2019 Seafair Torchlight 8K Run: New course means parade-goers see a gaggle of runners twice

Two people who finished behind me cross the line on Harrison Street

Two people who finished behind me cross the line on Harrison Street

For the first time since I began running the Seafair Torchlight 8K Run in 2003, the course on Saturday night (July 27) did not include a stretch on the Alaskan Way Viaduct. The aging viaduct is now being torn down, as most people know, which meant another new course was required for the Torchlight 8K and 5K runs in downtown Seattle.

Selfie at the starting line

The course designers probably felt their options were limited without the viaduct, and with the major red tape of trying to close the Highway 99 Tunnel to traffic. So they decided to try a double-loop course where the 8K runners plodded in front of parade-goers twice before making their way to the finish line.

That meant that both the 8K (5 miles) and 5K (3.1 miles) competitors jointly stampeded down Fourth Avenue along the parade route the first time, and then only 8K runners came back around a second time while those doing the 5K headed to the finish.

It also meant lots more running room in the second loop for 8K’ers at the tail end like me, and more attention focused on each runner. A runner tripping on a pothole or falling for some reason would have been eyed and guffawed by thousands. Fortunately, that didn’t happen to me or anyone else that I could see. But I thought about the possibility as I ran carefully and watched for cracks in the street.

Elite runners, including Jamin King at left, get ready to race

These annual races take place before the start of the popular Seafair Torchlight Parade, where people arrive well in advance to make sure they secure the best possible seats for this huge summer parade (it runs for about three hours). Many parade-goers cheer on the runners, no matter how fast they are going. A dozen or more young children stand along the course with their hands out, waiting to be high-fived. You better high-five as many as you can — their parents are watching.

I didn’t mind this double loop along the parade route. I always enjoy this Saturday night race in front of a festive crowd, which is why I have run it 14 times now. I’ll be interested in what others think of the new course, and if the organizers keep it for next year.

Top 10 and Bottom 10

Great to chat with Jamin King at the starting line

Great to chat with Jamin at the starting line

More than 1,100 runners participated in the two races in 2019 — about 200 fewer than a year ago. I wonder if not having the scenic draw of the viaduct and its views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains affected the turnout, but hard to say. Whatever, many friends who normally do this run were busy with other things.

Jamin King was there, festooned in his bright orange Club Northwest singlet. Jamin is a software engineer as well as a fast middle-distance runner, and he and I worked together at Allytics in 2015-16, before he left for CommerceHub and then Microsoft.

The courseWe chatted at the starting line on Mercer Street just east of Seattle Center. I saw him again among the leaders when they lapped us on Fourth Avenue — my first trip through the parade route, his second. And I saw him a final time just as I was making my turn onto Harrison Street to head to the finish line. Jamin, in jeans and long since done with his race, said the magic words as I passed by him, “You’re almost there!” Thanks!

He placed ninth overall in 26:39 (5:19 per mile), after coming in second a year ago in 26:14. That’s two Top 10 finishes in a row in this race. Congrats, Jamin!

I, on the other hand, finished in the Bottom 10, as in 457th out of 466 finishers (including one who was disqualified). The good news is that I beat my last year’s Torchlight time by almost a minute, clocking 1:06:44 (13:20 per mile). It was actually my best 8K time since 2015, when I finished in 1:00:08. (My 8K PR is 43:02 in this race in 2007, before my ankle problems began.)

I had a quartet of runner/walkers I was trying to pass in the last mile, but they decided to run the last stretch to the finish line, and I could not catch them. Full results are here. It was my eighth road run this year and 232nd overall.

Coming next: Fluke Day 5K

The race started 15 minutes late as police got cars off the course

The race started 15 minutes late as police got cars off the course

The Seafair Torchlight Run and Parade are such signature Seattle events that I am happy to be a part of them.

I will be running in another signature event in a few days. Fluke Day on August 6 is the Fluke Corporation’s annual celebration of its founding in 1948. Along with the product demonstrations, booths, food trucks, games and activities is a 5K run.

My company has a park-like campus in Everett, and the course for the Fluke Day 5K will be on trails around our building that I frequently walk. Perhaps we will run a double loop around the building (I haven’t seen the course map anywhere).

Not far from where we finished, floats and bands lined up to march in the parade

Not far from where we finished, floats and bands lined up to wait for their turn to march in the parade

I’m eager to so this run and sincerely hope there are colleagues I can beat. After this, I am considering the Overlake Labor Day Half-Marathon or 5K.

Thanks for reading! Football season is coming (not soon enough)!

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).
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