Legendary traffic light will tease Sound to Narrows runners
Today, as it has since 1973, the blinking amber light will taunt runners as they labor up Vassault Hill to the finish of the 12-kilometer Sound to Narrows.
From winners to those thrilled to simply finish, all seem to leave the race with the hilltop traffic signal burned into their memories.
“Don’t look at the light,” four-time race winner Curt Corvin once said. “I made that mistake one year and it almost killed me. It doesn’t seem to get any closer, and that can be discouraging. Just put your head down and keep running.”
Just when it seems as if the light is actually within reach, the course veers left, then right and the race is over. Runners grab their knees or collapse on the grass at Vassault Playfield. The light keeps blinking.
Michael Thompson, a history and English instructor at South Seattle Community College, finds meaning in the light. He’s never threatened to win the race but he knows it as well as anybody. He’s one of only 11 people who’ve run every Sound to Narrows.
His first sighting of the light remains one of his most vivid race memories.
“I teach F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel ‘The Great Gatsby,’ ” Thompson said. “… I liken it to the blinking green light at the end of Daisy Buchanan’s dock. As seen from across the bay the green light is always beckoning, but never to be reached.”
In the 1925 novel, the green light symbolizes life’s unattained desires. Vassault’s amber light symbolizes what most Sound to Narrows runners want more than anything on the final hill – to be finished.
The first competitors to finish today will receive new trophies in honor of the race’s 40th running. The top finishers in the 12-kilometer and 5-kilometer race will get Bella Balls, hand-blown glass floats adorned with a lucky horseshoe.
The balls, designed by Tacoma artists Diane Hansen and Lesli Jacobs-McHugh, are colored – blue for the winners, red for second place and white for third place.
“We wanted to do something cool for the 40th (running),” said Danette Felt, race organizer.
Defending champion Rick Bogatay of Puyallup will be back to defend his title, Felt said. However, it is unclear if reigning women’s champ, Ruth Perkins of Puyallup, will participate. She is recovering from an injury, Felt said. Sarna Becker, runner-up last year and the 2010 women’s champ, isn’t expected to race either.
While as many as 7,000 participants pound the pavement up and down Vassault and around Point Defiance’s Five Mile Drive, the race will celebrate its anniversary with a ’70s theme.
“We are encouraging people to embrace their inner 1970s and dress up,” Felt said. A band will play 1970s era music at the start and finish area.
“It will be a lot of fun,” Felt said.
Maybe it will provide leg-weary participants distraction from the taunting amber light. “But,” as Fitzgerald wrote at the end of his novel, “that’s no matter – tomorrow we will run faster …”
SOUND TO NARROWS
Start/finish: Vassault Playfield at the intersections of North Vassault and North 37th streets.
Parking: Truman Middle School and Point Defiance Elementary. Organizers urge participants to carpool. There is no shuttle service to the race this year. Traffic impact: There will be road closures and limited access to the neighborhood and Point Defiance Park until noon today.
6:30 a.m.: Military race; 7 a.m.: Registration and number pickup begins; 8 a.m.: 2-kilometer junior shuffle; 8:15 a.m.: Teen 5-kilometer race; 8:30 a.m.: 5-kilometer race; 8:40 a.m.: 12-kilometer wheelchair race; 8:45 a.m.: 12-kilometer race; 9 a.m.: 12- and 5-kilometer walking waves ; 10:15 a.m.: Award ceremony; 10:45 a.m.: Start of diaper dash.
Of Note: Strollers and “baby joggers” are not allowed on 12-kilometer course. Participants who can’t cover the first three miles of the race in an hour or less will be required to use a shortcut.
More info: SoundToNarrows.org
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