If you're looking for a fast local (Seattle area) marathon in August, here it is! The Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon on Sunday August 17 at 8:00AM will descend 2050 feet in 26.2 miles from Snoqualmie Pass to North Bend.
Looking Ahead to 2008
For 2008 the Tunnel Marathon is tentatively scheduled to run on Sunday August 17. We plan to have the course certified and we're hoping to provide several additional aid stations along the course, furnish more food at the finish and maybe even come up with T-shirts and medals.
2007 Day After Update
Twenty runners ran the 2007 Tunnel Marathon with times ranging from 3 to 6 1/2 hours. The weather was cool and drizzly at the start but the sun came out by the time we finished. The Tunnel was exciting and the rest of the course scenic despite the low cloud cover. The section of the course in the area of Rattlesnake Lake was a little confusing; it will be better marked next year.
2007 Race Morning Update
The plan for the Tunnel marathon is to meet at the finish area at 7:15 on Sunday morning and carpool up to the start. My son David will drive our van and can take four additional runners as well. He'll bicycle through the tunnel ahead of us and wait at the far end to pick up flashlights and extra clothes from the runners, then carry them back to the car and drive back to the finish to meet us. We'll have self serve aid stations with Gatorade and water at the half-way point and around mile 21 at Rattlesnake Lake. At the finish we'll have Gatorade and water, watermelon and snack mix and maybe some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Once I finish (4:00 - 4:30) I'll run (or at least coordinate) a shuttle back up to the start as needed to pick up runner's cars.
The race starts at the Hyak parking area along the Iron Horse 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 unlit Hyak Tunnel, which is kind of like Seattle in November, only a little darker, well, OK alot darker. Flashlights are strongly recommended, although the day I rode 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 Iron Horse 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. From the west portal of the Tunnel down to North Bend the entire route is downhill (except for one gentle 50-yard hill at about mile 9) at a fast 80'/mile gradient. Both the Iron Horse 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.
(Adapted from The Backcountry Unicyclist)
Here is a rather large topographic map of the entire course. The course is not certified so mile markers are somewhat approximate; I rode the course yesterday and verified the distance. For the first half, miles are marked with a flour line across the left half of the trail and orange tape on a nearby bush. For the second half the marks are not as easy to see and the orange tape not as obvious, but all miles are marked. The starting line is actually 0.2 miles east of the east end of the Hyak parking lot. From the start we'll run east (the "wrong" way) for 0.1 miles, then turn around and cross mile marker 0 at the starting line before heading west. That way you won't have to run those last 385 yards after mile 26 - you'll have already done them at the start!
Directions to the Finish
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 and parking area (and a blue Honey Bucket) on the right. That's the finish area. Space is available for about 20 cars to park at the finish.
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 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.
The Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon is a little marathon. No fee is charged and minimal support is provided. 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 will be self-service aid stations at mile 13.2 and 21.1 with Gatorade, water and cups where you can refill your bottles. 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 but mostly not numbered, and the markings for the second half of the course are not conspicuous.
If you'd like to run the Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon, please email me with your name, email address and contact phone number. As the time approaches we can coordinate carpooling/shuttling between the Start and Finish and perhaps make plans for placing aid along the course. If you've already signed up you should see your name on the list of runners.
Participants in the Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon acknowledge that running any marathon is an extreme test of a person's physical and mental limits and carries with it the potential for death, serious injury and property loss. PARTICIPANTS IN THIS EVENT ASSUME ALL RISKS OF SUCH PARTICIPATION. Participants certify that they are physically fit and sufficiently trained to complete such portion of this event as they choose to complete. By electing to participate in this event, the participant waives, releases and discharges from any and all claims, losses or liabilities for death, personal injury, partial or permanent disability, property damage, medical or hospital bills or theft which may arise out of or relate to participation in this event. Participants agree not to sue, and to hold harmless any and all persons, sponsors, volunteers, participants or government agencies for any and all claims or liabilities that they have waived, released or discharges by their participation in the Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon.