Black and white photo of a man running in a crowd of spectators in 1913.

Mountain Runners: America’s First Endurance Race and its Legacy Today

May 27, 2023 - September 10, 2023

Old City Hall

On Thursday, August 9, 1911, as the hour of 10:00 p.m. fast approached, twenty-thousand spectators swarmed the streets of Bellingham to witness fourteen contestants embark on the first recorded mountain adventure race in American history. Competitors raced from the bay city at outrageous speeds aboard stripped-down automobiles and an old Iron Horse toward two competing trailheads at the foot of Mount Baker. Disembarking from their contrivances, they ran in darkness through dense forest, on snow and ice fields, over glaciers and crevasses, against savage storms and whiteout conditions to the 10,781-foot summit and back again. All for a cash prize in gold.

No one could have predicted a year earlier that the opening of the Mount Baker wilderness to tourism, development, and potential national park status would depend in part, on the outcome of a race involving loggers, laborers, coal miners and packers, a student, a timber-cruiser, a wrestler, a poultry breeder, and a bedspring maker.

The Whatcom Museum celebrates both the 110th anniversary of the last Mount Baker Marathon race (1911-1913) and the 50th anniversary of the present Ski to Sea race (1973-2023). On exhibition are numerous images spanning the marathon and Ski to Sea years, as well as film, sound recordings, and memorabilia.

Watch the movie The Mountain Runners, at the Pickford Film Center on Wed., May 24, 6pm. The film tells the story of the Mount Baker Marathon, America’s first mountain endurance/adventure foot race. More info at

The Whatcom Museum acknowledges that we gather on the traditional territory of the Lhaq’temish – Lummi People – and the Nuxwsá7aq – Nooksack People – who have lived in the Coast Salish region from time immemorial. The Museum honors our relationship with all of our Coast Salish neighbors and our shared responsibilities to their homeland where we all reside today.