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Light Rail Relay

Arriving soon

Marathon relay along Seattle's Link Light Rail by Race Condition Running.
08:30 September 30th

18 legs - 28.10 mi ↑2200ft ↓2300ft

The relay will start at Angle Lake station and follow the entire operational line to Northgate, with visits to each station on the way. The route passes through Sea-Tac, Tukwila, and Bryn-Mawr Skyway before traversing the length of Seattle.

FAQ

It's a chance to experience different parts of the city, and there's no better way to appreciate what Link does for Seattle than to run the route. If you're the competitive type, you may like the idea of racing trains. Or maybe you're an ultra-runner keen on establishing Seattle's first great urban FKT. Check out the photos from last year if you still need convincing.

Anyone in the CSE community is welcome to run as part of the Race Condition Running team. See the section below for details about the team.

New for this year, we're also inviting other running groups who would like to form teams to complete the relay. If you're interested in forming a team, please see the instructions below.

Anyone who would like to form a team is welcome. There are three categories for results purposes: Competitive for teams of four, Ultra for teams of one, and Open for all other formats. All teams will:

  • Ensure all members are registered.
  • Have a runner present at the Angle Lake Station platform at 08:30 on the morning of the event to receive their baton.
  • Carry their baton through all 19 stations.
  • Document station visits with photos.
  • Gather and submit station photos after the event.

Teams are responsible for their own logistics and support during the event.

If you're interested in forming a team, please complete the team signup. There is no cost to register. If there are more teams than we can handle, we may ask any clubs fielding multiple teams to consolidate. Once your team is confirmed, you and your runners will be able to use the main sign-up form.

If you want an official time, your team captain will need to submit a set of 19 station photos with time metadata. We'll verify the photos and post the results. The photos you share will not be posted.

Yes, your team can walk for any or all of the event. There will be about 12 hours of usable daylight making it manageable to complete the route at a modest walking pace. Please mark your estimated time appropriately when registering as walking teams will be given an earlier start.

Your baton must be in the photo. It must be possible to tell that the photo was taken from within 100m of the station platform as the crow flies. You don't need to take the photo on the platform or even from within the fare zone! Consider using the station art or signage.

We strongly recommend you follow the given route. We've run it before and assembled notes on what to expect. That said, the course is not monitored, and we will only be checking station photos. You can run alternative routes at your own peril.

Competitive Teams

You must have exactly four runners each running at least one leg. So you may exchange as few as three times or as many times as there are stations. If your goal is to go fast, you probably want to break the distance evenly, but you'll have to weigh whether to cycle runners more frequently (risking botched exchanges) against running for longer blocks.

Open Teams

There are no constraints. The RCR team treats the event like a big long-run, with multiple runners on each leg. See our previous schedules from 2021 and 2022 to get the idea. In any case, we'll collect your runners' preferences and send them to you along with a recommended schedule.

Running the Light Rail Relay involves the same kinds of danger that you would encounter on any run in Seattle. Although unlikely, there is risk of harm from vehicle traffic, falling, weather, or medical complications. The course is open and you are responsible for your own safety. During registration, you will be asked to sign a liability waiver acknowledging these risks. That being said, the organizers have run the route multiple times without incident. Click around the route map to see our notes.

Competitive teams

A group chat is probably sufficient, depending on how you decide to divide up legs. Consider having the next runner bring something for the previous to eat and drink.

Open teams

Make a schedule and stick to it. We'll provide a recommended schedule based on your runners' preferences, but it's up to the team captain (person who added the team) to finalize and distribute assignments. We'll also provide a Google Sheets spreadsheet which you can use to manage live tracking during the event. You can see RCR's from 2021 and 2022 as examples.

Ultra teams

The route is only slightly longer than a marathon, making it easy to run unsupported. Otherwise, there are lots of shops along the way for water and food.

All teams

Exchanges: The easiest way to manage exchanges is to meet on the surface level at the exact points marked on the route then take a photo with the nearest station art or signage.

Getting around: Stations are conveniently accessible via light rail and other transit services. See Seattle Transit Blog's page for a refresher on how to get around using transit, and check the ORCA site for recommendations on how to purchase fares. UW students can ride for free using their Husky IDs.

RCR Team

RCR is participating in the Open Category with multiple runners assigned to each leg.

Anyone in the CSE community is welcome to run as part of the Race Condition Running team. We interpret this broadly.

You can choose how far, and we'll be able to accommodate any distance between .5 miles and 28 miles.

Also up to you. We'll plan based on your pace estimate, taking into account things like the elevation change and the street context as well. You may be scheduled to run more slowly than your preference to accommodate other runners.

Depends on how long and where you want to run. The RCR team typically takes about 6.5 hours to complete the event (running from 08:30 to 15:00). If you have a hard time constraint, please include it in your registration comments.

No. We typically plan the legs through the downtown core only modestly faster than walking pace, so we'll have no problem accommodating a broad range of abilities.

We recommend you join an RCR weekday run before the relay so that we can figure out what's appropriate. This is especially important if you're new to running or if you're returning after a long break.

The organizers have run the course and put together some notes about what to expect along each leg, so do click around the route map. For the RCR team, multiple people will be assigned to each leg and at least one experienced runner will be in the group at all times. Please note any concerns or constraints on the open-ended part of the sign-up form so we can accommodate you.

The form will stay open until the Sunday before the event. Once it closes, the schedule won't be changed to accommodate your preferences, but you can join for any legs that you are able to. Please message us in the event Slack channel, #light-rail-relay-23, so we know to expect you.

You can update your responses on the entry form until the weekend before the event. After that point, you can reduce or increase the number of legs that you run if it does not affect the pace schedule, otherwise there will be no changes.

Results

Epilogue

On September 30th, 2023 22 RCR runners carried a baton from Angle Lake to Northgate. This year, two other teams, with other batons, completed the same journey. It now makes even less sense for me to attempt to capture what has always been a collective experience, but I'll try in the interest of continuing to improve the event.

RCR ran like clockwork, never straying more than 10 minutes off schedule. We did, for the first time, start late, as Josh and I had to wait on the platform to give a late arriving team their baton. Maybe we'll arrange baton pickup separately in the future.

Light Rail Relay began with a simple motivation—to increase access to a Ragnar-like road relay experience for our club—but it's steadily absorbed other purposes. By scheduling happenstance, it's the first run we get to advertise to new students at the beginning of the academic year. The novelty and the low-barrier format work great for pulling in folks new to Seattle or new to running. For runners of all experience levels, permission to slow down is a chance to reevaluate whether running some large-seeming number of miles is as difficult as they think it is (something I felt acutely after completing the "ultra" this year and feeling...fine). As we do group runs from transit stops more often, LRR has also served as a mass orientation to transit in the city.

Inviting outside groups has been a chance to see what purpose the event might serve for others. Despite its origins, I was still surprised to see Rainier Beach Running Club embrace the event as a classic team relay, train-caravanning while individual runners traded off the baton. And I was impressed that several Googlers earnestly took the chance to run with coworkers they hadn't met before. After talking with both teams, I think LRR can easily be a durable and sustainable attraction for groups of all sorts. We'll need to look further to build a worthy competitive field in the future however, as RBRC's dominant performance deserves company.

Link is on the edge of dramatic expansion. The partial opening of the 2 Line next Spring is just the start of what will be 18 miles of new service to the East and more than 16 miles of new 1 Line service over the next three years. The magnitude and suburban character of the resulting routes could make for quite a different relay— or not, if we choose to simply ignore the highway segments. That's a puzzle for future relays.

Nick Walker