Thirteen-mile races are usually associated with road running. But the athletes taking part in the sixth annual Race Around the Rock will not be lacing up their running shoes. In fact, most of them won’t be wearing shoes at all.
On September 7, race organizers estimate that hundreds of competitors will grab their boards, paddles and sunscreen and take off on what has grown into one of the largest—if not the largest—paddleboard race in the Northwest. “The sport is really starting to gain momentum,” says Jeff Underwood, event organizer and co-founder of Northwest Paddle Surfers.
Athletes of all skill levels and board sizes will race around Mercer Island, competing against each other in the 13-mile main event for $10,000 in prize money. The event, which partners with the Athletes for Cancer organization, also includes a 3.5-mile course, a kids’ race and a team relay race for those who prefer giving up some of the glory for a less strenuous length. “You can go as hard or leisurely as you want,” says underwood, adding that beginners are “absolutely welcome.”
The top finishers in the main event can expect to cross the finish right around two hours depending on the conditions, which means these competitors are cruising at a pretty quick clip. Luckily, if you’re in it to win it, you still have plenty of time to train.
Underwood says the obvious thing to do for training is spend as much time on the water paddling as you can, citing Juanita Beach as one of the best Eastside spots for getting in some mileage. But there are also a few other areas of fitness that might help as well. “Core exercises would definitely help training because you use a lot of your core when you’re paddling,” Underwood says. “Any cardio activity is great.”
If your goal is less about the fight for first and more about just finishing, Underwood says getting out on a paddleboard is still very rewarding because it offers people a unique view of their city. “It definitely gives you a different perspective. You get all kinds of surface glares when you’re sitting down in a kayak, but when you’re standing up, you have the ability to see things you wouldn’t normally see, like harbor seals and other critters swimming under you.”
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