With a mix of distances, terrain, elevation changes, and start times, the Spokane River Run delivers to a varied audience and satisfies the newbie trail runner to the experienced veteran. This year’s event celebrated its 14th running on Sunday, April 23, and included a 5K, 10K, two different 25K routes, a 50K, and a 50K relay. Over 900 runners participated in the events, with the 10K garnering the most entrants for the day at 337.
The event is staged in Spokane’s Riverside State Park, the largest in Washington’s state park system boasting over 55 miles of trails within its expansive14,000 acres. The event is put on by a 100% volunteer organization comprised of a 15-member executive committee, led by race director Jeff Zellerhoff (pictured below), who has been at the helm for the past two years.
Zellerhoff is most proud of the charity-driven aspect of the event. “We partner with Garfield A.P.P.L.E., a program that offers an enhanced learning experience via parent participation for kids in the Spokane Districts, as well as additional local charity partners. The event provides more than $15,000 annually for our partner organizations.”
One of the oldest trail races in the Spokane area, the beautiful and challenging courses are primarily on single-track trail that wind through the thick pine forests of the park between rugged basalt cliffs and the roaring Spokane River. There is 274 feet of climbing in the 5-kilometer route, 509 feet of climbing in the 10-kilometer course, and 3,250 feet of climbing in the 50-kilometer course which is comprised of two 25K loops, one at 1350 feet of climbing, the other (dubbed the 25K Challenge), at 1900 feet.
Mike Rubin, who has been with the event for about five years, is the course director. Rubin explains the layout for the courses, “We like to mix it up. It adds and air of…validation I suppose. The 5K and 10K are designed with the locals, and fun runners in mind. The 25K and 50K still attract locals, as well as regional participants.”
In 2018, the race will celebrate its 15th anniversary. Zellerhoff for one would like to attract more participants. “I’d like to shoot for 1500 runners. It’s always good to have goals,” said Zellerhoff. “We’re constantly moving forward. Creating lists, looking to the future.”
One way he envisions a broader appeal is to host a national championship through USA Track & Field (USATF). Talks are underway with the Spokane Sports Commission, who is working to bring championship events to the community as they celebrate the Year of Running Spokane in 2018. Zellerhoff and his committee will discuss this prospect during their monthly race meeting in May.
Presently, the race is part of the Trail Runner Magazine Trophy Series and Rubin agrees that adding another facet to the event would be positive. “Stepping to a bigger stage would help move the advertising lever.”
The date for the 2018 edition of the Spokane River Run will be announced in the coming weeks, and hopefully the inclusion of a USATF championship distance will follow shortly after. To find more trail running races in Washington State check out our events calendar.