Cynics in the running crowd say Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct will live to see another run, that we’ve heard it all before about how it’s coming down soon. But I disagree. I believe the Highway 99 tunnel will be funneling traffic through the Seattle’s west side this fall, and the viaduct above it will be torn down by the end of this year.
So that means the 2018 Capital One Torchlight Run (it’s official name) last Saturday night (July 28) was the final jaunt for runners on the scenic thoroughfare along the Seattle waterfront.
I enjoyed this last chance to run on the viaduct. I did the 8K race (there also was a 5K), of which about half was on the viaduct and half through downtown streets crowded with spectators awaiting the Seafair Torchlight Parade that followed. This was a new course for 2018, and an awesome one! Too bad it has to change again next year because of no viaduct.
More on the course below. What also was great was that the intense heat the Seattle area has been experiencing — several 90-plus degree days in a row — seem to subside a bit Saturday night. I can’t explain why; maybe it was just being closer to the Puget Sound. My last race, the Redmond Derby Dash 5K on July 13, was miserably hot.
The Torchlight run was not only a cooler race, but had a more festive, run-for-fun vibe. About 1,330 runners finished either race; with 900 opting to run the shorter 5K. The event shirts were bright pink; I wore mine and you could see pink everywhere. And I saw runners taking selfies on the viaduct to capture a memory of this aging structure that has long been a part of Seattle’s history.
Will miss those scenic runs
I’ve done the Seafair Torchlight 8K Run 13 times now, and all courses have included the viaduct. So have the Seattle Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon and Half-Marathon, the St. Patrick’s Dash, and other races I’ve completed, plus at least one bicycle ride. In other words, I’ve gotten to know the viaduct.
Here are some things I will miss about running on it:
- The great views. Ferries crossing the Sound. Elliott Bay. Bainbridge Island in the distance. The Olympic Mountains. A chance to run alongside this scenery. Need I say more?
- The smell of pot. In the six years since marijuana was legalized in Washington state, I’ve been smelling pot on lots of different runs, walks and bike rides. In the Torchlight Run, I can always count on pot vapors on the viaduct’s last stretch north before the Battery Street Tunnel. That’s when we run under a bridge where spectators can stop and watch the runners.
- The camaraderie with other runners. Even if I’m at the back of the pack, there always are many fellow runners plodding along on the viaduct. We don’t high-five each other, but there is a certain amount of bonding going on anyway.
- The thrill of making it to the Battery Street Tunnel. This means you’ve conquered the viaduct and are close to finishing. Some people hoot and holler going through the half-mile tunnel, but I save my energy for the rest of the run.
What I won’t miss:
- The tire chains and automobile waste along the road. Three years ago, I accidentally caught my feet in a discarded tire wire on Seneca Street leading to the viaduct and fell on my face. I got up and finished, but have been nervous about this happening again — especially when I see all of the hubcaps, wheel rods and other automobile parts along the side of the road.
- The potholes. Running on the viaduct always entailed being careful where you stepped. Running on a gimpy ankle, I face that in a lot of places. But the road surface on the viaduct has been neglected for some time, probably because its days are numbered.
- The abrupt race turnarounds, followed by the uphill climb. The Torchlight Run always required that you run down a hill, turn around quickly, and then go back up it. No biggie, but I won’t miss this.
- The runners with strollers always catching up and passing me. During the climb back up that hill, when I am at my all-time slowest, I start feeling the strollers passing me. But, to be fair, they pass me on flat stretches too.
Speeding (well, sort of) to the finish line
What I liked about the 2018 Torchlight Run course was that the start/finish line was on Fourth Avenue near Westlake Park, where the most spectators are gathered to watch the parade.
The energy of the crowd made for a good runners’ push up Fourth to Seneca Street, where you ran down a steep hill to get on the viaduct. Even better was the finish, however. You had a half-mile or so of parade-goers cheering you on to the finish line. I had enough left for a finishing kick; I just had to make sure I didn’t trip or fall in front of thousands odf people (potentially embarrassing).
I finished in a not-so-swift 1:07:34 (13:35 per mile), achieving my goal of beating my last year’s time by almost a minute. Overall, the race felt great, in part because I started slow and saved energy for the second half of the race. Full results are here. My 8K PR is 43:00, which I did in this event in 2007.
A shout-out here to former Allytics colleague Jamin King, who ran an incredible race to finish second overall in 26:14 (5:16 per mile). Jamin, who runs for Club Northwest, now works for Microsoft. His Club Northwest teammate, Michael Eaton, won the race in an amazing 25:00 (5:01 per mile).
Longer runs ahead
This was my fifth race so far this year and 218th road run since 2001.
I am pondering running the Columbia Winery Charity 10K in Redmond on August 18 or the Seattle Marathon 10K at Seward Park on August 26. One of those would be followed by the Overlake Labor Day Half-Marathon in Redmond on Labor Day (September 3). This is ambitious and potentially risky. But my ankle surgeon has okayed it, as long as I increase my training at a smart pace.
After that, I’m sure I will be ready for a bicycle ride — possibly the Harvest Century 45-miler in Portland in late September.
Thanks for reading! Hoping our heat wave is over — and the Mariners heat up again.