43rd Sound to Narrows will be hillier than usual thanks to Vassault Playfield closure

Runners can always count on having plenty of hills to climb at the Sound to Narrows, but this year they’re getting an extra dose.

Thanks to what race organizer Danette Felt calls a “Murphy’s Law year,” the courses for the June race will be modified.

The 43-year-old race is traditionally on the second Saturday in June. This year, that’s the weekend before the U.S. Open golf tournament. At one point, Felt wasn’t sure if she’d be able to get enough police officers to work the event.

But it’s worked out, Felt said.

The Seattle Rock ‘N’ Roll Marathon did switch dates this year and is now on June 13, the same day as the Sound to Narrows. It could pull some runners from the race, but for now Felt says registration is going well with the bulk of registrants typically signing up in the two weeks prior to the race.

The biggest issue for the race is the soil remediation project taking place at Vassault Playfield. The 17.5-acre park at 6100 North 37th Street serves as the staging and finishing area for the race.

The state Department of Ecology is removing arsenic-contaminated topsoil from the park and replacing it with new soil.

The closed park means moving the course. Ideas included using the race’s original route, which started at Owen Beach with an uphill climb. But Felt said getting 5,000 runners to the starting area wasn’t feasible.

So, organizers decided to try to keep the course as close to the traditional route as possible.

The 12-kilometer course will still start on Vassault Street near the playfield, but won’t finish in the park. As runners enter Point Defiance Park this year, they will run around Waterfront Drive rather than up Five Mile Drive to the zoo.

They’ll get in an extra hill by running up to Fort Nisqually this year. In the past, the course has bypassed this section of Five Mile Drive. And, like always, the course will end with the long uphill climb on Vassault Street to the finish.

The News Tribune biked the new course with a GPS-enabled measuring device on May 30. The app showed the course has 594 feet of elevation gain.

The 5-kilometer course has also been altered to an out-and-back route on Vassault Street with a short loop off of Park Way.

The 5K has traditionally returned via Pearl Street, a more gradual climb than what runners will face on Vassault.

However, by staying off busier Pearl Street, Felt says the race might need fewer police officers to monitor the course.

Felt says the course are expected to return to their traditional routes in 2016.