Course change boosts sign-ups for Tacoma City Marathon

Staff writerMarch 31, 2013 

Marathons aren’t for everybody, but the Tacoma City Marathon comes pretty close.

When the race started in 2007, it instantly earned a reputation for being one of the hardest marathons in the state. It was packed with miles of uphill that made personal bests hard and the event overwhelming for some first-timers.

Event organizers changed that for this year’s May 5 race by designing a 26.2-mile course that defies Tacoma’s geography. The once-brutal race is now a net downhill course. It’s a change the race directors say is permanent.

“It’s more user-friendly,” said race co-director Paul Morrison.

Well, at least as user-friendly as 26.2 miles can be.

Race organizers already have been rewarded for the change. Last year through March, they had about 1,000 people registered for the race. This March, registration totals have doubled.

For the first six years, the half marathon has been the most popular race. This year, more people have registered for the full distance, Morrison said.

Last year, the event drew about 2,200 participants, Morrison said. This year, they’re expecting as many as 4,000. They’ve registered at least one runner from every state and also have participants from Iceland and Brazil.

So how do you find 26.2 net downhill miles in Tacoma without running back and forth on the waterfront?

Organizers changed the loop course to a point-to-point race.

The marathon will start at the Tacoma Narrows Airport in Gig Harbor and cross the Narrows bridge via the Scott Pierson Trail before making its way to Point Defiance Park. The race concludes with a long flat stretch along Ruston Way before finishing downtown at the Tacoma Art Museum.

The marathon entry fee ($100) includes a pre-race shuttle service from the museum to the starting line as early as 4:30 a.m.

The toughest leg of the new course is the first 4.7 miles, which includes the uphill of the bridge as well as climbing from the bridge to the gentler streets.

Still, even a net downhill 26.2 miles is too much for most people, right?

This is why organizers, in their effort to become a Tacoma fixture, have added several other events so as many people as possible can be a part of the festivities:

 • A half marathon on the waterfront is also flat. Even those who haven’t been training might still have enough time to get ready to run-walk this course by May 5.

“But if they want to run the whole thing and still feel OK, they probably should have started training about a month ago,” Morrison said.

The course is open for four hours, making it possible for some participants to walk all 13.1 miles.

Participants receive half a medal for finishing and can get the other half by finishing the 2014 race.

 • A marathon relay, for teams of up to five people, allows people to take on the main course in stretches ranging from 3.3 miles to 7.8 miles. All relay team members receive a finisher medal. Teams provide their own transportation to the exchange areas.

 • A 5-kilometer race is open to runners, walkers and even stroller pushers. The course also is “user friendly” starting and finishing at the art museum. No finisher medals for this event because, well, it’s only 3.1 miles. But, even better, just like the marathoners and finishers of every distance, participants receive chocolate milk and a slice of pizza at the finish line.

 • The kids’ marathon has become a Tacoma City Marathon fixture that organizers hope will inspire kids to take up active lifestyles. The race starts before May 5 with a list of 25 tasks to complete.

Tasks such as jumping rope, playing basketball, journaling, riding a bike and reading each count a mile toward finishing the marathon.

The kids arrive on race day with the tasks complete, then finish their marathon with a one-mile run.

Through the years, Morrison has seen several participants in the kids’ marathon graduate to the 5K, and he hopes to see them participating in the half and full marathons in the future.

Participants receive the same medal as those running the full marathon.

“They love the hardware, baby,” Morrison said. “That’s what it’s all about, finishing.”


When: May 5

Races: 26.2, 13.1 and 3.3 miles, plus a five-person marathon relay and a kids’ marathon.

Cost: $100 marathon, $75 half, $35 5K, $250 per team for the relay and $12.50 for the kids’ marathon. Prices increase April 16.

Expo: The Tacoma City Marathon Expo is May 3-4 at the Hotel Murano’s Bicentennial Pavilion.

More training: Need more training time to get ready for a half or full marathon? The Capital City Marathon is May 19 in Olympia.

More info: Go to Upcoming runs and rides


April 13, 9 a.m., Point Defiance

A 5-kilomter run/walk event to benefit the It Takes a Village Foundation also offers a shorter race for children. The foundation supports families and children affected by autism. The race entry is $25 for the 5K, but rates increase Tuesday. More information: or call 206-384-6076.


April 14, 1:11 p.m., Marathon Park

Friends of longtime Olympia High teacher and coach Todd McDougall are staging a 5-mile poker run in his honor at 1:11 p.m. on April 14. Why 1:11? That is his room number. “It is really a race of love and support for Todd,” said Tessa Effland, a race organizer. McDougall was diagnosed with brain cancer in December. A minimum donation of $20 is requested, but ages 12 and younger can enter for free. More information: Send an email to or


April 14, 7 a.m., Orting Middle School

The Tacoma Wheelmen’s Bicycle Club is holding its 38th annual Daffodil Classic bike ride in the Orting Valley. Pierce County’s oldest ride offers distances of 40 or 60 miles or the distance of your choice on the 15-mile Foothills Trail. The ride is $30 per person or $50 for entry into this ride and the June 2 Peninsula Metric Century. More information:


June 22, McCleary

The Dirty Dash national mud run series returns to the South Sound this season with a race staged at McCleary’s Straddleline Raceway. Participants in this noncompetitive event take on obstacles and acres of mud. The entry fee is $45, but it increases April 10. More information:

Craig Hill’s fitness column runs Sundays. Submit questions and comments via and Get more fitness coverage at, and

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