Focus on a race Interview

Yakima River Marathon : Bob Dolphin's interview

11 Feb 2008 04:50
Jean-Loup Fenaux

To present you the Yakima Canyon Marathon, I’m honored that it’s director Bob Dolphin has accepted to answer a few questions.

Bob introduced himself as an aging, marathon runner/walker doing the best he can with what he have left….at age 78. He also assists his wife Lenore in directing the Yakima River Canyon Marathon and the 100 Marathon Club North America. He was born in Worcester, Massasuchetts (near the start of the Boston Marathon – You can call that predestination) on October 4, 1929. He was an Eagle Scout and a high school track and cross country runner. Between 1946 and 1955 he was in the U.S. Marines for a total of six and a half years…..going from private to first lieutenant. He received his BA in Entomology in 1958 from San Jose State College in California and his PhD in Insect Ecology from Purdue University in 1965. He worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 1965-1988 as a research entomologist and lab director and retired in 1988 to become a full-time marathoner!

Yakima Canyon

Photo of the Yakima Canyon taken by Scott Butner



Hello, on April 5th, you’ll be organizing the Yakima River Canyon Marathon. Can you tell us where it is located? The Yakima River Canyon Marathon is located in south central Washington State in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States of America. The city of Yakima (near the finish area) is 150 miles from Seattle and is east of the Cascade Mountains. The host town is Selah, and it’s just a few miles north of Yakima. The start of the race is 35 miles north in Ellensburg (115 miles from Seattle).

How old is the marathon ? Why was it created in the first place? The YRCM is seven years old. April 5, 2008, will mark the 8th running of this race. In 2000 several runners encouraged the Yakima Hard Core Runners Club to consider having a marathon in the 23 mile long Yakima River Canyon, a nearby scenic recreational attraction. An exploratory committee agreed, and my wife (Lenore Dolphin) and I, as club members, were asked to be the race directors.

What kind of route have you set up for the runners? How would you describe it? There is a two-lane state highway along the tree-lined, clear river throughout the curved, relatively flat canyon that is bordered by cliffs and high bluffs and ridges covered by sagebrush and bunch grass. The 23 mile long Canyon Road defines most of the course. The race begins in Ellensburg and the first three miles on this point-to-point course are on flat, paved country roads through rural Kittitas Valley to the canyon. Here there is a sense of tranquility as one runs through the canyon with its stark volcanic cliffs and towering ridges. The river is turbulent as clear waters rush through it. The scenery changes constantly due to the many curves of the river and road. Wildlife is common with Mountain Sheep, Mule Deer, and Bald Eagles frequently seen. The last three miles are downhill to the end of the canyon and the finish line near Selah.

How many runners do you expect on Saturday morning? What type of runners do you plan to attract? A year ago in 2007 we had 523 entrants for the marathon. Because the marathon is growing in popularity, I would expect the same number or more for this year. We get a lot of first time marathoners, and they are given special certificates at the awards ceremony/meal. Our participants are of different ages and marathon experiences as in most marathons. In addition, we have many seasoned runners who are members of the Marathon Maniacs Club, 50 States Marathon Club and Group, and the 100 Marathon Club North America. The 100 Marathon Club which Lenore and I direct will have a reunion this year at our YRCM. There will be at least six members of the 100 Marathon Club United Kingdom in attendance as well.

Do you organize other races during the Week-End? If so, on what distances? The Marathon is the only race offered on April 5, 2008. The Hard Core Runners Club offers many other races during the year from 5K’s to a half marathon .

At that time of the year, what kind of weather can we expect? The time of the marathon takes advantage of spring weather which is the best time of the year to run a marathon in the Yakima Canyon. In 2007 it was 40 degrees fahrenheit at the start and peaked at 60 degrees fahrenheit for the day. There was a thin overcast sky, and the wind did not exceed 10 mph. This good running weather is typical.

Have you planned festivities around the marathon? The festivities for the marathon extend from the day before to the day after the marathon. On Friday at the Packet Pickup/Expo there’s always a lot of activity and socializing. In the evening at the pasta dinner, the speaker for 2008 will be retired Major Rick Nealis, Race Director of the Marine Corps Marathon. He’ll also give guaranteed entry forms for his 30,000+ marathon of October 2008 to those who request them. After the marathon on April 5, there’s a 4:00 p.m. awards ceremony/meal (no cost to the entrants and a nominal cost to others). Quality awards are given to the overall top three winners and to the first five age division winners. After ‘19 and under,’ the age divisions are in five year increments until ‘80 and over.’ There are many drawing prizes. The bottles of wine provided by a winemaker on our committee are especially popular. The morning after the race a no-host breakfast buffet at a sponsoring hotel is held in a room set aside for runners. Newspapers with the marathon coverage are distributed, and the marathon is discussed as the people socialize.

The marathon finished, what advice would you give a runner who has never been to Yakima before? A good restaurant, a fancy sightseeing? There are major restaurants, shopping malls, and tourist attractions in Yakima and nearby that are made known in the Visitors Guide that is placed in each packet. There’s a pioneer history museum here and an Indian Heritage Center at nearby Toppenish, a town that is famous for its historical murals. Many local wineries have tasting rooms and tours. In a day’s drive there are Mt. Rainier, Mt. St. Helens, the Cascade Mountains, Grand Coulee Dam, Columbia River Gorge and many other attractions to visit.

In a single sentence, what would you tell the readers of 42k195 to make them register for the Yakima River Canyon Marathon ? I have finished 419 marathons and ultras since 1981, and the Yakima River Canyon Marathon is the most scenic and best organized marathon that I have run.

There couldn’t be a better way to conclude this interview. Thank you very much Bob for your time and good luck for #420.

If you need more information :