Runners from all 50 states and 22 countries descended on Seattle last weekend for the 7th annual Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle Marathon and Half-Marathon. In all, 17,267 runners participated in those two races plus an 8K run that was added this year.
About 30 miles to the east, not quite 700 runners competed in the 2nd annual Snoqualmie Valley Run in Carnation; it included a marathon (for this first time), half-marathon and 10K. These runners included me.
Why was I in Carnation instead of Seattle? Doing three long bicycle rides the past three weekends cut down my running time, and I wasn’t trained for a half-marathon. I wanted to do a shorter race. And I didn’t know that the Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle event added an 8K this year — I didn’t see it advertised. So I ran the Snoqualmie Valley 10K (with no regrets). (LATE ADD: I’m rethinking this because of course-measuring errors discovered late. Read on.)
But a bigger question to me is why any organizer who is trying to grow a race schedules it on the same day of what is generally Seattle’s biggest running event? I asked the organizers of the Snoqualmie Valley Run that when I picked up my race packet the day before.
Co-race director Porter Bratten told me the organizers targeted this date because they believe they can build a sizable participation at the expense of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle event. They believe runners will increasingly grow disenchanted with the pricing and commercialism of nationwide marathon/half series and will seek an alternative.
Can Snoqualmie Valley Run continue on this date?
The Rock ‘n’ Roll event aspires to get 20,000 or more participants each year, and indeed must get a strong turnout to pencil out its expenses — including rock bands/musical acts such as Mudhoney and others, at the finish line and at a dozen or so spots along the route. When it managed only 14,500 at last year’s race, which also happened to be the first year of the Snoqualmie Valley Run, I could see Bratten’s thinking.
However, with Rock ‘n’ Roll climbing back over 17,000 participants this year, it now seems like an uphill fight for the Snoqualmie Valley Run to grow its race. Moreover, now that it has added its own marathon, bringing extra costs for securing the longer course, providing drinks at aid stations, etc., it is indeed forced to increase its participation. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it look for a new date next year.
All this said, the Snoqualmie Valley Run event was very, very well-organized and well-run. It had all the nice touches of cool event — timing chips, a day-before packet pickup, a well-marked course, abundant porta-potties, a results booth with PCs, finishers’ medals, age-group winners’ awards, food and beverages at the finish line, online results and pictures, and … a beer garden.
Congrats to Bratten and the other organizers for a job well-done. They also organize the Lake Sammamish Half Marathon in March, the Snohomish River Run in October, and four other races — so they know what they are doing. (LATE ADD: I may want to retract that comment.) Good luck to them in trying to grow this event in the years ahead.
(LATE ADD: Today, six days after the race, the organizers emailed all participants and told us the courses for the 10K and half-marathon were measured and marked incorrectly. In other words, the courses were “a wee bit shorter” than the 6.2 miles and 13.1 miles they were supposed to be. They didn’t say how much shorter, or how they discovered the error. Needless to say, I am irritated. But I don’t want to rewrite this entire post.)
I inched closer to a pre-surgery time
As for my race in Carnation, it went better than expected. I got first-place in my age group, but that was insignificant, since there were very few runners in my age group.
A bigger deal was my time of 1:13:47 (11:54 per mile), nine minutes faster than a year ago (1:22:33) and my fastest post-surgery 10K. (LATE ADD: This probably doesn’t count anymore.) I even inched a bit closer to my worst pre-surgery time of 1:05:46 in 2010 (Shore Run). My 10K is PR is 51:44 in 2004. Full results are here.
I hardly felt blazing fast. I labored through a section of the course with sharp rocks and loose gravel, hoping my bad ankle wouldn’t come down wrong. I got passed down the stretch by half-marathon runners who started a half-hour earlier. But, a year ago I lost time misjudging where the turnaround point was, and this year I successfully navigated the turn. And I believe I ran the second 5K faster than the first 5K.
The course was an out-and-back, run entirely on the narrow, unpaved, but relatively shady Snoqualmie Valley Trail heading south and back from Carnation’s Tolt MacDonald Park. For the 10K, you ran 3.1 miles down and 3.1 back. The half-marathon went 6.55 miles down and 6.55 back. The marathon course was a built more complicated, but for the most part, you ran on the trail all the way to Fall City and back.
Marathon seems long and lonely
I can’t imagine running this marathon — it seems like a long and lonely jaunt through woods and farmland. You might end up miles behind the next runner. The inaugural marathon race had 38 finishers, with runners’ times spread between 3:23 and 6:32. In doing my 21 marathons, I’ve often fallen back some distance away from other runners — but it wasn’t so bad if I was running through a community with people watching or at least in the area.
While the marathon had 38 finishers, the half had 400 and the 10K, as previously mentioned, 210. Just for comparison, the Rock ‘n’ Roll event had the same half-marathon bulge — 2,065 did the marathon, 14,030 did the half and 1,172 did the 8K. For many years, the half-marathon has been the No. 1 distance nationally for finishers, and that appears to be continuing.
So I probably won’t do the Snoqualmie Valley Marathon, but I may do the half. And I enjoyed doing the 10K two years in a row. (LATE ADD: I’m rethinking this.)
What’s next? I am signed up for two of my favorite July events — the Tour de Peaks bicycle ride on July 18 and the Michelob Ultra Seafair Pirate 8K Run (formerly the Seafair Torchlight Run) on July 25. Until then, I look forward to some sleeping in on weekends.
Thanks for reading. Till next time.