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Seattle marathon 2019
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Ross: A plan for a Seattle marathon that doesn’t block traffic

The Seattle Rock'n'Roll Marathon takes over. (Donald Miralle/Getty Images for Rock'n'Roll Marathon)

Summer in Seattle means spacious skies, mountain majesties, and multitudes running marathons on major metropolitan motorways.

SR 99 tunnel and a marathon headline weekend closures

Driving home yesterday I couldn’t figure out why there would be a traffic jam on I-5 on a Sunday afternoon, until I saw an electronic sign bearing a message:

“SR 99 closed for marathon.”

Now, I know marathons raise money for many worthy causes, but when you pay for a marathon that runs through the middle of a city, a good chunk of that money has to go into the logistics of organizing the marathon itself. I am happy to support St. Jude’s by writing a check every year, without somebody having to prove their endurance to earn my money.

But if runners do need to prove their endurance, there are plenty of places to run that don’t require traffic detours.

There are there are 22 runs scheduled in the Seattle area just in the month of June, and eight of them are within the city!

Now, the Iron Horse trail marathon through the Cascade Tunnel? That’s in the spirit of a real marathon, as you’re running through the countryside.

But tying up route 99 on a sunny weekend and sending all the traffic to I-5 just creates an unnecessary traffic jam. Why didn’t we leave the viaduct standing and reserve it for marathons?

Sadly, it’s too late for that now, so I have another idea.

Seattleites party on the Alaskan Way Viaduct in one last traffic jam

Instead of insisting that 10,000 people drive to a starting location and all run together on streets that were not designed for running, runners should run their own marathons. They would start from their homes, head to the nearest running trail, and a smartphone app would track everyone simultaneously. Each runner would be scored based on speed and terrain in a virtual competition that tests endurance, all without tying up traffic.

Instead of runners having to drive someplace, run in a circle, and drive back – needlessly pumping carbon into the air – it’s all on foot.

Then, once a year, the best marathoners meet at Husky Stadium just before a game, and run a huge pre-game race with rock bands in front of cheering crowds. All the runners could get there on environmentally-friendly light rail, with big collection barrels at the entrances for cash and check contributions, 100 percent of which could go to the charity.

And you could do it without a single detour.

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