The remarkable growth of the Rainier to Ruston Rail-Trail Relay in western Washington very much parallels the growth of the rail-trail upon which it is run--the Foothills Trail.
The history of the race and the rail-trail are inextricably intertwined. When the first Rainier to Ruston Rail-Trail Relay was held in 1992, its goal was to raise money to build the Foothills Trail and help connect Mount Rainier with Puget Sound along an out-of-service section of the Northern Pacific Railroad.
But year after year, though attracting a great deal of interest from the local communities and runners across the state, the race failed to raise any money.
However, with the 50.8-mile race from Mt Rainier to Ruston Way in Tacoma about to celebrate it 10th anniversary with the 2012 running on June 2, organizers are set to celebrate another milestone--a tidy surplus. This year's race is poised to raise $10,000 or more for the Foothills Rails-to-Trails Coalition.
Race director Rob Hester told theTacoma News Tribune that interest in the race had increased considerably in the last few years. Others credit Hester himself for race entries growing from 240 runners in 2009 to 770 last year, to an expected 1,000 this year, working hard to promote the race across the state, and adding extra events.
During the past 10 years the trail, too, has gone from strength to strength, as communities along the route pave and complete a number of missing links and replace temporary on-road sections with connected rail-trail.
The race uses 37.6 miles of paved and unpaved trail, with runners taking to sidewalks and roads to cover the links yet completed. Along the way the route passes through some of America's most beautiful wilderness areas, and a number of small towns.
Though 50 miles is still 50 miles, anyone considering the challenge, solo or as part of a relay team, will be pleased to know the route is entirely downhill. From an elevation of approximately 1,700 feet at the Carbon River entrance to Mount Rainier National Park, the trail descends to sea level. If this isn't enough to encourage you to give the run a go this year, perhaps envisioning the incredible view looking back at Mt Rainier at the finish will be.
More information at www.rainiertoruston.com.