stop poverty and help people to change their lives—education,” Smith said.
Currently, there are approximately 120 children in Mongolia benefiting from the student sponsorship program in five rural towns, Smith said.
This year’s half marathon was a success, despite the rainy weather, Ostman said.
“We had several first time half mar athon runners,” Ostman said. “That is always very fun to see people finish their first ever half marathon.”
Seventy-four runners and two dogs completed the 4th annual Windhorse Half Marathon. The groups are still raising funds and discussing where exactly the money will go, Ostman said.


Windhorse Marathon
Water cup grab: Brian Barry grabs a cup of water without stopping at the halfway point, approximately 7 miles from the starting line. The Windhorse Half Marathon's course begins and ends at Fairhaven Park, with the turnaround point in the Clayton Beach parking lot. // Photo by Melissa McDonough


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