It was a cold morning for the 40th annual Sound to Narrows, with wind gusting so strong at times Saturday that it blew runners’ caps off their heads.
That was just fine with race organizer Danette Felt.
“I love the weather,” Felt said. “We’re feeling lucky. Yesterday it was hailing.”
As it has every June for the past four decades, Tacoma’s yearly fun run attracted runners of all shapes, sizes and abilities, who huffed and puffed their way through the scenic Point Defiance area.
Some were all business, churning up the 12-kilometer course a fast as their legs could carry them. Many others took a more relaxed approach, opting for shorter race options, walking most of the way or even pushing baby strollers.
To commemorate the race’s 40th anniversary, organizers hired the band Rock N Roll Magic, which belted out tunes from the 1970s as runners congregated around start and finish lines at the Vassault Playfield.
Felt couldn’t give an exact number of participants because of late registrants, but she estimated the number at between 6,000 and 6,500 – slightly more than last year.
“We ordered 5,800 T-shirts,” she said, “and we ran out of them yesterday.”
Felt said race proceeds, which come from registration fees, sponsorships and donations, likely will add up to $250,000 to $275,000, all of which will be used by MultiCare to promote community health.
That net total is after the considerable costs of putting on the race are deducted.
“Races cost a ton of money to put on,” Felt said. “There’s the port-a-potties, the T-shirts and all the other bells and whistles that go with this. We have to pay the police for closing the roads and rent this facility (the Vassault Playfield). We spent $26,000 on T-shirts.”
The race has changed dramatically since the first Sound to Narrows on June 9, 1972, when about 300 runners showed up.
One striking difference, in the past 40 years, aside from the number of runners, is the way runners’ times are tracked.
In the early years, volunteers did the timing manually, simply by watching the clock and matching jersey numbers. In recent years, they’ve used ankle bracelets with imbedded chips activated by passing over a pad at the start line and then again at the finish line.
This year, the timing contractor, Accustat Sports Timing, did away with the ankle bracelets and went to disposable chips fastened to the inside of the numbered bibs issued to runners.
“That made it a lot easier,” Felt said, “because we don’t have to collect them afterward.”
Heather Wright of Tacoma is nearly the same age as the Sound to Narrows. She was born in 1973, the year after the first race. Saturday was her ninth Sound to Narrows, Wright said, and she was pleased with her time of 1 hour and 3 minutes.
“Last year it was 1-0-9,” she said. “I started off too fast, as normal. You just get excited with the crowd going.”
Andi Vann was barely breathing hard when she finished the 12K with a time of just under one hour and 8 minutes. She was smiling pleasantly as other finishers bent over and clutched their knees or collapsed on the ground.
“I felt good pretty much the whole way,” Vann said. “It was crowded, but that really kind of helped. It was like a constant obstacle course to weave among everybody. That and listening to music helped take my mind off the pain.”
Vann grew up in Tacoma but now lives in Bellingham, where she runs a bakery called Pure Bliss Desserts. She was scheduled to cater a wedding at Point Defiance later in the day, so she decided to combine the race and the job in a single trip.
“I looked at the calendar and said, ‘Hey, this could work out really well.’”
Like many other runners, Vann said she ran into a strong headwind on the last stretch up Vassault Hill
“The last mile was real bad with the wind,” she said. “I just thought about decorating cakes on a really bad day. I thought, if I can do that, I can do this.”
The proceeds from the race go to MultiCare’s Center for Healthy Living, which uses various events to promote health and wellness in the community by educating people about the importance of good nutrition, quitting smoking and regular health screenings.
Nikki Phillips and Ikuro Day, both registered nurses at MultiCare’s Tacoma General Hospital, used a booth at the race to spread the word about heart health and strokes.
“The race is just a marvelous way to tell everybody to stay healthy, to take care of yourself,” Phillips firstname.lastname@example.org