The Light at the End of the Tunnel 
 Marathon  2012

 Snoqualmie Pass to North Bend, WA
 Sunday July 15, 2012 8:00 AM start


Volunteer info
Tunnel Lite Marathon registration opens Wednesday, Aug 15.
Smaller race (~100 runners), lower key (no start/finish arches, no music), lightly supported (aid stations every 5 miles instead of every 2.5, fewer friendly volunteers but same helpful medical staff standing by), possibly colder and wetter conditions, but same certified (Boston qualifer) course, same buses to the start and drop bags for your flashlights, same delicious chili at the finish. And for those of you still shooting for a spot in Boston 2013, possibly your last chance, though we can't guarantee that Boston registration will still be open.
Photos are posted and results are final (July 30, 2012)
Though we didn't have a dedicated race photographer, we managed to get finish line photos of most runners as well as a number of general shots from the start and finish. These are now posted in three galleries: Start area photos, Finish area photos and Runner finish line photos. Photos in all three galleries are listed in the sequence they were taken; unfortunately we don't have a search function to assist you in finding your photo(s).
Final results are posted here and have been submitted to USATF, to the Boston Athletic Association and to Northwest Runner. Nonetheless, if you find an error in your results, please notify the race director and we will attempt to get it corrected.
Next year's race is tentatively scheduled for Sunday, July 14, 2013. Registration will open in mid-March, and the date of registration opening will be posted on this site by March 1, 2013. We anticipate that the race will fill very quickly next year, perhaps even within a few days, so if you're interested in running the 2013 Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon, check back here early next March.
Thank you everyone for a great race! (July 16, 2012)
Everything came off almost perfectly at the 2012 Light at the End of the Tunnel marathon yesterday, thanks to a slate of volunteers which included several race directors and numerous experienced marathon runners as well as friends and family of runners in the race. The weather totally cooperated with cool dry conditions at the start, refreshing mist in the later miles and cloudy but comfortable conditions at the finish. The runners themselves were cheerful and enthusiastic, not to mention fast. Numerous people set PR's and/or qualified for Boston and both men's and women's winners set a new course records. Without a doubt the sixth running of the Light at the End of the Tunnel marathon was the best ever.
About the Race
The Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon in mid-July is a point-to-point downhill marathon race on a scenic rail-trail 50 miles east of Seattle, Washington. The course is a Boston qualifier (USATF certification number WA 08031 MW) and has the best profile in the country for a fast time due to the consistent gentle downhill grade and the low starting elevation. The first three miles are flat, cold, foggy and damp inside an unlit tunnel. Flashlights are strongly recommended. Once out of the Tunnel the gravel trail starts down the hill and keeps on going down, 2050 feet in the next 23 miles. It's never steep enough to be uncomfortable; you just feel like you're having a good day.
The views are scenic but spectators (other than a bear once in a while) are few. Aid stations with water, Gatorade, and cups are provided every three miles or so (some are self-serve) and restrooms are located here and there. We provide medical support and marshals on bicycles on the course, which is supported for 7 hours for the regular starters (8 hours for slower runners doing the early start). You'll receive a custom-designed finishers medal as you finish, where you'll also find food and aid and friendly people waiting to greet you.
We are considering hosting a ghost-type event (minimal aid and amenities) on the same course in mid-September and will notify everyone on our mailing list if we do decide to hold that event.
Schedulereturn to top
There is no pre-race Expo. Runner check-in is at the start. Most runners will want to park at the finish and catch one of the free buses to the start. Conditions at the start will be cool and possibly wet, so bring extra clothing to keep warm. At check-in you'll receive two drop bags with your bib number marked on them. One drop bag is for you to leave at the start with your warm clothing. You should carry the other drop bag through the tunnel and leave it at the aid station with your flashlight and any additional clothing you want to leave behind (the tunnel is cool and somewhat damp as well as dark). Volunteers will tie your drop bags together and transport them to the finish for you.
When you check in at the start you'll receive a brown envelope which contains your bib, safety pins, your timing chip, two plastic ties for attaching your chip to your shoelaces, and your two drop bags. If you ordered a shirt the check-in volunteer will verify the size marked on the envelope and will give you your shirt with your envelope. Attach the chip to your shoelaces with the provided ties. Attach the bib to your shirt with the provided pins. Bib may be pinned to your shorts but must be visible from the front at the start and finish.
Your family is welcome to join you at the start but please note that a $10 parking permit is required and can be purchased at the parking area. There are several other points along the trail where spectators may view runners, in particular at the Garcia, Twin Falls and Rattlesnake aid stations. Here are directions to spectator course access points.
Family members with bicycles can ride down the trail during the race but should not bicycle through the tunnel with the runners due to crowding. Spectators should note that providing assistance to runners during the race is not allowed, except for race officials and aid station volunteers. If your family or friends want to bike the course but do not want to leave a car at the start, you may be able to find a volunteer to either drive you and your bikes up to the start, or drive your car back to the finish for you. Buses are for runners only and in any case will probably not be able to carry bicycles.
Here's the race day schedule:
5:00AM Parking area at Ole Cedar Mill Mini Storage opens.
5:30AM Bus for early starters leaves parking area
5:45-6:45AM Buses for regular starters leave parking area
6:00-6:45AM Early starters check in and prepare to run
6:30-7:45AM Regular starters check in and prepare to run
7:00AM Early start
8:00AM Regular start
10:00AM Finish area opens
11:30AM Garcia (13 mile) aid station closes
12:00PM Transportation to start from finish
12:15PM Twin Falls (16 mile) aid station closes
1:00PM Transportation to start from finish
1:30PM Rattlesnake (21 mile) aid station closes
2:00PM Transportation to start from finish
3:00PM Official timing closes. Finish area takedown begins.
Last runner in Skeleton finish area crew wraps up.
We don't offer a pre-race pasta feed either but the North Bend Grill is popular and there are lots of other nice restaurants within a half hour drive towards Seattle. For a fancy dinner, try the Salish Lodge a few miles north of North Bend in Fall City.
Parking at the Start
Some runners, particularly those driving from east of the mountains or staying at Snoqualmie Pass, may prefer to park at the start. If we know in advance we will arrange for transportation back to the start from the finish so if you are considering parking at the start, please notify the race director. Please note that a Washington State Discover Pass is required to park at the start. Day parking passes are available at a self-service fee station at the start parking area and cost $10.
The Marathon Coursereturn 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. 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 mostly 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.
Here's a map of the course.
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 8.5 and a few short flat sections. 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 perhaps not in FiveFingers. The race director would run it in lightweight trainers if he wasn't otherwise occupied on race day. You might find gaitors helpful (see Suggestions below).
The course will not be 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.
The course will be marked with orange tape and white-flour arrows where necessary. Every mile will be marked and numbered.
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.
Supportreturn 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 may want to carry a small water bottle, particularly if the weather is warm. You may also want to carry a cell phone.
There are 9 aid stations along the course, situated at roughly 2.5 mile intervals. Water and Gatorade are in 5 and 7 gallon plastic jugs. Cups are provided at all aid stations but at the unstaffed aid stations you'll need to fill the cup yourself. Wastebaskets are provided at and shortly after each aid station for cups and other litter. Runners have in the past left the trail very clean; we haven't found much litter at all along the trail after the race. First aid supplies, provided at some of the aid stations, include Vaseline, Band aids, salt caps, sunburn cream and bug spray.
Here are the aid station details:
Mile Name Staffed Supplies Access
2.6 Tunnel exit Yes Water, Gatorade Bike. Vehicle for drop bags.
5.3 Humpback Yes Water, Gatorade Bike down the course
8.0 Bandera Yes Water, Gatorade Bike down the course
10.7 Rock Creek Yes Water, Gatorade Bike down the course
13.4 Garcia Yes Water, Gatorade, GU/Roctane, First aid Vehicle via Garcia Road
16.4 Twin Falls Yes Water, Gatorade, GU/Roctane, First aid 1/4 mile hike up Twin Falls Road
18.8 Cedar Butte No Water, Gatorade Bike
21.2 Rattlesnake Yes Water, Gatorade, GU/Roctane, First aid Vehicle via Cedar Falls Rd
23.1 Edgwick Yes Water, Gatorade, First aid Vehicle via SE Edgewick Rd
In addition to the aid stations, several course marshals will be riding bicycles on the course during the run. Course marshals will be carrying minor first aid supplies as well as a few extra GU and will have cell phones to call for help should you need it. At least one EMT will be on the course at all times as well, with the ability to call for assistance or emergency evacuation from any point on the trail if needed.
There are porta-potties and restrooms at the start and porta-potties at the finish. Along the course there are restrooms at miles 3, 8.7, 11.6 and at mile 21.2.
We'll provide fluids and food at the finish.
For 2012 the first overall man and woman finisher received awards; for 2013 we plan to have age group awards as well. All finishers receive a custom-designed finishers medal.
Accomodationsreturn to top
Lodging and restaurants are available in North Bend within a few miles of the marathon parking, bus pickup and finish areas. The two or three closest motels have mixed reviews, though I haven't heard any complaints from our runners. The North Bend Motel (425) 888-1121 ($60-74/room night, 2.3 miles from the finish) is within a mile or so of restaurants in downtown North Bend. The Edgewick Inn (425) 888-9000 ($65-85/room night, 1.5 mi from the finish) is located at I-90 exit 34 about four miles from downtown North Bend. You'll also find a few B&B's in the North Bend area, including The Old Hen with three rooms ($125-250, 2.7 miles from the finish area) and the Roaring River B&B with four rooms ($145-195, 4.2 miles from the finish area) and the The Log Cabin with two rooms ($125-150, 3.6 miles from the finish area).
There are more motels in the Eastgate area of Bellevue along I-90 just east of I-405, which is about a 20 minute drive from the finish. There are also several motels at Snoqualmie Pass, which is a mile or two from the start and about 20 minutes from the finish.
There are two National Forest campgrounds within about 10 miles of the finish area - Tinkham and Middle Fork Campground. Go to this site and search for campgrounds near "98045". RV and tent camping are also available at the private Snoqualmie River RV Park and Campground in nearby Fall City, also about 10 miles from the finish area.
Directions to the Finish and Parkingreturn to top
The finish area and parking are located about 30 miles east of Seattle and 2.5 miles from downtown North Bend, Washington. Here are printable directions to the course access points, including the Start and Finish.
To get there from Seattle head east on I-90 to exit 32. At the end of the exit ramp turn NORTH (towards Mt Si, which is on your LEFT if you're headed out from Seattle) onto 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. The parking area is 200 yards farther up North Bend Way on the left at the Ole Cedar Mill Mini Storage. Most runners will want to park there and catch a bus to the start, in part because parking at the start requires a $10 daily Discover Pass. The address of the finish area parking at the Ole Cedar Mill Mini Storage is 44800 SE North Bend Way, North Bend, WA 98045.
Regular (8:00AM) starters should plan to be at the parking area between 5:30AM and 6:30AM. Buses will leave the parking area for the start between 5:30AM and 6:45AM. Runners doing the early start at 7:00AM should arrive at the parking area between 5:00AM and 5:25AM; the early start bus(es) will leave the finish area at 5:30AM.
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.
A daily ($10) or annual ($30) Discover Pass is required to park at the start area. Overnight parking at the start is not permitted, although there are areas nearby where an RV could probably be parked overnight. To use Google maps for directions, the address at the start is Hyak Parking Lot, Hyak, Snoqualmie Pass, WA. If you plan to park at the start, you should arrive before 7:30AM (6:30AM for early starters) to allow time to pick up your packet and prepare to run.
Suggestionsreturn to top
Gaitors - You may want running gaitors to keep gravel out of your shoes. I use Dirty Girl Gaitors and find they work well.
Flashlight - It is possible to run the tunnel without a light, but you'll probably want one. We'll give you a drop bag to leave at the end of the tunnel so you don't have to carry your light the rest of the way.
Don't go barefoot - While I'm a fan of barefoot running, this might not be the course for minimalist shoes. Two years ago we had to run up the trail with a pair of shoes to rescue a runner in Five-fingers. If you do plan to use lightweight shoes, make sure you've trained in them on gravel roads.
Downhill training - Add some downhill running to your training. Long gentle downhill at a brisk pace would be best but any runnable downhill grade will work. Do repeats if your hills are short. Your quads will thank you.
Sunscreen and Bug Dope - We'll have these at the start for you and you'll probably want to use them. You'll also find sunscreen at several of the aid stations. You'll get quite a bit of sun in the middle half of the course and at the finish. You may find mosquitos, particularly if you take walk breaks, in some of the wooded sections in the second half.
Start Early if you need more than 6 or 7 hours to complete the race. The course closes at 3PM so doing the early start at 7AM gives slower runners and walkers 8 hours to finish. Runners who will finish in under 5 hours should not do the early start, since a minimum official finishing time of 5:00:00 will assigned to early starters who come in under 5 hours.
Other runner comments - Check out the runner comments from 2011 on Marathon Guide.
BQ Percentage Comparison - Though not complete, this blog post provides some idea of how many Tunnel runners qualify for Boston as compared with other races.
Weatherreturn to top
Typical weather on race day is cloudy and 55F at the start and sunny and 75F with low humidity at the finish. It can be warmer though; race day 2011 was clear and 52F at the start warming into the low 80's at the finish. Three years ago race day was also unusually warm with temperatures in the high 80s and 90% humidity, tough conditions to be sure. Temperature in the tunnel is a constant 50F or so with dripping water in places and even a little fog at times. The rest of the course is about half in the sun and half in the shade through mile 20, then mostly in the shade for the last 6 miles which helps if the weather is warm.

Volunteer info