2016 Valentine’s Day Dash 5K: Low turnout or ebb in the local running boom?

The Valentine's Day Dash always brings out some fun costumes.

The Valentine’s Day Dash always brings out some fun costumes. Photos by James Taylor

For another year, I was surrounded for a half-hour mostly by sweating, panting women. It was Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14. And this was the Valentine’s Day Dash 5K, where women participants outnumber men by about 2-to-1.

However, the more noticeable thing about this year’s festive race at Seattle’s Green Lake Park was that fewer women and men, overall, participated. Only 803 people finished the race, a 50 percent drop from the 1,605 in 2015. There were 1,286 finishers in 2014, 2,424 in 2013 and 2,362 in 2012.

The Allytics team: Me, C. Hayley Halstead, Sarah Pevey, and RJ Ricker.

The Allytics team: Me, C. Hayley Halstead, Sarah Pevey, and RJ Ricker.

It’s hard to say that this slide is any more than an aberration, though. And since this blog is a labor of love, I’m not going to interview any local race experts to get more insights. Sorry.

But the Resolution Run 5K on January 1 also is trending down in participation in recent years, as are some other races. I’m wondering if the sheer proliferation of Puget Sound-area running events in recent years is the culprit, with newer races like the Hot Chocolate 15K/5K in early March stealing runners from more established events like the Valentine’s Day Dash (now in its 11th year).

Stay tuned; I will monitor this going forward in 2016 to see if there is a trend.

64% women in this run, including 75% from Allytics

Anyhow, this was my ninth Valentine’s Day Dash — at least that’s how many of the event shirts (either white, brown, red, black, or this year’s yellow) that I can find in my drawers.

My former Zones teammates: Jennifer Winchester, Karly Simmons, and Jaime Massie

My former Zones teammates: Jennifer Winchester, Karly Simmons, and Jaime Massie

And I was joined this past Sunday by three women I work with at Allytics, and also by three other women I previously worked with at Zones. Fortunately, I was able to keep up with most of them. We all enjoyed a brisk run in overcast but mostly dry weather; it threatened to rain, but didn’t.

Of the 803 who finished the race, 511 were women and 291 were men (one runner could not be identified), meaning 64 percent women. Women have been fueling the running boom for a decade now. But this race is especially lopsided. And the gender disparity has been even greater in previous years — 71 percent women in 2013 and 70 percent in 2014. It’s clear that this annual race, more than any of the dozen or more others that I do each year, is owned by women.

Ah, but who’s counting? I can deal with these odds.


It’s about time I crossed …

Glad to have Allytics colleagues RJ Ricker, Sarah Pevey and C. Hayley Halstead join me again Sunday (RJ and Sarah also did the Polar Bear version of Resolution Run Jan. 1). All know now that I am as slow as advertised, and they will need to wait for me at the finish line.

My former Zones colleagues Jaime Massie (now at REI), Karly Simmons (at DataSphere Technologies), and Jennifer Winchester (at Boeing) already knew that. It was fun to run into them at the starting line.

Course bottlenecks slow most runners’ times


A big smile as Hayley (right) crosses in 38:13 in what may be her first 5K

This race is a simple loop around Green Lake — mostly the streets that border the lake. The course is flat, but there is a section of it where runners cross onto the inner trail around the lake, and back out to the street. The half-mile inner loop portion is narrow, and there are bottlenecks getting on and off of it, slowing everyone’s time.

The Valentine’s Day Dash originally was run on the 2.8-mile inner trail, with a spur near the 2-mile mark to bring it to the 5K distance. But that spur, a short hairpin turn, was thin, crowded, and a disaster. In the 2008 race, I tripped twice trying to avoid runners and a dog, and landed awkwardly on my left leg, tearing my hamstring. I limped to the finish line. Others complained too. The course was changed for 2010.


Nice run, Sarah! She (in green) finished in 37:05

Obviously, my hamstring healed, but my ankle problems of 2010 and 2011 then made me really slow. Still, I’m happy to be able to still be running.

My time of 37:00 (11:56 per mile) on Sunday was my post-ankle surgery best for this course, and also better than my 2008 hamstring-injury time of 39:27, but still not anything to write home about. Full results are here. My best time ever for this event was 25:48 in 2007. But these days, I am just trying to beat my 34:29 time in the Mustache Dache 5K of 2014.

A big high-five to all the Allytics and former Zones teammates, and congrats to RJ Ricker, for her team-leading time of 27:42.

What’s next

VDayDash2I will get another chance to improve my 5K time on March 6, when I’m running a race I’ve never done before: the Hot Chocolate 5K in downtown Seattle. I’m doing this event — and will be joined by these same Allytics teammates — for something different. The following weekend is the St. Patrick’s Day Dash 5K, but I will probably skip it since I’ve done it about 10 times now (how many shirts do I have?).

After that, it’s the Mercer Island Half-Marathon on March 20, which my boss at Allytics says he wants me to run with him. I’ve done this event 12 of the last 13 years.

Interesting yellow shirts in 2016

Interesting yellow shirts in 2016

To date, I’ve done 191 road races, inching closer to 200.

But before any more runs, I am riding in the Chilly Hilly bicycle ride on Feb. 28 and looking forward to it. And I am hoping to do Seattle-to-Portland (STP) or RSVP (Ride from Seattle to Vancouver and Party!) this year. I need a riding partner.

Thanks for reading this. Till next time.


About monteenbysk

I am not an elite runner or bicyclist, though I am friends with many. I run, walk, and bike for fun and the health benefits. I can get you to the finish but probably not to the Boston Marathon (and especially not to the Tour de France).
This entry was posted in 5K, Chilly Hilly, Mercer Island Half-Marathon, Running, St. Patrick's Day Dash, Valentine's Day Dash and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to 2016 Valentine’s Day Dash 5K: Low turnout or ebb in the local running boom?

  1. Pingback: 2016 Washington Beer Run 5K: Perfect excuse to drink beer on Father’s Day | Monte's running commentary

  2. Pingback: 2017 Valentine’s Day Dash 10K: New 10K has limited appeal to Green Lake set | Monte's running commentary

  3. Pingback: 2020 Chilly Hilly: A brotherly ride with a bit of sun | Monte's running commentary

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s