Renton is the beloved home of the Seattle Seahawks, so it’s fitting that the annual Seahawks 12K Run (with a 5K too) is held there each April. But the event, now in its sixth year, sold out at 12,000 participants last Sunday (April 19) and is increasingly taxing the city’s arterials and downtown parking lots.
Too many cars and too many people at one time are trying to get in and out of this lakeside community of 91,000, paralyzing the too few available access points.
If it sounds like I’m complaining about my 45-minute wait in traffic to get about two miles from Interstate 405 to the Fry’s parking lot near the Renton Landing for the race, so be it. I had about a seven-mile drive from my house near Factoria to that parking lot, and it took more than an hour, going the only way I could.
As a result, I was incredibly late for the 9 a.m. start of the 12K. I got to the starting line just in time for the 9:20 a.m. start of the 5K. So I started that race, and resigned myself to just doing the 5K. But at the half-mile mark, I heard a course marshal shout, “5K runners go straight, 12K runners go to the left.” So I switched back to my original plan and went left (as did several other late-starters).
Once I got squared away doing the 12K — the first time I’ve done the longer race here after running the 5K the last two years — I had an enjoyable run. It was great seeing the Seahawk spirit among the 5,000 12K runners mostly decked out in blue and green, and running around the Seahawks headquarters and practice facility, where a few players posed for pictures and selfies with the runners.
But I still came away feeling that this event is only going to grow more, given the Seahawks’ tremendous success and brand equity, and that it may soon become not worth the hassle. Which is a shame. About 15,000 runners and spectators descended on an area not fit to handle that many people and cars. I also heard from a 5K participant that the course for that race through downtown, which had 4,500 finishers, was elbow-to-elbow cramped and unpleasant.
I have no good suggestions beyond moving the event out of Renton. Perhaps a 12K route from the north (such as, yes, Factoria) running down and around the Seahawks headquarters is an option. Located near the junction of I-405 and I-90, Factoria has many more access points and likely ample parking on a Sunday morning.
No, no Factoria merchant asked me to pitch their location. It would be hard, all things considered, to move the event out of Renton. We’ll see if there are changes made by the race organizers next year to make it easier and less stressful to take part.
Now, about the race itself
As I said, the race itself was a blast. After having run only the 5K twice at this event, it was interesting to see just how many people do the 12K — there were 4,951 finishers for the 12K and 4,497 finishers for the 5K. (The rest of those 12,000 people who signed up either did the Kids’ Dash, were non-finishers, or were no-shows.)
I was also happy to see the finishers’ medals given out, the booth near the finish line that provided runners’ times, the numbers of dogs that ran in Seahawks outfits, and the overall bustle of food booths, music, pictures with the SeaGals, and other fun post-race activities in The Landing parking lot. Traffic and parking problems aside, it is a cool event.
It also was the first 12K (7.45 miles) I’ve run that was not the 12Ks of Christmas, a December run in Kirkland that I’ve done 10 times. My PR for that event is 1:06:57 in 2005, but my post-surgery best time was last year’s 1:40:40.
I was happy to beat that post-surgery best by clocking 1:39:32.9 in Sunday’s run, on what is a slightly flatter course. Full results are here. It was my 179th road run overall.
The 12K course has you do a short loop through downtown Renton, then venture north on Lake Washington Boulevard to the Seahawks headquarters. After circling the headquarters building and passing by the lush, green outdoor practice field (which I’d never seen before from the inside), you head back on the boulevard along Lake Washington and finish in front of the LA Fitness building at The Landing.
Is this now the area’s biggest race?
If anywhere near 12,000 people really did this race last Sunday, that beats the 10,000 that turned out for this year’s St. Patrick’s Day Dash on March 15, typically the Seattle area’s biggest race. However, the rain and cold hurt the turnout for that 5K event, which often gets as many as 13,000 participants. And the Seahawks 12K/5K Run, on the other hand, got a big boost from last Sunday being warm and sunny, with temperatures approaching 70.
But make no mistake, with more great years by the Seahawks, this event is a sure bet to become consistently the area’s biggest. And I seriously doubt that it would ever be moved out of Renton.
So I better leave early next time. Maybe even get a hotel room near the starting line.
Congrats to my fellow finishers
Many friends also did this run last Sunday. Congrats to Mark and Tyra Nelson, Cindy Mueller and Boyd Massie who ran the 12K, and Jaime Massie and Holly Harrison, who did the 5K. Sorry that it was so crowded that I didn’t see any of you there!
Congrats also to the male friend who yelled to me between Miles 2 and 3. I wasn’t wearing my glasses and couldn’t tell who you were. But thanks for the call out!
And a special congrats to running friend Larissa Martin Ralph, who completed another Boston Marathon the day after the Seahawks Run (her 28th marathon). Nice job, Larissa!
I am resting my ankle a bit and skipping this weekend’s races. I’ll likely do the 5K at the Mother’s Day Half-Marathon in Kirkland May 10, and then focus on bicycling to prepare for the 7 Hills of Kirkland metric century and the Flying Wheels Summer Century in late May.
Thanks for reading! Till next time.