Brandon Laan, from Race Roster, goes to extreme lengths to win Apple Pie at PeaceHealth AppleTree Marathon Festival

September 20, 2019

Stories that inspire and make you shake your head

Vancouver, WA – When Brandon Laan boarded his flight in London Ontario Canada to travel to Vancovuer WA to participate in the 2nd Annual PeaceHealth AppleTree Marathon Festival, he had no idea that the travel would be the hardest part of his race weekend. Brandon experienced a number of flight delays which would have caused him to miss the start of the race. He flew from London to Toronto and then Toronto to Vancouver BC. Then, the only way to make the race start was to rent a car, drive to Seattle and then take the connecting flight to Portland. He landed at PDX Airport at 7am, rented an Uber and was seen running down Officer’s Row 20 minutes prior to the 8am race start pulling his suitcase and desperately looking for Packet Pickup so he could get his Bib and get to the starting line. He managed to quickly change in the expo field and made it with only a few minutes to spare and lined up on the starting line having traveled all night with no sleep. Brandon went on to win the PeaceHealth AppleTree Half Marathon race averaging a 5:33 pace. Now that is someone who is committed to pushing his limits, reaching for his best and overcoming any obstacles. He was awarded a home-baked apple pie baked by Mayor Anne Mcenerny-Ogle and definitely earned that prize! Dan Gentiletook home the Silver and Chris McGinnis, local KGW newsman, raced and finished with an impressive 3rd place overall.

Liz Anjos took home the first place female for the Half Marathon with an impressive 6 minute lead. The women’s division was not free from drama with one athlete being disqualified and stripped of her second place finish for riding her bike throughout most of the course rather than running the distance. Cheyenne Watts, the true 2nd place finisher, was then officially awarded the Silver medal and Gabriela Gadeva took home the bronze.

A total of 1447 athletes from 7 countries and 26 states joined Brandon on the starting line to conquer the Boston-qualifying Marathon, Half Marathon and 5K. Athletes of all ages from toddlers to athletes in their 80s tackled the “Run through History” and enjoyed views of Fort Vancouver, Officer’s Row, Pearson Airport, the new waterfront development and Columbia River Waterfront trail.

Matthew Hommel chose the Boston-qualiftying PeaceHealth AppleTree Marathon as his first marathon race ever. As he took his place on the starting line never in his wildest dreams would he imagine that he would be taking home the gold, let alone with an impressive 11 minute lead over the 2nd place athlete. Ironically, Erica Bettac, also tackling the marathon distance for the first time, took home the Gold for the female marathon division. It was a great day for both of these rookies. Adam Klunzinger and Zachary Dulabon took home 2nd and 3rd and Della Giles and Kristin LeGrand took home the 2nd and 3rd place female awards.

On Saturday night for the 5K race, athletes were treated to sunshine, a perfect evening and 254 kids raced the 5K for free. Sherri McMillan, race director, is “Honored to be able to get kids off their electronic devices and learn that being healthy and active can be fun.”

Lining up with the kids and all weekend were a number of police officers dressed in full uniform running to raise funds for Police Activities League (PAL) to help support positive relationships between cops and kids in our community. McMillan joked “Our new motto is ‘Running with the police is far better than running from them!” The efforts of the PAL supporters definitely paid off and $30,000 was raised which will help a lot of youth in our community. The event also raised $1500 for Friends of the Fort for a total of nearly $40,000 raised for local schools, clubs, teams and non-profits.

The youth prevailed at the 5K with Carter Gorczyca and Alexis Leone, both 13, taking home the wins and setting new course records.

The Sunday athletes racing the Marathon and Half Marathon weren’t so lucky with the weather. It poured down rain all day but the athletes overcame and made their way to the finish line carrying at least a few extra pounds of water weight sloshing in their shoes and gear. McMillan reports “The weather couldn’t have been that bad though because 5 of our 6 course records were broken this weekend! Maybe the rain doesn’t just build character but makes you faster too!”

Full Results can be found here.

Here is a link to some of our photographers’ favorite photos. .

About Why Racing Events:

Why Racing Events is a multi-sport event management organization that offers athletes of all ages and abilities, from the elite level to the back-of-the-packers, the chance to successfully complete a racing event. They host a series of events every year from March to October, including children’s races, fun runs, half marathons, marathons, duathlons and triathlons. They are committed to providing a positive experience to everyone involved while raising awareness and funds for important community causes. Find out more information about Why Racing Events at