Big changes for Mercer Island Rotary Run

Matt Phelps
Mercer Island Reporter

The Mercer Island Rotary Run Day will undergo two big changes this year in location and date. The 36th annual event will move its base of operations to the Community Center at Mercer View and take place three weeks earlier than normal.

“We hope to get more people out this year and have better weather,” said Sam Sullivan, the event’s organizer. “The registration has been great so far.”

The steady downpour of rain at last year’s event dropped the number of anticipated participants, although there were still 16 percent more runners than the previous year’s record. This year the event could bring up to 7,000 organizers and participants to the community center on March 9.

“We had to move it up this year because we were running into Easter and spring break,” said Sullivan. “I don’t think that will have a great impact. I think the weather will be more of a factor.”

Moving the race to the community center was a lot of work, as the course for each of the four races — Half Marathon walk and run, 10K run, 5K walk and run, and Kids Dash — had to be changed.

“We had to do a lot of pre-planning,” said Sullivan. “But it will be nice to have everything except the race itself indoors.”

The opening of the new Mercer Island Park and Ride will benefit the event, giving participants over 400 parking stalls and taking more cars off of the downtown streets. Fewer downtown streets will be affected overall, but 24th street between 78th and 84th in front of the community center will be closed for the finish line. The courses will also take advantage of scenic routes. The half marathon will weave around the parameter of the Island and many of the trails on Mercer Island in an attempt to block off less streets.

“We are doing an extensive notification campaign this year so no one wakes up to a big surprise that morning,” said Sullivan.

King 5 television will not be a primary sponsor this year, and the event will shift from being broadcast on TV commercials to radio commercials. The event expects to broadcast 1,000 60-second spots to promote the event. Instead of John Curley from Evening Magazine, Mercer Island City Council member Steve Litzow will act as Master of Ceremonies with some radio personalities also taking part.

Swedish Hospital is still the title sponsor and Virginia Mason is a major sponsor for the event. Other sponsors include Farmers Insurance and the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.

The street in front of Farmers Insurance headquarters, along with the Farmers’ parking lot, has acted as the staging area in the past. Parking will still be available at Farmers with a shuttle available to the community center.

Last year, the event took in a record $130,000 net for various charities as nearly 3,700 participated. One third of that is donated to Colon Cancer Awareness with the rest going to various Mercer Island Rotarian charities.

“We are hoping to gross $250,000 this year, which would get us about $150,000 for the charities,” said Sullivan. “We try to get it to 70 percent going to charity, which is pretty good. We have also tried to cut costs this year, and we are trying to get more people out.”

The other 30 percent goes toward paying for the production of the race and advertising. Most of the money raised comes from registration for the race itself by participants.

“Two-thirds of the money we raise comes from registration fees,” said Sullivan. “But some of the sponsors and some of the participants give a little extra to help out.”

Many sponsors, such as Talking Rain, donate their product to help out with the event.

For more information on the Rotary Run, visit

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