Thoughts on the iconic The Yakima RiverValleyCanyonMarathon.
Mr. Prez, I love Boston. I love New York. I thoroughly enjoy Miami. But,
Stevie Boy? It’s time to get the word out!
1) We’ve been talking about this
for 14 years. What’s the best marathon?
What’s the prettiest marathon? Americans
are hung up on the “-est” part of comparisons unnecessarily: many are always
worth attention. That’s why Halls of Fame are not Closets.
2) But a problem is developing.
With more marathon runners, more marathons are created; but now the number of
race slots to be filled is exceeding the number of registrations occurring, so
smaller – and often, very much better
-marathons suffer and are starting to fade out of business. This is not because
they are not good. Some are superb, gorgeous, and an experience quite
delightfully unlike the bigger races.
A similar plight is affecting golf.
A club professional near Orlando, Fl., whose
beautiful club is closing in April, told me that a National Golf Foundation
report believes 12,000 golf
courses in America
need to be closed so that available golf dollars will channel into fewer
courses so to keep at least those viable.
Ahhh, but April in Paradise at a small marathon! When Mother Nature gets to
painting, she generates indescribable beauty. Now, at the famous St. George’s Marathon in Utah, one gorgeous scene is presented, but
remains the same for the majority of its 26 miles. Far more entertainingly
presented at Mom Nature’s Varieties-on-a-Theme
gallery, tucked into 26 miles of WashingtonState hills, lives the point-to-point,
winding river canyon course called Yakima.
Here, the views evolve and change.
The river twists, the hillside road rolls high and low through the valley,
tumbleweed tumbles, ranches lounge proudly, a long, lazy freight train rumbles
through, elk might line a ridge or a bald eagle surprise, lifting off out of
tall grasses just fifty feet off the road with massive wings creating an
unforgettable sound of fla-flomp… fla-flomp… . Birdman spotted 44 varieties of birds
during one run down the canyon.
The whole experience is enveloped
by an unofficial annual reunion of Maniacs. A night-before pasta dinner on
Friday is capped with captivating speakers in running like Bart Yasso, Kathrine
Switzer and John “The Penguin” Bingham. And completely uncharacteristic of
bigger races, an awards dinner at 4 p.m. the next afternoon brings friends all
back together to relax and debrief one another on the adventure accomplished.
Afterwards casual relaxing in smaller gatherings might develop, and the next
morning an informal breakfast with the race directors is an option. This
combination of socializing opportunities really is extraordinary.
You are treated personally here. “Nancy” cheerleads one up the 1.5 mile hill at 21.5 by
jogging down to its beginning, escorting you back up the beast, distracting one
with casual conversation on running, or the real importance of PackanackLake.
The oldest race director in the country watches over all details, and
offers her congratulations to finishers with a hug and infectious smiles.
The weather is typically
comfortable. Reasonably-priced hotels are nearby. The drive from Seattle (and drive the
canyon before the race!) is 2.5 beautiful hours.
It would be sad indeed to lose this
course as a marathon route option. There’s nary a gas station, strip mall, or
industrial park to be found. Save for official vehicles, cars are absent: the
road is ours alone, and the setting is iconic.
‘Tis like running through the set of a western movie.
Tony (#3) just ran it for the 13th
time, Prez, you’ve managed 14, and I’ve flown across the continent 8 times now
for this Yakima River Canyon Marathon.
Just a few years ago, 600 runners
entered the race. This year’s event added a half-marathon (though if one can,
run the full course: it is entirely worth it).
Even so, numbers are down, about 190 in the half, 220 in the full. So
the negative trends are a real threat.
I’d like to reverse that:
1) This one is a genuine bucket
2) The course will thrill future
3) If a small marathon deserves to
survive on its merits, this one surely does.
4) The people stories are no
clichés, but vivid and welcoming.
Put the Yakima River Canyon
Marathon on Your Calendar next year. It will be on April 1, 2017 (I’ll pull out
the Reverend card here: April 1 is the truth, not a joke).
It is a unique
beauty, and well worth the logistics to drive from Seattle
to get there (he of Pennsylvania
insists). The tulips in the Northwest are a bonus.
Blessings Prez. Get the word out,
or next year I will write about how I’ve waxed you two years in a row there
(never mind your flimsy medical excuses). See you there again next year.