Luke Thompson | Yakima Herald-Republic - June 28, 2022
Downtown Yakima Mile organizers believe another strong field and a promising weather forecast should bring another electric atmosphere to this Saturday's event.
Co-founder Chris Waddle said as of last week registration looked similar to the same point last year, but he's expecting a big boost from this final week. Last year's race, held in late August, remained in doubt until just a few hours before the start due to wildfire, although that didn't prevent a strong turnout and fast times from elite athletes.
"Their take on the event last year was that it was one of the more fun, festive, rewarding road miles that they did all year," Waddle said. "Ours is very unique."
A mostly gradual downhill takes runners from just east of 11th Avenue all the way to Second Street, in the shadow of downtown's historic Larson Building. Waddle, who completed the race in 5:25 last summer to place second in the Masters division, said adrenaline keeps increasing as the buildings and crowds grow larger near the finish line.
Significant prize money's on the line even for non-professional runners, with $250 going to the men's and women's winners of four different adult races, along with $150 for second and $100 for third place. Last year four runners broke five minutes in the open race, and Selah's Cooper Quigley won the high school race in a blistering 4:12.
Most of the $50,000 in prize money's will be up for grabs in the elite races, and that's played a key role in drawing many of the Northwest's top runners since the Yakima Mile debuted in 2019. Club Northwest runner Tom Anderson believes he's ready to beat his personal-best of 3:59.8 and said the $5,000 awarded to the winner won't be far from his mind.
"I really want to try and win," Anderson said. "It's a real nice incentive to come in the middle of track season and have a go at a road mile."
It's also a great way for him to stay in shape before running a pair of 3K races at the Stumptown Twilight Meet in Portland on July 8, followed by the Under Armour sunset tour the next weekend. After the completion of next year's USA Track and Field championships in Eugene, Waddle said this weekend turned out to a be a great time for several pro athletes to race.
This year's viewing experience at the finish line should be improved by a large flatscreen showing a livestream of every race. Event director Michelle Blanchard said the livestream will also be available to watch on the Downtown Mile's social media channels.
Sam Prakel will be looking to defend his title after winning with a time 3:54 last year, while the women's race will have a new champion after Nikki Hiltz set a new Washington women's record last year by finishing in 4:21.5. Elite runners can win a pair of other $5,000 prizes if they can eclipse the state record and another even lower mark — 3:48 for the men and 4:20 for the women.
While the races are going on for about two hours, University of Washington athlete and activist Rosalie Fish plans to continuously run up and down the course to raise money for YWCA Yakima and its efforts to fight domestic violence. Anyone can pledge a dollar amount for every mile she runs, and Waddle hopes to reach $10,000 per mile before Fish finishes what's expected to be a 14-20 mile run.
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