How the world’s shortest marathon came to be in Wenatchee!

Written on Mar 14th, 2012 by , Category Blogs, Steve Maher's Blog

BY STEVE MAHER

Oh, the blarney. Oh, the confusion, Oh, the scheming.

Wenatchee’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade — a one-block affair long hailed as the shortest such gathering in the world — is set to roll down Orondo Avenue Saturday night. As usual it will begin around 7ish.

It has a long history of shenanigans, including this beaut: In 2000, a half-block “marathon” for runners was held inside the parade route.

More or less. You see, some adventuresome sorts ran it twice, completing what was surely the fastest “ultra” ever recorded in the history of humankind.

I only bring this up now because I was approached a week ago by city historians eager to hear the back story behind this little-known nugget of Wenatchee running lore.

Apparently — in the tipping of Deschutes Ale and Leavenworth Friesian Pilsener in local drinking establishments — memories have been reawakened and questions have arisen about the particulars.

I was privy to much a dozen some years ago.

The front of the 2000 St. Patrick's Day Parade & Marathon shirt, a well-preserved relic of Wenatchee running lore.

So, in the issue of brevity, here are the facts as I know them:

  • In a secret meeting of the Wenatchee chapter of the Loyal Order of Hibernians, a man named Steve and a woman named Jennifer were appointed race directors and were ordered — more or less — to infiltrate the official parade committee and convince them to allow the marathon. Since the Loyal Order of Hibernians were the official parade committee, this was accomplished with little haste.
  • The race directors then set about selecting a marathon course. The original plan was for the run to utilize the parade route. But concerns arose over getting runners confused with parade entrants in the staging area, as everyone would be wearing bountiful colors of green. As a result, a half-block marathon course self-contained within the parade route was adopted.
  • To entice the running community, the day’s events were surreptitiously renamed the St. Patrick’s Parade & Marathon.
  • Finisher shirts were ordered, but only after the Loyal Order of Hibernians spent an entire weekend drinking beer and debating how many runners should appear in the race logo. In the end, 17 runners and one dog made the final cut. The boastful tagline, “World’s Shortest Parade and Marathon,” was added to the shirt.
  • A special committee — make that security force — was formed at the last moment to deal with expected crowd-control problems. The prospect of a spectator bursting from the parade sidelines and stopping a runner for an autograph was a real and well-understood danger.
  • At approximately 6:42 p.m. on Friday, March 17, 2000, 155 runners surged ahead under ideal running conditions of 44 degrees and a full moon. The race winner, who shall go unnamed since he is still contemplating a political career, sported a beer from the start and won by at least 10 feet. As far the other participants, well, at times it was unclear whether they were heading toward the finish or chasing each other or attempting to replicate bumper cars. According to official records, however, the marathon was declared over at 6:44 p.m. after the last straggler came across. Those who decided to do the ultra hit the tape at 6:45 p.m.

Again, those are the facts as I know them.

More or less.

Why the St. Patrick’s Day Marathon was held just once is harder to answer. Indeed, the Wenatchee chapter of the Loyal Order of Hibernians has never disclosed what went down. Undoubtedly, this is a question for future historians to explore.

Thus, we are left to surmise. Was it a coup that occurred deep within the ranks of the Hibernians? Were attempts to get the course certified with the USATF ultimately unsuccessful? Or did the city crack down and determine that running and Irish parades were not a good mix?

Or was it all just a carefully orchestrated prank?

Hmmm.

So as you tip back that pint of Icicle’s Bootjack IPA or Guinness Black Lager this Saturday, ponder those questions … and be sure to offer up this toast:

Here’s to St. Patrick’s Day and Ireland!

Here’s to the sport of long-distance running!

And here’s to blarney, confusion and scheming!


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