The Tunnel Lite Marathon  2012  

 Snoqualmie Pass to North Bend, WA
 Sunday September 16, 2012 8:00 AM start


2013 Plans
The 2013 Tunnel Lite Marathon will be held on September 15, 2013. It will be much like the 2012 race described below. Registration will open in mid-June.
2012 Results are posted
The weather was beautiful, the course was fast and the food was delicious, according to some of the runner comments we received after the race. The race directors wish to thank our volunteers, our medical team and of course our runners for another successful event.
The official results of the 2012 Tunnel Lite Marathon are now online and have been submitted to the USATF and to the Boston Athletic Association. Runner finish line photos and other marathon photos are now online as well.
About the Race
If this page looks alot like the Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon page, it's because much of this race looks quite a bit like the Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon last July. Same tunnel, same downhill course, still a Boston qualifier (the last for 2013 if Boston registration stays open long enough, which we believe it will due to the tighter qualifying standards this year). This race is smaller and more lightly supported - no chip timing, no start and finish arches, fewer aid stations and not as many friendly volunteers along the course. Weather will probably be less pleasant as well, cooler with a greater chance of rain. We still bus runners to the start, supply drop bags for your flashlight and clothing, set out some gels along the course, keep medical personnel standing by. And did we mention, it's the same fast downhill course, so if you ran the race last July and didn't quite make a PR, here's a second chance.

The Tunnel Lite Marathon on September 16 2012 is a point-to-point downhill marathon race on the Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon course 50 miles east of Seattle, Washington. The course is a Boston qualifier (USATF certification number WA 08031 MW) and has the best profile in the country for a fast time due to the consistent gentle downhill grade and the low starting elevation. The first three miles are flat, cold, foggy and damp inside an unlit tunnel. Flashlights are strongly recommended. Once out of the Tunnel the gravel trail starts down the hill and keeps on going down, 2050 feet in the next 23 miles. It's never steep enough to be uncomfortable; you just feel like you're having a good day.
Spectators (other than a bear once in a while) are few but the views are scenic. Aid stations with water, Gatorade, and cups are provided every five miles or so (most are self-serve) and restrooms are located here and there. We provide medical support and marshals on bicycles on the course, which is supported for 7 hours. You'll receive a leftover Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon medal at the finish, where you'll probably also find some food (including Susan's tasty vegetarian chili) and aid and a few friendly people waiting to greet you.
As noted above, this race is a ghost-type event, a smaller and more lightly-supported version of the Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon. It won't have many volunteers or spectators; you'll probably be pretty much on your own on the course (other than medical support at the start and finish and at miles 13, 17 and 21). You'll need to pour your own Gatoradea and/or water at the aid stations which will slow you down a bit (though really not much) if you're going for a fast time.
The entry fee is about $59 with the online service charge. As we do for the Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon, we offer a partial refund of $40 of your entry fee and $15 of your shirt cost if you notify us prior to midnight on September 9. No refunds are available after September 9.
Tunnel Lite Marathon TShirts are available for $22; if you'd like one you can order it when you register. Like the Light at the End of the Tunnel Tshirt, they are short-sleeved technical T's in a smooth-feel fabric and are available in Men's (crew neck) and Women's (V-neck) styles. The color for both men's and women's shirts is "Ocean Blue", a relatively bright shade of blue. The shirts feature the Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon logo above the left breast and a Tunnel Lite Marathon graphic in white on the back.
Schedulereturn to top
There is no pre-race Expo. Runner check-in is at the start. Most runners will want to park at the finish and catch one of the free buses to the start. Conditions at the start will be cool and possibly wet, so bring extra clothing to keep warm. At check-in you'll receive two drop bags with your bib number marked on them. One drop bag is for you to leave at the start with your warm clothing. You should carry the other drop bag through the tunnel and leave it at the aid station with your flashlight and any additional clothing you want to leave behind (the tunnel is cool and somewhat damp as well as dark). Both drop bags will be transported to the finish for you.
When you check in at the start you'll receive a brown envelope which contains your Light at the End of the Tunnel marathon bib (we're into recycling), safety pins and your two drop bags. Attach the bib to your shirt with the provided pins. Bib may be pinned to your shorts but must be visible from the front at the start and finish. We'll be using the tag at the bottom of your bib for timing, so do not remove it.
Your family is welcome to join you at the start but please note that a $10 parking permit is required and can be purchased at the parking area. There are several other points along the trail where spectators may view runners, in particular at the Garcia, Twin Falls and Rattlesnake aid stations. Here are directions to spectator course access points.
Family members with bicycles can ride down the trail during the race but should not bicycle through the tunnel with the runners due to crowding. If your family or friends want to bike the course but do not want to leave a car at the start, you may be able to find a volunteer to either drive you and your bikes up to the start, or drive your car back to the finish for you. Buses are primarily for runners and may not be able to carry bicycles.
An early start shortly after 7AM is available for slower runners. The course is open for 7 hours after the regular start at 8AM, so if you expect to take 7 hours or longer to complete the run, you should start early. If you expect to run faster than 5 hours, please do the regular start at 8AM. Any early starters who finish in under 5 hours will be given an official finishing time of 5:00:00. If you want your actual time to be your official time and you'll be running faster than 5 hours, you should start at 8AM. Early starters should catch the first bus, which will leave the parking area at Ole Cedar Mill Mini Storage around 6:20AM.
Here's the race day schedule:
6:00AM Parking area at Ole Cedar Mill Mini Storage opens.
6:20 & 6:50AM Buses leave parking area for the start
6:55-7:45AM Runners check in and prepare to run
~7:15AM Early start for slower runners
8:00AM Official start
10:00AM Finish area opens
11:30AM Garcia (13 mile) aid station closes
12:15PM Twin Falls (16 mile) aid station closes
1:30PM Rattlesnake (21 mile) aid station closes
3:00PM Official timing closes. Finish area takedown begins.
Last runner in Skeleton finish area crew wraps up.
We don't offer a pre-race pasta feed either but the North Bend Grill is popular and there are lots of other nice restaurants within a half hour drive towards Seattle. For a fancy dinner, try the Salish Lodge a few miles north of North Bend in Fall City.
Parking at the Start
Some runners, particularly those driving from east of the mountains or staying at Snoqualmie Pass, may prefer to park at the start. We do not currently have any arrangements for transportation back to the start from the finish after the race so if you are considering parking at the start, please notify the race director. Please note that a Washington State Discover Pass is required to park at the start. Day parking passes are available at a self-service fee station at the start parking area and cost $10.
The Marathon Coursereturn to top
The race starts at the Hyak trailhead for the John Wayne Pioneer trail just east of Snoqualmie Pass. After a 3/4 mile warm-up the next 2 1/4 miles of the course run underground through the damp and pitch-black Hyak Tunnel, a little like Seattle in November only alot darker. Flashlights are strongly recommended. Once you get about 50 yards into the tunnel, you can see a pinpoint of light ahead of you which is the "Light at the End of the Tunnel" over 2 miles away. If you see more than one point of light, you're probably looking at mountain bike headlights.
The next 13 miles run parallel to and a little above I-90 along the John Wayne Pioneer Trail, passing through a snowshed and over four high trestle bridges before diverging from I-90 and traversing mostly forested slopes for 5 more miles to the Iron Horse State Park trailhead at Rattlesnake Lake. At Rattlesnake Lake the course continues on the Snoqualmie Valley trail past a few houses and through leafy second-growth forest before returning to civilization for the last half mile or so. The race finishes at a gravel parking area along North Bend Way 2.4 miles SE of downtown North Bend.
Here's a map of the course.
The last 23 miles of the course are all downhill at a fast 80'/mile gradient except for one little 50-yard hill at about mile 8.5 and a few short flat sections. Both the John Wayne Pioneer and Snoqualmie Valley trails are old railway grades surfaced with hard-packed gravel and wide enough for a car to pass. The surface is generally smooth but there are sections with small rocks so you'll want to watch your footing. As trail runs go, it's non-technical. Most runners will be comfortable running in road shoes but perhaps not in FiveFingers. The race director would run it in lightweight trainers if he wasn't otherwise occupied on race day. You might find gaitors helpful (see Suggestions below).
The course will not be closed to other users so expect scattered cyclists, walkers and joggers, particularly on the second half of the course, as well as rock climbers around mile 16. There should be no motorized vehicles on any portion of the course except at the two low-traffic road crossings at miles 13 and 25.5.
The course will be marked with orange tape and white-flour arrows where necessary. Most miles will be marked and numbered.
If you are nervous about heights or being inside caves, you should evaluate whether or not you'll be comfortable on this course. The tunnel is about 20' wide and 30' tall but it is almost completely dark for a couple of miles. Beyond the tunnel, there are several high trestle bridges and a few other sections of the trail from which it feels like a long ways down to the ground.
Course Map (Adapted from The Backcountry Unicyclist)
Here is a rather large topographic map of the entire course.
Supportreturn to top
The Tunnel Lite Marathon is a trail marathon with limited access to roads and aid along the course. You may want to carry a small water bottle, particularly if the weather is warm. You may also want to carry a cell phone.
There are six aid stations along the course, situated at roughly 5 mile intervals. Water and Gatorade are in 5 and 7 gallon plastic jugs. Cups are provided at all aid stations but at most aid stations you'll need to fill the cup yourself. Wastebaskets are provided at and shortly after each aid station for cups and other litter. Runners have in the past left the trail very clean; we haven't found much litter at all along the trail after the race. First aid supplies, provided at some of the aid stations, include Vaseline, Band aids, salt caps, sunburn cream and bug spray.
Here are the aid station details:
Mile Name Staffed Supplies Access
2.6 Tunnel exit Yes Water, Gatorade Bike. Vehicle for drop bags.
8.0 Bandera No Water, Gatorade, GU Bike down the course
13.4 Garcia Maybe Water, Gatorade, GU/Roctane, First aid Vehicle via Garcia Road
16.4 Twin Falls No Water, Gatorade, GU 1/4 mile hike up Twin Falls Road
21.2 Rattlesnake Maybe Water, Gatorade, GU/Roctane, First aid Vehicle via Cedar Falls Rd
23.1 Edgwick No Water, Gatorade, GU Vehicle via SE Edgewick Rd
In addition to the aid stations, we may have a course marshal or two riding bicycles on the course during the run. Course marshals will be carrying minor first aid supplies as well as a few extra GU and will have cell phones to call for help should you need it. At least one EMT will be on the course at all times as well, with the ability to call for assistance or emergency evacuation from any point on the trail if needed.
There are porta-potties and restrooms at the start and a porta-potty at the finish. Along the course there are restrooms at miles 3, 8.7, 11.6 and at mile 21.2.
We'll provide fluids and chili and a variety of snack foods at the finish.
All finishers receive a Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon medal (your second one, if you ran the race in July), but we don't have any winners' awards for this race.
Accomodationsreturn to top
If you're coming from across the country, you'll probably want to fly into Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and rent a car. North Bend is about 40 minutes from the airport.
Lodging and restaurants are available in North Bend within a few miles of the marathon parking, bus pickup and finish areas. The two or three closest motels have mixed reviews, though I haven't heard any complaints from our runners. The North Bend Motel (425) 888-1121 ($60-74/room night, 2.3 miles from the finish) is within a mile or so of restaurants in downtown North Bend. The Edgewick Inn (425) 888-9000 ($65-85/room night, 1.5 mi from the finish) is located at I-90 exit 34 about four miles from downtown North Bend. You'll also find a few B&B's in the North Bend area, including The Old Hen with three rooms ($125-250, 2.7 miles from the finish area) and the Roaring River B&B with four rooms ($145-195, 4.2 miles from the finish area) and the The Log Cabin with two rooms ($125-150, 3.6 miles from the finish area).
There are more motels in the Eastgate area of Bellevue along I-90 just east of I-405, which is about a 20 minute drive from the finish. There are also several motels at Snoqualmie Pass, which is a mile or two from the start and about 20 minutes from the finish via I-90.
There are two National Forest campgrounds within about 10 miles of the finish area - Tinkham and Middle Fork Campground. Go to this site and search for campgrounds near "98045". RV and tent camping are also available at the private Snoqualmie River RV Park and Campground in nearby Fall City, also about 10 miles from the finish area.
For dinner in North Bend we generally eat at the North Bend Grill in downtown North Bend a couple miles east of the marathon finish area. The food is quite good and they have a decent selection of local micro-brews. You'll find a large selection of nice restaurants in Issaquah and Bellevue, 15 and 25 minutes west of North Bend respectively.
Directions to the Finish and Parkingreturn to top
The finish area and parking are located about 30 miles east of Seattle and 2.5 miles from downtown North Bend, Washington. Here are printable directions to the course access points, including the Start and Finish.
To get there from Seattle head east on I-90 to exit 32. At the end of the exit ramp turn NORTH (towards Mt Si, which is on your LEFT if you're headed out from Seattle) onto 436th Ave SE. Go about 0.6 miles and turn sharp RIGHT on North Bend Way. In 0.6 miles you'll see a gravel pull-off on the right where SE Tanner Road meets SE North Bend Way. That's the finish area. The parking area is 200 yards farther up North Bend Way on the left at the Ole Cedar Mill Mini Storage. Most runners will want to park there and catch a bus to the start, in part because parking at the start requires a $10 daily Discover Pass. The address of the finish area parking at the Ole Cedar Mill Mini Storage is 44800 SE North Bend Way, North Bend, WA 98045.
Runners should plan to be at the parking area between 6:00AM and 6:30AM. Buses will leave the parking area for the start at about 6:20AM and 6:50AM. Runners planning to start early should catch the first bus from Ole Cedar Mill Mini Storage around 6:20AM.
Directions to the Start
Head east on I-90 to Exit 54 which is two miles past Snoqualmie Summit. At the end of the exit ramp turn RIGHT then immediately turn LEFT on a road that parallels I-90 heading East. Go about 0.4 miles then you'll have to turn RIGHT at a Department of Transportation maintenance yard. After about 50 yards you'll turn RIGHT again at the first road off to the right. Follow this road 0.1 miles to the Hyak trailhead parking lot. Park at the east end of the lot.
You'll also see small brown signs with white lettering directing you from the highway offramp to the Iron Horse State Park trailhead. If you end up at Hyak Lodge or at Keechelus Lake you have missed the right turn heading to the Hyak parking lot. This aerial photo shows the start area - follow the orange line.
A daily ($10) or annual ($30) Discover Pass is required to park at the start area. Overnight parking at the start is not permitted, although there are areas nearby where an RV could probably be parked overnight. To use Google maps for directions, the address at the start is Hyak Parking Lot, Hyak, Snoqualmie Pass, WA. If you plan to park at the start, you should arrive before 7:30AM (6:30AM for early starters) to allow time to pick up your packet and prepare to run.
Suggestionsreturn to top
Gaitors - You may want running gaitors to keep gravel out of your shoes. I use Dirty Girl Gaitors and find they work well.
Flashlight - It is possible to run the tunnel without a light, but you'll probably want one. We'll give you a drop bag to leave at the end of the tunnel so you don't have to carry your light the rest of the way.
Don't go barefoot - While I'm a fan of barefoot running, this might not be the course for minimalist shoes. Two years ago we had to run up the trail with a pair of shoes to rescue a runner in Five-fingers. If you do plan to use lightweight shoes, make sure you've trained in them on gravel roads.
Downhill training - Add some downhill running to your training. Long gentle downhill at a brisk pace would be best but any runnable downhill grade will work. Do repeats if your hills are short. Your quads will thank you.
Sunscreen and Bug Dope - We'll have these at the start for you and you may want to use them. You'll also find sunscreen at several of the aid stations. You'll get quite a bit of sun in the middle half of the course and at the finish. Mosquitos are unlikely this time of year but you may find a couple, particularly if you take walk breaks, in some of the wooded sections in the second half.
Start Early if you need more than 6 or 7 hours to complete the race you may start early. The course closes at 3PM so starting at 7AM gives slower runners and walkers 8 hours to finish. Runners who will finish in under 5 hours should start at the regular time since since a minimum official finishing time of 5:00:00 will assigned to early starters who come in under 5 hours.
Weatherreturn to top
Current forecast (9/14) is for shade and 47F at the start (that's still pretty chilly), 50F and damp in the tunnel, 62F and sunny at the halfway point at 10:30AM and 74F and sunny at the finish at 1PM. Though there are sunny sections, this time of year much of the course is in the shade and air temperatures seem to stay cooler than the thermometer would indicate. We expect that most of the race will be quite cool despite the mid-70s forecast for later in the day. The smoke in the air on Thursday and Friday supposed to clear by Saturday afternoon and Sunday should be very nice. You'll probably want sunscreen, particularly if you end up hanging around the finish area for a while after your run.