2023 Running Trip – Day 2 – Tacoma, Washington


Some of my favorite running trip days include exploring cities that may be a bit unfamiliar. I imagine Tacoma, Washington is one of those cities for most, overshadowed by its famous neighbor Seattle to the north, so I was excited to run the city and showcase what it has to offer.

A few fun facts about Tacoma to kick off the post:

1. Tacoma is home to one of the largest ports in the U.S. The port of Tacoma covers more than 2,400 acres, making it the sixth largest port in North America.

2. The city is well-known for its world-renowned glass art.

3. Tacoma was named after the Indian name for Mt. Rainier, which translates to “Mother of the Waters.”

4. The Tacoma Narrows Bridge, built-in 1950, is the fifth-longest suspension bridge in the world.

5. The area was inhabited for thousands of years by American Indians, most recently the Puyallup people, who lived in settlements on the delta.

6. Tacoma is the second-largest city in the Puget Sound area and the third-largest in the state.

Day two introduced a new running buddy into the mix, my long-time friend and boss Sean Wagner, Phi Delta Theta’s CEO and Executive Vice President. I’ve been working for Phi Delta Theta since 2004 and have reported to Sean for every year except for one. He’s been a great mentor in my life, and I’m lucky to have such a supportive boss who has let me follow my passions and work on things with great personal meaning. Sean and I have been talking about doing this trip for a number of years, but our initial plans were cancelled by the pandemic. It’s great to be able to now share this experience with him, and Sean has a heck of a week of running in front of him. After joining me for three runs, he’ll take on his fifth Flying Pig Half Marathon this weekend in Cincinnati.

We began the day at the University of Puget Sound, a campus that has a great Phi Delt presence and is the workplace of Moe Stephens who was with us yesterday. At the entrance to campus, I thanked my former colleague Joe Newland, a proud graduate of and Phi Delt from UPS. I was very happy to see Joe’s donation come through for this spot!

Moe gave us the nickel tour of campus before heading to meetings. The University of Puget Sound has a beautiful campus with a classic Pacific NW feel to it. You quickly see why they are called the Loggers. Check out this signature tree!

Sean and I kicked off our run at Point Defiance, a 700-acre park that is one of the largest urban parks in the nation. It is only second in size to Central Park in New York City. Within the park are a number of gardens, and I picked the Japanese Garden to thank my wonderful colleague Jennifer Morrow. Jennifer is an avid gardener herself, so the picture was quite fitting. We could have spent a few hours in Point Defiance Park

Tacoma offered an awesome waterfront running path to navigate our running, taking us from Point Defiance all the way to downtown. We were greeted by the Port of Tacoma feel with fun landmarks and giant boats all along the water. We stopped for a Runner’s Choice photo, and I thanked my colleague Myra Duritsch.

Further down the path, we ran into another historical boat (and an amazing development of condos and shops) in Point Ruston. I thanked the Etler family who has played a crucial role in the caring for our kids throughout their lives. We lucked out sending our kids to be under the care of April Etler and family. While the kids are no longer in daycare, they periodically get to spend weekend afternoons with the Etlers. And they are spoiled rotten there!

I was most looking forward to running past Stadium High School in Tacoma. Stadium High School is a local landmark that overlooks the stunning Tacoma waterfront. It’s most famously known for its appearance in the film 10 Things I Hate About You. Stadium was originally designed to be a luxury hotel, but in 1893 during the depression, construction halted. Then the building was left nothing but a shell after a devastating fire. That shell finally transformed into Stadium High School in 1906. I thanked Keith & Susan Berg at Stadium High School.

How amazing is this high school?!

Our next stop was McMenamins Elks Temple. If you have a chance to visit the Pacific NW, make sure to find a McMenamins property and visit it. Trust me. They are sprinkled throughout the region and come in a variety of forms. Hotels, restaurants, breweries, and a combination of all. I thanked my former colleague Evan Newman here, and Sean said it best. “Evan would love this place!”

We went inside the Elks Temple to look around. The McMenamins decor is amazing, with great art and design throughout.

Just down the block we ran past the Graffiti Garages. The Graffiti Garages are a working parking garage where anyone can legally paint the walls on Sundays. In an effort to curb vandalism and street crime across the board, some forward thinkers on the city planning committee agreed to open the space to street artists once a week so that they could congregate there instead of marking up businesses and public walls elsewhere. Quirky indeed. I thanked my long-time colleague and amazing donor Debbie Smith at the garages.

Our next stop was the stately Old City Hall building that towers over the waterfront. Here I thanked my sister-in-law Jadee, her husband Jason, and my three adorable nieces. Jadee and family are moving to Germany in June for Jason’s next assignment with the United States Air Force, and our family can’t wait to explore Europe over the holidays with them. The Purdys will be great subjects for the blog later in the year!

We noticed one of Tacoma’s awesome bridges as we were running towards downtown, and I took the opportunity to use one of my Runner’s Choice photos to thank Nolan Pattee. Nolan and I became close at Iowa State within the walls of Phi Delta Theta, and it’s been very fun to watch his large family grow over the years just outside of Nashville. When I think of Nolan, I think of a lot of fun and laughs!

Tacoma’s Union Station was designed by the same architectural firm as New York’s Grand Central Station. Both Grand Central Station and Union Station here in Tacoma were designed by Reed & Stem around the same time. Union Station opened in 1911 and Grand Central Station opened in 1913. Union Station is a huge piece of Tacoma’s downtown and is quite impressive. I thanked Mike & Deb Sedlacek, and I’m always proud to successfully spell their last name on my signs. Deb worked with my dad for years and has been a loyal supporter of my running trips.

As mentioned in the intro to this post, Tacoma is famous for its world-renowned glass art. Chihuly is the name you’ll hear the most associated with the city’s art. My mother was adamant in claiming the Chihuly Bridge of Glass as one of her sponsored donations. The bridge is so cool, featuring many fantastic pieces of art on both sides as you walk towards the water. I’m a lucky dude to have such amazing parents who have supported me throughout my life, so it’s always very special to thank them. My mom became an Iron Phi herself early this year, something she is very proud to have accomplished. Mom and Dad are holding down the fort with the kids and dog in Ames while Tillie and I are on this trip. It’s been quiet on that front, so I’m assuming all is well!

The Chihuly Bridge of Glass leads directly to the Museum of Glass. The Museum of Glass is a premier contemporary art museum dedicated to glass and glassmaking in the West Coast’s largest and most active museum glass studio. Pretty cool design, eh? Here I thanked my colleague Dylan Berg, my favorite North Dakotan for his donation. I’m entering a transition at work with a number of my responsibilities, and Dylan will be taking on the leadership of a team that I have overseen for more than a decade now. I’m excited to see him flourish in this new role!

Keeping to tradition following the day’s 7-mile run, our crew celebrated at 7 Seas brewery. We refueled with a good beer and bite to eat before heading to our next stop. I used the opportunity to thank Elissa Christmas for her donation. Elissa used to work with Tillie at Miami University and was the second donor for this year’s venture! Always love those early donors.

When I plan these trips, I begin each day’s itinerary with a research dump of the area landmarks that stick out to me. I kept seeing Snowqualmie Falls appear in my research, but for some reason, I didn’t add it to the itinerary. It wasn’t until Bill Wittress made the suggestion that I dug in to the itinerary to find a way to make it happen. Bill lives in the area, is the former mayor of a town nearby, and is a Phi Delta Theta Foundation Trustee. Upon arriving at Snowqualmie Falls, we quickly realized that this was a major tourist attraction. Snowqualmie Falls is one of Washington state’s most popular scenic attractions with more than 1.5 million people visiting every year. Upon arriving, we heard rumors that someone had fallen into the Falls and they were closed. While we don’t know the actual story, many of the walking paths were indeed closed and much of it was blocked off. Bill’s knowledge of the area helped us find a few spots with views!

Bill gave us a short tour around town before we headed to our Airbnb in Seattle. Tacoma was great, and hilly! I’m very glad that it was a stop on this year’s trip.

Onward to Seattle.

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