“Subdued” might seem like an unusual word for one of the South Sound’s most popular running races, but in relative terms, that’s what Saturday’s Sound-to-Narrows was.
The field was down to about 4,000 runners — some 2,000 fewer than the number who’ve registered in the past several years.
Not only that, but the vast expanse of turf at Vassault Park, where runners, vendors and families usually jostle for space, was closed off by cyclone fencing and stood empty.
Race director Danette Felt attributed the drop in numbers to a couple of factors. First, this year’s race coincided with opening activities at the U.S. Open in nearby University Place. Second, one of Seattle’s most popular races, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon, which drew 17,000 runners, fell on the same day this year.
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The Vassault playfields are fenced to give newly planted turf a chance to take hold. Metro Parks reseeded the fields after the state Department of Ecology removed topsoil contaminated by the old ASARCO smelter and replaced it with clean soil last year.
“To be honest, I wasn’t all that disappointed to see that the numbers were down this year,” Felt said. “It actually kind of worked out well, because we don’t have as much space.”
The other big changes in this year’s Sound to Narrows were modifications made to the traditional 12K, 5K and 2K running routes that have been followed for the past 30 years.
“We had to modify all three of the courses because of not being able to finish down in the park,” Felt said. “We’re waiting to hear what people thought of it.”
This year’s 12K course had a flatter beginning because of the elimination of Gold Fish Hill in Point Defiance Park and the introduction of a new, less steep entrance to the park via Waterfront Drive.
The initial reaction of at least some veteran runners was positive.
“I liked it,” said Trevor Jennings, of Tacoma. “It was more straightforward and less complicated. You’d think the people who were laying out the race in the first place would have chosen that.”
Jennings, 30, said he’s run the Sound to Narrows four or five times since he first ran it at the age of 13. He was among the top 12K finishers in Saturday’s race with a time of 43 minutes, 15 seconds.
Despite the flatter beginning, the overall course had slightly more uphill than usual, maintaining its reputation as one of the tougher “fun runs” around.
“I hate hills,” said Emma Boucher, 55, of Lakewood. “I did okay in the first mile, but the second and third miles were bad. I had to do a lot more walking.”
Boucher, who said she ran competitively when she was in school, moved to the Northwest from Kansas four years ago. “We do have some hills in Kansas,” she said, “but nothing like this.”