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Why Your Community Should “Race the Wave”


runners at starting line on beach

What makes a great race? To me, the ingredients include awesome scenery, a well-planned route, and a cause that runners can really get behind.  I ran a race that met all three of these conditions in Cannon Beach, Oregon called “Race the Wave”.  In short, the city of Cannon Beach took their town’s risk for earthquakes and tsunamis and made it into a race, and I’m going to lay out why every community along the Pacific coast should be hurrying to plan their own.  

The coolest part of “Race the Wave” is that it doesn’t have to be a “race” per se, with runners competing for the best time.  The event is more about enjoying incredible scenery along the coast, committing the race route to memory, and meeting other runners from your community.

First: the scenery. In Cannon Beach, the race started near Haystack Rock, a natural landmark that you might recognize from the classic 80’s movie, The Goonies. Truffle Shuffle anyone?

haystack rock on cannon beach oregon

We jogged from the shoreline towards downtown Cannon Beach utilizing a few lesser-known pedestrian trails.  I had no idea these trails existed even though they were just two blocks from busy shops and restaurants. The trails offered a break from the noise and commotion of city life without having to travel too far.

The race totally transitioned from beach town to wilderness as we jogged up the last mile.  In less than ten minutes, we went from a beachfront run near Haystack Rock to this:

runners in forest

The city of Cannon Beach didn’t create this route by accident.  It had been meticulously planned with one goal in mind: have runners and community members practice maneuvering a tsunami evacuation route. According to research from the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries, the Cannon Beach community is at risk to experience a large earthquake and tsunami. Cannon Beach can thank the Cascadia Subduction Zone for much of its disaster risk – a fault line just 60 miles off of Oregon’s Pacific coast that produces a large earthquake and tsunami approximately every 500 years. 

Local leaders in Cannon Beach have long trumpeted their town’s tsunami risk, but posting signs was just part of getting their community prepared. They wanted their residents and visitors to internalize the tsunami evacuation routes through the most effective way: muscle memory.

tsunami evacuation signPeople can become accustomed to evacuation signs (how many street signs have you almost missed?).  But seeing evacuation signs and physically acting out their instructions use completely different parts of the brain.  My experience running “Race the Wave” proves it.  In running the route, I realized I could jog from the beach to a safe assembly area in less than 10 minutes.  That’s really reassuring since tsunami waves would take about 15-30 minutes to hit the Oregon coast once you felt the intense shaking of an earthquake along the Cascadia Subduction Zone.

I heard a lot about Cannon Beach’s tsunami risk, but knowing it’s possible to run or walk to safety made tsunami safety something I know my family and I could do. Don’t let Cannon Beach have all the running fun. This type of event is something that can easily be copied in your town or neighborhood.  If organizing a race seems a little much, then take your family, including your pets, out this weekend to walk the tsunami evacuation route in your community.  It’s a cool way to practice emergency preparedness without fully realizing it.

Let’s face it, tsunamis are scary, but knowing how you can get to safety – and practicing in a fun, interactive way – makes “Race the Wave” a concept worth replicating.

Last Updated: 
06/02/2017 - 09:20


Nice post