Adventurer of the Week: Defending Sound to Narrows champ Dan McLean

Dan McLean, 33 of Tacoma , right, high fives a friend after he won the men's 12K race during the 43rd annual Sound to Narrows in 2015.
Dan McLean, 33 of Tacoma , right, high fives a friend after he won the men's 12K race during the 43rd annual Sound to Narrows in 2015. File (2015)

Dan McLean, a 34-year-old national board certified math and economics teacher at Peninsula High, needed less than 40 minutes to finish last year’s 12-kilometer Sound to Narrows.

McLean raced downhill from Vassault Playfield, took a lap through Point Defiance and returned to Vassault in 39 minutes, 38 seconds to claim victory in the South Sound’s oldest race.

The victory was just another on a long list of accomplishments for the former University of Puget Sound All-American and academic All-American.

McLean won the 3A 800-meter state title for Kennedy High in 2000. He was second in the 1,500 at the 2004 NCAA Division III Indoor Championships. His 24:34.6 8K at Willamette University in 2003 is still the second fastest time in UPS cross-country history.

McLean won the Tacoma City Half Marathon in 2014, he’s run a marathon in less than 2 hours, 23 minutes, and last year he was second in the 10K at the Pacific Northwest Track and Field Championships.

Much of his training takes place at Point Defiance.

“We definitely ran at the Point while I was in college, but not as often as I have since I graduated,” McLean said. “I never had a car while I was in college, but once I had a job and a car, I could drive to the park and run there more days than not. It’s a great place to run because it has Five Mile Drive, miles and miles of trails, and beautiful scenery.”

McLean, a member of the Tacoma City Running Club, is preparing for the end of the school year and a move to Anacortes, but he says he’s likely to squeeze in time to defend his title at the June 11 Sound to Narrows. He also made time to answer a few questions.

Q: Sound to Narrows is the oldest race in the South Sound. How much weight does it carry among runners of your pedigree?

A: Sound to Narrows is the one race in Tacoma that most people know about. We take the most pride in it when it is well supported and attracts good competition. When we know good runners from places like Seattle and Olympia are going to run Sound to Narrows, we relish the chance to race them here and defend our turf.

Q: The course is famous locally for its hills, how does it compare to other races you’ve done?

A: The course is the most difficult road-racing course I’ve run. All the downhill in the first couple miles is fun, but it really beats up your legs. Five-Mile Drive is tough because you’re constantly going up or down. Lots of races have hills, but the Sound to Narrows course is unique because of how much climbing there is in the last two miles. The hills at the end really test you mentally and physically.

Q: What recommendations do you give the weekend warrior types heading out to run S2N this year?

A: Hold yourself back a bit for the first few miles so you feel like you have a lot left for the last two miles. The hills will still be tough, but they’re a lot worse if you’re already toast before you start up them.

Q: You have fast times at a variety of distances. Which distance do you enjoy most and why?

A: I like 8K races the most. That was the distance we raced for cross country in college, and the competition is fun because everyone from middle-distance runners to marathoners can run well.

Q: What are your running goals for this year, and what are some of the big races you have on the schedule?

A: My running goals for this year are to fight back against Father Time by still getting out the door for a run almost every day. If I run a decent race or two, that’s a bonus, but I’m increasingly focused on enjoying the daily exercise and running with my friends more than doing big races.

Q: Do you have a favorite South Sound area race. If so, what is it you like about it?

A: I like the Turkey Trot in Proctor. There’s something about running a race in the morning that makes the Thanksgiving feast all the more satisfying later in the day.

Q: Tacoma City Running Club turns 5 this year. What has it meant to the local running community and former college runners like you?

A: TCRC gives us the opportunity to represent the community where we live and run. Before TCRC, we were running for clubs based in Seattle or Bellingham, but we lived in Tacoma, so we wanted to represent our hometown. We take special pride in racing in a jersey with “Tacoma” across the chest because it really represents where we’re from and who we are.


Date: June 11.

Military Race: 6:30 a.m.

2K: 8:10 a.m.

12K: 8:30 a.m.

5K: 8:40 a.m.

Walkers: 8:45 a.m.

Diaper Dash: 10:15 a.m.

Start: Vassault Playfield, 6100 N. 37th St., Tacoma.

For the dogs: Run with your dog in the 5K Hound to Narrows.

Entry fee: $35 for 13 and older, $10 for those 12 and younger through Friday. $40 day of race. $10 per dog. Registration is free for youths 12 and younger participating in the 2K junior shuffle and Diaper Dash.