Place making on the Olympic Discovery Trail
This morning I did my last long slow distance (LSD) run before the North Olympic Discovery half marathon, a week from today. I ran west and east on the latter part of the race course for a total of 7.5 miles. This section of the trail had been closed earlier in the week. As I learned today, the trail was closed so volunteers could complete trail repairs and mark the asphalt surface with official mile markers. Marathon miles were spray painted in orange, and half marathon miles were yellow.
Some of last year’s mile markers are still dimly visible, and oddly they are not in quite the same locations. Some small vagaries in the measurement process put those seemingly constant “mile markers” in new places.
The trail is renewed each spring when volunteers patch the sections that have eroded, washed away, and/or been covered by mudslides. This section of the trail runs along the waterfront at the base of a high, rather unstable bluff. I do glance over my shoulder up at the bluff sometimes when I run… It’s perfectly ordinary to see water cascading down the bluff but I have not… yet… seen a mudslide in action. Place making is an ongoing process here. The bluff, it is said, recedes or “sloughs” at an average rate of a foot a year. This trail won’t be here forever.
Meanwhile, I’m happy to see those official mile markers spray painted on the pavement! It gives a sense of immediacy to the upcoming race, and it makes the trail into a series of places that are different from the usual places. The turn from near the mouth of Morse Creek to run west along the waterfront is now approximately “mile 9” (or 22 if you’re a marathoner). The heart quickens in a different way here now.
There were other new markings that required a bit of interpretation. What looked like gibberish on my westbound pass revealed itself quite clearly as “AID 12” on my eastbound return pass. It’s the site of the 12th aid station! I’ll smile at the memory of today, next week when I grab a couple of sips of water at that place.
I also noted a marker for the turning point of the 10k, as well as what I took to be the 4 mile marker for that race. It will start at the same time as the half and full marathons, but will run out and back from the place where the longer races will finish. Having multiple races along the same trail creates an overlay pattern of places that will be interesting for spectators in a completely different way than for any of the people running any of the races.
By this time next Sunday night, the trail will just be a trail again. But those spray painted mile markers will linger as reminders of the places that they were.