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This is a race report from July 13-sorry for the late posting!
Light at the end of the tunnel marathon race report:
A couple of years ago I read an article about this race in Runner's World magazine. It sounded so cool and since it was so close I wanted to do it. Here is it's website description: The Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon in mid-July is a point-to-point downhill marathon race on a scenic gravel 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.

Since it's on a trail only 400 people are allowed to do the race. Registration opens in early March and fills up in minutes. My husband and I both got in and were super excited! Our 'A' race of the year was the Windermere Marathon. It's in our hometown of Spokane. It was moved to two weeks later this year to June 1 and it proved to be a horrible decision (IMHO). It was the hottest day of the year so far. Easy course became super hard in the heat and with a 30 minute start time delay (we never did find out why we started 30 minutes late). So we were really glad to have this race lined up. Well...the weekend of the race was again the hottest weekend of the summer! There was a weather advisory for Snoqualmie Pass. Yay us! The race time was moved up 30 minutes to try and avoid some of the heat.
The race is very low key. Packet pickup is the morning of at the start line. There are no packets. Just bibs. But very organized. The finish is in North Bend but the race starts in the parking lot of the Hyak trailhead for the John Wayne Pioneer trail just east of Snoqualmie Pass. You can park at the finish and they will bus you up to the start. My father-in-law drove us to the start and I am so glad he did as we passed a broken down bus on the freeway. We got to the start and got our bibs. Very uneventful and the race started on time. Hurray!! You run around the parking lot and then get on the trail. After about half a mile you head into the tunnel (that is where the race gets it's name) for 2.6 miles. I wore a headlamp so that I could see. I had worn a long sleeve shirt anticipating (rather hoping) that it would be cold in the tunnel. It was not and I ended up taking off the shirt about a mile into the tunnel. At packet pickup you are given a plastic bag with your number on it to put your flashlight or headlamps in at the end of the tunnel. So I came out of the tunnel behind schedule. I knew my Garmin wouldn't be able to pick up the satellite in the tunnel but I was hoping I could maintain my pace but I guess I didn't. I was now two minutes behind my goal time. Sigh. Not how I wanted to be with 23 miles to go. When my Garmin picked up the satellite it said my last mile was 2:18. I laughed and said wahoo I just ran a 2:18 mile. The girl next to me didn't find it amusing.
The race is on a trail so there aren't many spectators but the volunteers at the aid stations were super nice. It's also not a closed course so there were lots of bikers on the trail. The trail is a gravel road so I had bought a pair of gaitors to keep the rocks out of my shoes. Daniel (the hubs) said he saw several people stopping to get rocks out. There is shade and because it is next to all the greenery it was a cool shade. I just wish there had been more of it! By mile 7 it was toasty. I carried a bottle with me and at every aid station I drank a cup of water and poured one over my head. I know that the course is a sight downhill but I never could tell. I had read people's reviews that said it would feel like you are having a really good day. Not one moment of this race did I feel like I was having a good day. I was hot. I was two minutes behind schedule and no matter how fast I seemed to be going I could not make up that time.

At mile 13 there is a road where lots of spectators can gather. And a few more spots in the next few miles. But the rest of the time it's just you, nature and whoever is running around you. The heat just kept getting worse and I was not enjoying this beautiful course!! Finally mile 20 came. I was excited because it was supposed to be mainly shaded until the finish. Maybe if it wasn't so hot but I did not find relief. Around mile 24 or so there was an aid station and I asked the lady if this was the last one. She said yes, only 1.7 miles to go. Wahoo! That was a boost. I found Daniel and I said I can run a 10 minute mile and still come in under 3:45. My original goal was 3:40 but I never could make up that time lost in the tunnel and so I had mentally shifted to time B. Daniel pushed me a little on the last bit and we came in at 3:42. Like I've said the race is very small and the guy at the finish line read our names out and where we were from. It felt just as good as hearing Mike Reilly say it. OMG! It was so hot. Have I mentioned that?

I got my medal and headed straight to the water table. In all the races I've done that was one of the best finish areas I have seen. Tons of water, Gatorade and a variety of food!
All in all this is a very cool race to do. I would highly recommend it. And since I won't be there I can almost bet that next year it will be 50 degrees and rainy! You are welcome!



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