The South Sound doesn’t just run — it binges on the sport.
Over the past dozen years it’s seen the birth of a 50-kilometer trail race at Point Defiance. It’s welcomed the arrival of a 51-mile race from Mount Rainier to Tacoma. And it’s served as the launching pad for two international clubs for distance runners who log marathons and half-marathons at the same rate most people make trips to the grocery store.
It’s a trend that inspired Steve James when he was looking for ideas to bolster interest in the annual Daffodil Festival.
The festival director’s idea was to give the South Sound yet another opportunity for running gluttony.
It’s called the Daffodil 5K Challenge: Four 5-kilometer races in four cities in less than eight hours on April 5.
“It’s an idea that’s as crazy as having four parades in four cities in one day,” James said, describing precisely what the Daffodil Parade does each spring.
The 5Ks will be staged 90 minutes before the parades in Tacoma, Puyallup, Sumner and Orting. And each race will incorporate the parade route into the course.
“We envision people running while family members hold their spot along the parade route,” James said.
If you’re thinking anybody capable of limbering up four times in a day and running four 3.1-mile races ought to have a parade thrown in their honor, that’s kind of what will happen.
Anybody who completes the challenge gets to march — assuming their legs aren’t worn out — in the final leg of the parade as it passes through Orting.
“That’s a pretty neat idea,” said Rick Bogatay, manager of Puyallup’s South Sound Running, one of the event sponsors. “Most of the time when you run a 5K, the only people who know are the ones who were there.”
The Daffodil princesses will be waiting at the finish of the final 5K to award medals to everybody who completes the challenge.
The best prizes, however, were already awarded to those 25 high school princesses. The addition of the race to this year’s festivities, James said, meant bringing on new sponsors Nike and South Sound Running.
This meant each of the princesses received a pair of running shoes and workout clothes.
But as for the winner, James hopes that will be the YMCA’s Late Nite program, the beneficiary of the races.
The 5K challenge replaces the Y Run for Kids, a race with a name James says created confusion. Is it a race for kids? Or is it a race benefitting kids?
The Late Nite program aims to provide a safe place for high school kids to hang out and play on Friday evenings.
James says slightly more than 100 people had signed up to participate in the 5K Challenge as of mid-March. That’s hardly a huge number, but it’s not discouraging either, considering organizers only concocted the idea a few months ago.
James is hopeful that this year’s event will stoke enthusiasm among runners and walkers to participate in coming years.
And he’s pretty sure those who finish this year’s challenge will be back next year if they stick around to march in the Orting parade.
“Orting isn’t the longest parade, but once you’ve seen it, you have to come back,” James said. “Three times the population of Orting is there.”
And this year they’ll get to see a bunch of runners trying to master the high art of the parade wave.
Do you lead with the elbow or the wrist?
“If I was running, I think I could figure that out,” Bogatay said jokingly. “But I might watch some video to make sure I got the wave down just right.”