When it’s not cross country or track season, I spend my competition energy on road races. Since this is the Pacific Northwest where running is extremely popular, there is a vast selection. In the past couple of weeks, I ran in the Torchlight Run 8k (5 miles) and the Tacoma Narrows Half Marathon (13.1 miles).
The Torchlight Run is part of Seattle’s annual, slightly-over-a-month-long Seafair celebration (now 60 years old), which includes the Rock’n’Roll series half and full marathons, a parade, hydroplane races, an airshow (featuring the Navy’s Blue Angels), and a milk carton derby, among other attractions. There is also a 5k race held at the same time as the 8k. Since there are 2,500+ runners in the 8k and 1,500+ runners in the 5k, it makes for a crowded, but enjoyable, course, which includes part of the parade route (lined with spectators) and the Alaskan Way Viaduct (right up to Qwest and Safeco fields). I will say that I cannot recommend this race, at this point, because the finish area was extremely crowded and borderline dangerous due to the high volume of people. The race itself was good, though. Afterwards, I took my cooldown jog on over to the 4th Avenue to watch the Torchlight Parade in person…
Apolo Ohno, pirates, hydroplanes, clowns, dancing flight attendants…where else but the Torchlight Parade?
The Tacoma Narrows Half Marathon, on the other hand, was founded in 2008 upon the departure of the Pacific Rim Half Marathon. As its name infers, this race takes runners across the Tacoma Narrows Bridge for a nice view of the water (if it’s not too foggy). The race begins at the Tacoma Narrows Airport (Gig Harbor), specifically in the hangar, which holds a number of small aircraft…and a boat (not quite sure why). In the latter part of the race (about mile 9), the course turns into Cheney Stadium, home of the Tacoma Rainiers (the Mariners’ AAA team), where runners can see themselves on the Jumbotron screen. The event is limited to 1,000 participants, but there was still plenty of company. Half Fanatics provided pacers, which was extremely useful. I found the course pleasant (as pleasant as running a half marathon can be?)–not too hilly, but not boring, either. I definitely didn’t know what I was doing (first half-marathon ever, what else can you expect?), but I feel that I did well and am much more prepared if (when) I do another.
The racing culture is a unique (boring adjective, I know, but how else to describe it?), exciting experience. If you haven’t been out there to try it for yourself, go take a risk and run!