Race: Tunnel Vision Marathon

Runner: Kim K

Race Date: 08/18/2019

Location: Hyak, WA

Results: 5:31

tunnel vision marathon

3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?

  1. The course is beautiful! Starts at Snoqualmie Pass in the Cascades on a wide trail that was converted from an old train line.
  2. Very fast and easy because it is flat and slightly downhill. Negative elevation gain but not hard on the knees.
  3. Weather is typically not too hot. This year, race day was a high of 74 at the end of the course. Tons of shade along the entire course.

Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you

The aid stations and support were awful. This course is very remote. In the first 21 miles, there are only a couple spots that are easily accessible so you really don’t see anyone other than the volunteers for most of the race. The original plan was 10 aid stations which is fewer than what other organizations offer on this same course. At Mile 16, the aid station was deserted with empty water jugs. No water! No people. No nutrition. Just trash everywhere. Ok, that was bad and scary, I’ll get water at the next one. Mile 18, same thing! Remember, this is a very remote trail. No people anywhere for miles. This was my first ever marathon, I wasn’t going fast. This course sells itself on being a BQ and it felt like those of us who weren’t going for that were just left to fend for ourselves. The other scary part is once I got to the second deserted aid station in row, I just assumed there was no more support for the rest of the race. It was very demoralizing and disappointing. Thankfully, after 8 miles of no support, I came upon a manned aid station that actually had water. Go figure.
This summer, I ran two other races on this same course with different organizations and the aid stations were plentiful and well stocked with water, nutrition, and people. I highly recommend this course, but I would avoid any of the Tunnel Marathons and go with the Cascade Series or Jack and Jill.

Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?

The tunnel! It’s so cool. A half mile into the race, you enter a 2.5 mile long old, dark train tunnel. You bring a headlamp or small flashlight to make your way through. It’s dark and damp which affects your senses, including your concept of time. By the time you’re out, you’ve done 3 miles!

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

It was my first ever marathon! In celebration of my 50th, I decided to try running again and check a marathon off my list. My dear friend traveled from out of state to do it with me. Our kids were at the finish line and my daughter even jumped in and held my hand as I crossed the finish line.

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

I would make sure to visit the tunnel before the race. Whether you take a quick run through it or walk. It can be disorienting, but I have found that each time I go through it, it becomes less so.

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

Yes! Very beautiful with views at times. Heavily wooded as well.

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

Easy, very fast, negative elevation, and a BQ.

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

No, see above. Things felt minimal from the beginning, especially given the $129 registration fee.

Competition – Is there a strong field?

Yes. Not that this applied to me. This course sells itself on a decent percentage of BQers. There is a large percentage of competitive and fast runners going for a BQ. That said, it’s also a wonderful course for first-time marathoners or people who are looking for a non-technical and easy marathon course.

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

Since it’s one of the fastest BQ courses, it does sell out.

Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?

See above. Awful.

Weather and typical race conditions

Summer in the PNW is always a mixed bag. Weather was perfect. Low 50s at the start. 72 at the finish. That said, two weeks before, it was 90. In July, I did a HM on the same course and it rained the entire time.

Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next guy?

You need a headlamp/flashlight and maybe a long sleeve layer for the tunnel. They provide drop bags that you leave (you have to carry the bag with your from the start) just outside of the tunnel so you can pick up your extra stuff at the end of the race.

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

Virtually no crowd support until Mile 21 when you make the turn into Rattlesnake Lake Rec area. Not a lot though even after mile 21.

How’s the Swag?

Lame. An ugly t-shirt (everyone was remarking on how bad they were) and a medal. Nothing else. Lame for $129 registration fee.

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?

2 stars for race organization, but I give the trail/course 5 stars. I definitely recommend the course if you really want a BQ. Cascade Series does several races on the same course and offers a variety of distances. Jack and Jill is another one who uses the same course and does a better job.