Yesterday was the 2011 version of the Seattle Rock & Roll Marathon / Half-Marathon. This was my third running of this event and Sue’s first ever half marathon. This race is quite a production and started for us the day prior to the actual run.
We went to the Qwest Field Event Center Friday afternoon to pick up our race numbers and go through the expo. There were at least 100 vendors there selling running related items from shoes, clothes, food and gadgets. It is quite interesting to browse through the booths, although it would be better if there were not several thousand other people trying to do the same thing at the same time. After the expo we made a quick trip to the REI flagship store and then on to dinner at Cheesecake Factory (the Fettuccine Alfredo is delicious) and then to a hotel for the night with a 7 pm lights out and a 3:15 am wake-up call.
The race starts in Tukwila and ends at Quest Field making transportation an issue. There is a shuttle that runs from the finish line to the start line but it only runs from 4-6 am and does not run in reverse afterwards. So you get a hotel, drive to the start line and park the car and then take the shuttle. We caught a 5am shuttle, that got lost and drove all over the country, arriving at the start line around 6am. The race started at 7 for the fastest group and every 1-2 minutes after that for the progressively slower runners and walkers with the last group, which included us, leaving the start line at 8am. I was scheduled to leave about 7:30 but since this was Sue’s first big race I stayed back and started with her, at 8am, after 2 hours of standing around. Ahead of us stretched about 25,000 people with over 17,000 running the half and the remainder doing the full run. It is quite a sight to see that many runners in one place.
Over the course of the 13.1 miles of the course I ended up passing about 13,000 people. It is quite the ego boost being the fastest thing on the road for a change, which is the beauty of starting back with the walkers and slow runners. But the downside to that was the difficulty in getting by some of the clumps of folks who seem to line up all the way across the road just in front of me, especially in the first 2-3 miles.
The course winds through some light industrial and residential areas for the first 5 miles, eventually coming out onto the shores of Lake Washington for the next 4 miles, with the last 4 miles running on I-90 from the lake to downtown Seattle then through the streets of Seattle to the finish line. The I-90 portion of the course is pretty bleak but the rest of it is nice and I enjoyed the run as much as I have any other in the past 5 years I have been running. Other than sore feet I felt very comfortable and was able to finish strong.
After completing the course you are given a medal and a bottle of water, have your picture taken, pass by tables of bagels, bananas, chips, granola bars and sports drinks, and finally get a space blanket to try and keep you warm. I grabbed up all my goodies and went back over to the final stretch before the finish line and watched other people finish while waiting for Sue.
It is pretty amazing to watch folks complete this course. I saw a motorized wheel-chair, a couple of blind runners, 3 Elvis impersonators, lots of tutu’s, a speedo, a banana costume and other wild get-ups. I saw folks who looked like runners and others who looked like two or three runners. Some walked across the finish line, some raced across and some staggered across. But this past Saturday, 25,000 people got up early in the morning and ran, or walked, either 13.1 or 26.2 miles. Pretty impressive showing!
The best part of the whole experience for me was watching Sue cross the finish line. Three years after a seriously broken leg that required 5 plates and 19 screws to hold all the pieces together, this gritty woman, who had no prior interest in running, became the finisher of a half marathon. It brought tears to my eyes!