Yesterday was my 5th running of the Seattle Half-Marathon, along with a single full marathon. I had originally planned to run this as a full marathon, but injuries kept me from being able to run for nearly 5 months and put any thought of a 26 mile run out of the question. And even a 13 mile run seemed questionable as little as 3 weeks ago. But the recent calf problems seemed to have been resolved by going back to regular running shoes, and the back was rested and protected with a brace. I had managed an 11 mile run the previous weekend so felt like upping that total by a couple of miles should be doable.
Race day dawned (kind of), cool, overcast and dry: very good running weather. I joined the mob at the start line; probably about 8,000 other half marathon runners, found my pacer, got the iPod plugged in and watch ready, and then waited for the start.
Mass starts, like the Seattle Marathon uses, are interesting. I started probably 100 yards from the actual start line, and it took about 2.5 minutes before I actually crossed the line and officially started the race. It was a bit strange to hear ‘GO’ and have everyone around you still just standing around for awhile before beginning a casual stroll to the line. And even after crossing the line the pace is very slow for the first few hundred yards until the herd gets up to speed; and then erratic for a mile or so as we get ourselves sorted out and spaced out a bit.
The Seattle Half-Marathon course starts by the Space Needle, runs south along 5th Ave, then heads east on I90 to Lake Washington, turning and running north along the lake before cutting back west, through Interlaken Park, south along I5 and then back through town to the Seattle Center. The course is moderately hilly although there is only a single hill that is much of a challenge. Running along I90 is like running along a freeway, not overly scenic, but most of the rest of the course is through shopping, residential areas or parks. The scenery is varied and the aide stations are plentiful. I enjoy the course very much.
Because of my lack of training, I knew there was no chance of getting a good time in this race, and was running mostly because I had already paid for the event. So I figured that I would just take the race nice and easy and focus on finishing rather than pushing hard. Based on the previous weekends run, I thought I should be able to easily run a 2:30 race, with 2:20 a possibility.
The first half of the race went according to plan, nice and easy, conserving my strength so it would last through the race. But once I got to the top of the big hill at about mile 8, I still felt good and so started to speed up a bit. And with about 3 miles to go I opened up a bit more. I was really surprised with the amount of energy I still had at that point; nothing was hurting and no red warning lights were going off. I actually managed to finish in 2:14; way better than I had any reason to expect. At the end my legs were pretty much gone, but I felt good.
I don’t really like crowds, and generally run alone. As a result, running in conditions that would make a sardine claustrophobic are a bit challenging. But it does have a positive side as well. I enjoy the people watching during the race, although I seldom see much more than their back side as one or the other of us passing the other.
I am a fairly drab runner, although I do wear a lot of yellow for visibility. And I stay generally bundled up when it is cold, with the only exposed skin being from my neck up. But that is not true of everyone. Some folks were dressed for running in the tropics. And some were extremely colorful. There were some folks who stood out enough to be able to recognize them later on in the race as we would past a second (or third or fourth) time. Running in a marathon is really a cool time for people watching.
I think, all in all, that this was probably my favorite time for this event. It helped greatly that I was not pushing for a PR, but rather just cruising slowly along and enjoying the day and the crowd around me.