The 2016 Seahawks 12K Run took place last Sunday (April 17) under what I consider ideal conditions: sunny skies, warm but not blistering hot temperatures, and no threat of rain. The vibe was great — lots of Seahawk spirit, linebacker K.J. Wright blowing the starting horn, and runners having fun and (generally) giving it their all.
But this year, unlike in 2015, the event was not sold out. In fact, there were 3,335 fewer finishers than a year ago for the main 12K and 5K races. Some 6,113 people finished the two races this year, compared to 9,448 a year ago —a 35 percent drop.
So even though I left much earlier to get to this year’s race than I did in 2015, I had little problem finding a parking spot and getting to the starting line at The Landing in Renton in time for a 9 a.m. 12K start.
This decline in participation is surprising to me. But it’s consistent with turnouts at other running events so far in 2016. In fact, one of my favorite races, the Seafair Pirate 8K/5K Run (previously known as the Seafair Torchlight Run), said it is taking a hiatus in 2016. It normally takes place before the Torchlight Parade in downtown Seattle in late July.
Organizers of the Seafair run said in their recent announcement, “Due to the increased amount of fun runs in our city over the past few years, we have experienced a steady decline in participation at the Seafair Torchlight/Pirate Run. As such, we have decided to take a one-year hiatus in 2016.”
Saturation of running events mean reduced turnouts
So, that’s apparently the reason for the dwindling race turnouts: the saturation of running events overall in the area. I can’t argue with this. There seemingly are more races and organizations seeking to benefit from races these days. That means many established events are seeing fewer runners.
But I won’t be troubled by this trend — at least not until too many races that I like doing are forced to cancel or take hiatuses because they can’t get the turnouts they need. Until then, I like the option of having lots of different races to choose from in a given month, even if it affects the turnout of each.
The reduced participation for the Seahawks event actually made it more manageable. There was still a decent turnout — more than 6,000 runners and walkers. But lines to the porta-potties were shorter, and there was less congestion of people and cars in downtown Renton. I found it more pleasant than last year’s event.
This race benefits A Better Seattle, the initiative led by Seahawks coach Pete Carroll to nurture at-risk youths away from gangs and violence. The 12K run features a jaunt at the halfway point around the Seahawks training facility in north Renton.
It was the second straight year I did the 12K, after running the 5K in 2013 and 2014. The 5K is a completely flat, uninspiring loop around downtown Renton. The 12K is a long but scenic out-and-back on Lake Washington Boulevard, with the Seahawk headquarters at the north end serving as the turnaround point.
You face rolling, lightweight hills along the boulevard that become annoying and more difficult as you get tired in those last few miles. It’s a good workout if you run it all.
Beaten by 34 minutes by my boss
I ran it all, but very slow, of course. I finished in 1:38:46 (12:55 per mile), beating my last year’s time of 1:39:32, but coming in eight seconds slower than my 12Ks of Christmas time last December. I’ll take it. (My pre-surgery 12K PR is 1:06:57 in 2005.) Full results and video clips of all finishers are here.
My manager at Allytics, Robert Doi, ran his first 12K and came in well ahead of me in 1:04:45 (8:28 per mile). Congrats to him. Also, a shout out to Allytics colleague Jamin King, the speed king at our company, who clocked 16:17 (5:15 per mile) in the 5K for second place overall.
Also, congrats to friends Mark Nelson in the 12K and wife Tyra and daughter Taryn Nelson in the 5K for their races. The family that runs together, stays together, or something like that.
This was my fifth road race of the year and 194th overall. Slow or not, here are my tips for successfully completing this run:
- Pace yourself by not going all out on the 12K four-mile stretch leading to the Seahawks headquarters. You need to conserve energy for the way back to the finish line, which can be deceptively tough and unbearable if you haven’t saved anything for it.
- Run in the center of the road as much as you can. The entire thoroughfare is closed, and navigating the middle is easier on your feet than the sloped asphalt on each side.
Still deciding on a May road race
As for what’s next, I am doing a shorter run in May, but haven’t decided which one. It likely will be either the Fiesta 5K Ole! Run at Seattle’s Volunteer Park May 7, which I’ve never done before, or the Beat the Bridge 8K Run at the University of Washington May 15. I haven’t done it since 2007.
Thanks for reading! Till next time.