Discover Mukilteo had the opportunity to talk to Penny Kellam, Race Director, for the Run-A-Muk about the race, running, volunteering, and how she got started promoting events. The Run-A-Muk is being held this year on Sat August 27, 2022. There is still time to sign up if you’re interested.
DM: When did you start running?
PK: I started running in 2008 after randomly signing up for a half marathon. Mind you I’d never even thought about running before that but I jumped in with both feet and found a training program to get me started on the right track. That half is still one of my very favorite running memories!
DM: How did you get started promoting running events?
PK: After running in a small, very hands-on, grassroots type of half marathon in 2009 it occurred to me that I could probably do something similar in my own community. I contacted the organizer who generously shared her expertise with me and the Inspiring Hope Run was born in May of the next year. Shortly thereafter I completed the required education to earn the title of “RRCA Certified Race Director” and then I went on to create and direct several more charity-focused 5k and 10k events, each benefiting a different charity partner.
DM: How long have you been managing the Run-A-Muk?
PK: In 2013 I was asked by the city if I’d be willing to produce Run A Muk, and of course, I said yes! I was super excited to take it to the next level and watched it grow from around 100 participants to a peak of 748 participants over the next four years. The festival took Run A Muk in a different direction for the next two years, ultimately deciding to cancel it as participation declined during that period. I couldn’t sit by and let that happen. I love this event, and I think it’s a really important part of not only the Lighthouse Festival but also of our community. I offered my services again in 2019, and I’m happy to say that Run A Muk is once again growing. We live in a beautiful place, and getting to share that with folks from outside the immediate area makes me so happy. And I love watching friends and neighbors greet each other as we come together for race day.
DM: Is there an achievement or contribution you are most proud of, and why?
PK: In 2000 I walked my very first Breast Cancer 3 Day event. The 3 Day is a 60-mile walk over three days that benefits the Komen Foundation. To participate, each walker raises $2300. That money helps support those fighting breast cancer while actively funding the pursuit of a cure. Since then, I’ve completed nearly 40 3 Day walks, with numbers 40 and 41 scheduled for September and November of this year. I also proudly captain a 3 Day team of “Kindred Spirits.” Together my Kindred Spirits have raised over $3.6 million to help fund the fight against breast cancer. That number completely blows my mind. Kindred Spirits is so much more than just a team, though. We are truly a family, and I’m honored that these amazing people are part of my life. If you’ve ever walked or ran one of my events, it’s likely that you’ve met some of them as they often volunteer for me. Just look for the folks with the biggest smiles!
DM: What is your favorite place in Mukilteo to visit and why?
PK: Pick a beach, any beach! We live in a drop-dead gorgeous location with amazing access to the water. Saltwater has always called to me, and the beach is definitely one of my happy places!
DM: Do you have a favorite book, website, or podcast, and why?
PK: I have pretty eclectic tastes. I usually have two or three different books going at any given time, and their subject matter likely ranges from a fluff beach read to non-fiction and everything in between. I’ve been a voracious reader since I was a little girl. I love the places books can take me and the experiences they can give me.
DM: If you could have dinner with someone (alive or dead, real or fictional), who would it be and why?
PK: I’ve never liked this question and my answer is always the same. I would love to have dinner with my deceased son, Dad or Grandpa just one more time.
DM: What do you think surprises people about you?
PK: I turned to social media to crowdsource this answer for you because I have no idea! LOL. Here are some of the highlights:
“Your impeccable attention to detail and organization skills for large groups of people, some of whom you’ve never met, was the first thing that surprised me when I first met you.”
“Penny you continue to surprise me with your visions & your plan to make that vision a reality! You are also very diverse. Your painting, catering & your charcuterie classes for example! You even make your down time productive! Also you are always thinking of how what you do can benefit others.”
“That you actually sleep (I assume) with all the things you do!”
“I was surprised when you started offering art classes. For someone who knew you from walking / running events I knew you were super organized and creative but being so artistic was a new part of you I hadn’t known about before!”
“Your strength. You have been hit by many blows, are active in so many things, and keep on keeping on through it all.”
DM: What were the biggest challenges you faced with the Run-A-Muk?
PK: In 2019 when I stepped back into my role with Run A Muk, my goal was to grow the event back to the size it had been when I had previously managed it – about 625 participants each year. 2019 took a sizeable step towards that goal, and then Covid happened. Obviously, in 2020 we did not hold a race, and 2021 had its own set of challenges as we navigated an uncertain path to race day. We are inching our way closer to “normal” now, and I’m once again turning my attention to growing Run A Muk back to its previous size. It’s an aggressive goal, but it’s one I’m confident we can reach in the next couple of years. Run A Muk has so much going for it. It’s a fun, family-friendly event that welcomes athletes of all levels. We have a gorgeous Start/Finish area, and our new route showcases everything I love about Mukilteo. Our volunteers are friendly, and we have great community support. Toss in an awesome finisher’s medal, and it’s the perfect setup for us to meet and then exceed our goals! I’m always looking for people to be a part of this event – either as a participant or as a volunteer. The more, the merrier! www.runamuk.info
DM: What causes are you passionate about?
PK: I tend to live by the quote, “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” There are a lot of things I can’t do, but there are so many more that I can do that can help others. That’s why you’ll find me involved in all kinds of different roles in all kinds of different places. Count me in to organize the Neighborhood Block Party or to help gather items for one of our local service charities. Of course, you’ll find me walking in the Breast Cancer 3 Day events, but you’ll also find me as the MukFest pirate “Penny Dreadful” in the Festival parade. I’m part of the Snohomish County Medical Reserve Corp and happily helped at Covid vaccination clinics as well as helped folks “Find A Covid Shot WA” in a volunteer role with the Facebook group that helped in the early days of vaccination appointments. My company, Sunshine Productions, produces several charity-focused Snohomish County races each year with 100% of the profits, including my labor, benefiting charity partners. The list goes on but the short version is that if I’m not spending time with my family or grabbing a quiet moment in my backyard sanctuary after work then I’m likely busy organizing something that will ultimately benefit someone else. I am fortunate to have a busy, crazy, beautiful life and I am forever grateful for everything and everyone that got me here, even the ugly stuff!
DM: Are you married? What is your spouse’s name?
PK: My husband Jeff is a Mukilteo native. We just celebrated 32 years together this month.
DM: Do you have children? What are their names and ages?
PK: My oldest son Sean was 22 when he was killed in a traffic accident in 2008. My youngest son Jason and his partner Elisha are parents to my “perfect grandchildren” Jakob 17, Taylin 10 and Jordyn 5.
DM: What kind of pets do you have, if any? What are their names?
PK: I am owned by two flat-coated retrievers – Murphy and Max. Flat coats are known as the “Peter Pan of the dog world” because they simply never grow up. My two goofballs are doing their best to live up to that title!