The Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon 

Snoqualmie Pass to North Bend
Sunday August 17, 2008 8:00 AM


Race Morning

If you're looking for a fast local (Seattle area) marathon for the third weekend of August, here it is! The Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon on Sunday August 17 at 8:00AM runs on a scenic, point-to-point, rail-trail course which descends 2050 feet in 26.2 miles from Snoqualmie Pass to North Bend. The marathon is a Boston Qualifier (USATF Certification Id# WA08031MW) and is potentially the fastest USATF-certified course in the country due to the combination of consistent downhill gradient and low starting elevation. For slower runners the course will be supported for 8 hours, and perhaps longer if necessary. So aim for a PR or take your time and enjoy the scenery; either way you'll have a great run.

The 2008 Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon is now full and we are no longer accepting registrations online or via mail. Entries postmarked 8/10 or before, prior to the close of registration on 8/11, are still being received and accepted.

Volunteers needed
We need a few additional volunteers on race day. Volunteers in this year's race will receive a free, transferrable entry into next year's Light at the End of the Tunnel marathon. (Tentative date for the 2009 race is Sunday, June 14.) Open volunteer positions are listed here.

Early Start information and Bus Schedule change
Buses will now be leaving from the finish at 6:00, 6:30 and 7:10AM to transport runners to the start.
Early start runners should catch the 6:00AM bus in order to get to the start in time for the early start at 7:00AM. This is a change from the emails I sent out to a number of you over the past day or two. The early start will be at 7:00 and the early start bus from the finish to the start will leave at 6:00AM. Runners starting at the regular 8:00AM start can take the 6:30 or 7:10AM bus from the finish to the start.

Registration has been limited to approximately 135 runners to ensure that we can provide sufficient aid on the course for everyone. As of 8/10, 137 runners have registered for the race so registration online and by mail is now closed. Registered runners are listed here. Please note that entry fees are not refundable although if you are unable to do the race and you notify the race director in advance, we will apply the balance of your entry fee to the 2009 race.

Race Morning  return to top
Runners should meet at the finish area between 5:45 and 7:00AM on Sunday morning. There is plenty of room to park at the finish. Buses will leave from the finish at 6:00, 6:30 and 7:10AM to transport runners to the start. Runners arriving after 7:10AM will need to either drive or carpool up to the start. Runners driving from Seattle please note that although the Express lanes on the I-90 bridge will be closed at 6:30AM for the Danskin Triathlon, the regular lanes are not affected by this closure.
Check-in and bib pick-up will be at the start between 6:30 and 7:50AM. At checkin you will receive a plastic bag containing your bib, and if you signed up by mail, a waiver for you to sign. Your number is also marked on the plastic bag, which you can carry through the tunnel and drop at the 3-mile aid station at the tunnel exit with your flashlight and any extra clothing you want to shed. We'll retrieve your flashlight bag from the aid station and deliver it to you at the finish. We'll also provide a second drop bag (think grocery store plastic bag with your bib number on it) which you can use to leave extra clothing at the start. These will also be transported to the finish for you.
At the finish you will receive your finisher's medal and race T-shirt. If you are unable to run but would like to pick up your race T-shirt you may do so at the finish area between 10AM and 4PM. Notify the race director in advance if you want someone else to pick up your shirt for you. Water and snacks (watermelon, chips, bars, pb&j sandwiches) will be provided at the finish.
An early start is available for runners who expect to take longer than six hours to complete the course. Note that the course will be open and aid provided to runners for 8 hours or more, so unless you expect to require more than 8 hours to finish, you can still do the regular start if you'd prefer. The early start will be at 7:00AM. Early starters who park at the finish should catch the first bus to the start at about 6:00AM. Runners faster than about 4 1/2 hours are recommended not to do a early start since aid stations may not be set up in time for them.

Course Details  return to top
The race starts at the Hyak trailhead for the John Wayne Pioneer trail just east of Snoqualmie Pass. After a 3/4 mile warm-up the next 2 1/4 miles of the course run underground through the damp and pitch-black Hyak Tunnel, a little like Seattle in November only alot darker. Flashlights are strongly recommended, although one day when I was riding through the tunnel I met two hikers who walked it in the dark. Once you get about 50 yards into the tunnel, you can see a pinpoint of light ahead of you which is the "Light at the End of the Tunnel" over 2 miles away. If you see more than one point of light, you're probably looking at mountain bike headlights.
The next 13 miles run parallel to and a little above I-90 along the John Wayne Pioneer Trail, passing through a snowshed and over four high trestle bridges before diverging from I-90 and traversing forested slopes for 5 more miles to the Iron Horse State Park trailhead at Rattlesnake Lake. At Rattlesnake Lake the course continues on the Snoqualmie Valley trail past a few houses and through leafy second-growth forest before returning to civilization for the last half mile or so. The race finishes at a gravel parking area along North Bend Way 2.4 miles SE of downtown North Bend.
The last 23 miles of the course are all downhill at a fast 80'/mile gradient except for one little 50-yard hill at about mile 9. Both the John Wayne Pioneer and Snoqualmie Valley trails are old railway grades surfaced with hard-packed gravel and wide enough for a car to pass. The surface is generally smooth but there are sections with small rocks, so you'll want to watch your footing. As trail runs go, it's non-technical. Most runners will be comfortable running in road shoes but probably not in racing flats.
The course is not closed to other users so expect scattered cyclists, walkers and joggers, particularly on the second half of the course, as well as rock climbers around mile 16. There should be no motorized vehicles on any portion of the course except at the two low-traffic road crossings at miles 13 and 25.5.
If you are nervous about heights or being inside caves, you should evaluate whether or not you'll be comfortable on this course. The tunnel is about 20' wide and 30' tall but it is almost completely dark for a couple of miles. Beyond the tunnel, there are several high trestle bridges and a few other sections of the trail from which it feels like a long ways down to the ground.

Course Map
(Adapted from The Backcountry Unicyclist)
Here is a rather large topographic map of the entire course.

Weather on race day is forecast to be sunny and warm, with temperature at the start around 50F and at the finish around 80F. Much of the second half of the course is shaded by trees which keep the course cooler than it otherwise might be. Rain is unlikely but fog and/or drizzle, especially for the first half of the race, is a possibility.

Directions to the Finish  return to top
Take Exit 32 from I-90. At the end of the exit ramp turn LEFT (towards Mt Si) on 436th Ave SE. Go about 0.6 miles and turn sharp RIGHT on North Bend Way. In 0.6 miles you'll see a gravel pull-off on the right where SE Tanner Road meets SE North Bend Way. That's the finish area. Parking is provided inside the chain link fence through the opening on SE Tanner Road. If you want to use mapquest or qoogle maps to get directions, the address at the finish area is approximately 44500 SE Tanner Rd, North Bend, WA.

Directions to the Start
Head east on I-90 to Exit 54 which is two miles past Snoqualmie Summit. At the end of the exit ramp turn right then immediately turn LEFT on a road that parallels I-90 heading East. Go about 0.4 miles then you'll have to turn RIGHT at a Department of Transportation maintenance yard. After about 50 yards you'll turn RIGHT again at the first road off to the right. Follow this road 0.1 miles to the Hyak trailhead parking lot. Park at the east end of the lot.
You'll also see small brown signs with white lettering directing you from the highway offramp to the Iron Horse State Park trailhead. If you end up at Hyak Lodge or at Keechelus Lake you have missed the right turn heading to the Hyak parking lot. This aerial photo shows the start area - follow the orange line.
No permit or pass is required to park at the start area. Overnight parking at the start is not officially permitted, so may not be possible, although there are areas nearby where an RV could probably be parked overnight. If you want to use mapquest or qoogle maps to get directions, the address at the start is approximately Milwaukee Lane, Hyak, WA.

Limited Support  return to top
The Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon is a trail marathon with limited access to roads and aid along the course. You should consider carrying at least one water bottle, particularly if the weather is warm. You may also want to carry a cell phone. There is a restroom at the start and a porta-potty at the finish. Along the course there are restrooms at miles 3, 8.7, 11.6, 16 or so and at mile 21.1. There are staffed aid stations at miles 13 and 22 with Gatorade, water and Gu or comparable gel. There are self-service aid stations at roughly 3 mile intervals between the full aid stations. At the self-service aid stations we'll provide Gatorade and water but you'll need to fill your own cup or bottle. Cups are provided. We'll provide some food and a few chairs at the finish. The course is marked with orange tape and white-flour arrows where necessary. Miles are marked and numbered.

Official Disclaimer
Participants in the Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon acknowledge that running any marathon carries with it the potential for death, serious injury and property loss. PARTICIPANTS IN THIS EVENT ASSUME ALL RISKS OF SUCH PARTICIPATION. Participants attest and certify that they are physically fit and sufficiently trained for the completion of this event. By electing to participate in this event, participants and waive and release any and all rights and claims for damages which they may have or which may hereafter accrue to them or their heirs and administrators, against USA Track and Field, Inc, The Pacific Northwest Association of USATF, Brian Pendleton and all other volunteers associated with the Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon, East Side Runners, Washington State Parks, King County Parks, King County and its Officers, Officials, Employees and Agents, The City of North Bend and North Bend Industrial Park Llc and their respective officers, agents, representatives and/or assigns arising from injuries due to participation in or traveling for this competition.