Des Moines parkrun, Washington, USA

Des Moines parkrun route
Des Moines parkrun route.

I missed a parkrun last week, reasoning that an hour and a half to Crissy Field, San Francisco, was too far. Too far because I have run it before, that is.

No such problem this week, with both Renton and Des Moines Creek available south of Seattle. The latter is closest to the light rail, and is a newer event (just number 6 today) so I headed there. A 40 minute ride to Angle Lake, the end of the line, and I walked down the road (stay on the right hand side, the pavement runs out on the left, though I did walk there, in the cycle path), turned left into the Creek Trail at a small car park, and jogged down to the start.

View from Angle Lake station
View from Angle Lake station. Mt Rainier is there, but faint.

Down it was, too. The parkrun website makes it clear that there is a gain of over 250 feet from bottom to top, and the top of the creek trail is higher still. An easy run down, then, though I was the only person doing it. A couple of other tourists turned up, but they stayed near the bottom, in Des Moines itself.

Des Moines Creek trail.
Des Moines Creek trail. This is the surface throughout.

I was greeted enthusiastically by the volunteers. One had toured England extensively, so we were soon into discussing accents. I agreed that everyone has an accent to some people, but secretly still believe neutral English is accentless English. One of the volunteers is a local councillor, keen to extol the virtues of up-and-coming Des Moines, and it does seem lovely (the sunshine helped), with a gorgeous waterfront setting for the town (parkrun is a smidge inland). Pronunciation-wise, older residents pronounce the ess, newer ones do not – it was suggested that’s because of the Iowa place of the same name. I was a little embarrassed by the attention, but had spotted another runner slide in nearby, modestly standing to one side despite wearing (under the cover of another top) a parkrun apricot top. I pointed him out and he helped share the enthusiasm. I was right to think he was modest, mind – he never even mentioned that he had completed the date-line double (parkrun in Aus/NZ, flight, then parkrun in West Coast US/Canada; in his case, Brisbane-Richmond).

The Creek trail starts near the water, so there’s a cool breeze and a short walk will get you to the salty smell the councillor of which was particularly fond.

Sign advertising parkrun
Reverse of the turn here sign, about half a mile down the trail.

I got the train earlier than I needed to, hopping on the 7.09 from Westlake, and running down the trail around 8. The turn around sign was already in place, along with plenty of chalked motivation on the ground, which was great but did lead me to double check that 9 was the start time.

Turn here sign, parkrun, in place before 8am.
Turn here sign, parkrun, in place before 8am.

The route is tarmac-covered all the way down, so it’s just the ascent to slow you down. For me, the first half was 1:10 slower than the second, so it does make quite a difference. I’ve not run Ashton Court in the UK, which has a similar profile, so I’m interested to get there and see if it is a similar speed, or similar effect, if you like.

Heading into the woods, a couple of hundred metres in.
Heading into the woods, a couple of hundred metres in.

There is little that is tricky about the course, though on the way down, at the water-treatment plant, there’s a tempting route off to the left. The trail is the one marked with a yellow line down the middle. Other than that, we were warned to stay on the pavement (sidewalk) past the car park, which curves round and might be confusing if you haven’t checked it out. One runner was too tempted by the straight line available through the car park and bombed through there, which worked fine, but does mean brushing through leaves and hopping up a kerb to get past a gate. It probably doesn’t make much difference, but it will tempt you if you’re on a second run and after a pb.

"Have a great day" written in chalk
Plenty of motivational chalk messages.

Post run we cheered in the runners and walkers and I stood chatting in the sun. The ‘international contingent’, Scotland, England, Australia, had a quick photo taken for later and then we all headed to the farmers’ market, which starts at 10. In the end, we just wandered through and then went our separate ways, without quite enough people to make getting coffee the sociable option. The volunteers were mostly curious as to how we heard about parkrun, so we pointed out the various maps and tools that tell people where they are. That doesn’t stop people asking ‘is there a parkrun near..?’, but those tourists who like to plan these things in advance will be well aware of Des Moines, and itching to visit. I’m glad to have got there fairly early; always nice to feel ahead of the crowds.

WA’s strongest man competition on Des Moines seafront.
WA’s strongest man competition on Des Moines seafront.

But, as the councillor had told us, the Washington strongest man competition was taking place on the seafront, so I stood and watched people lift, or struggle with, heavy kegs. Watching it soon became clear that it wasn’t just the weight, but the shape that prevented some from lifting the kegs. Or ‘the sodding things’ as they were probably thinking, after 30 seconds of effort. And I learnt that the powerlifting federation mandates a rubber sole, and one competitor had the most lightweight ones available. They looked pretty sticky.

Even leaving before 7am, and with a run mostly under shade, I really should have put sun screen on, walking back to the station in blazing sunshine and ending feeling a little warm. Otherwise, though, a total success.

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