It was Saturday night, July 26, and the horn blew to start the 2014 Seafair Torchlight 8K and 5K Run. I was panic-stricken. Why? Because I was still a few blocks away from the starting line, hustling in 80-degree heat to get my rear to the race.
I had tried to leave the house EARLY to find a place to park in downtown Seattle for the race, but clearly I did not leave early enough. I ended up parking in Pioneer Square and walking nearly three miles to the starting line, though I still thought I’d be on time (even after a much-needed bathroom stop at a hotel restroom on the way).
Fortunately, it all turned out OK. As the elite runners headed down Second Avenue to the left turn onto Denny Way, I kept walking to the starting line. As more and more runners crossed the starting line, I got closer. What saved me was that it took forever — about five minutes — for the nearly 2,800 runners and walkers to empty out into the race. I had enough time to join folks at the back of the line, without even having to high jump the long guardrail separating participants from spectators before it ended. Whew!
Power-walk warmed me up
Truth be told, it isn’t rare for me to be dangerously late for a road run. It’s very common that I get into the starting line a minute or three before the horn goes off. But I can only remember two times where a race started without me there yet — both of them the early-starting Seattle Half-Marathon (2002 and 2004), when I got stuck in long lines of cars of runners trying to find parking spots.
So, in the end, I essentially got started on time, but had no time to catch my breath. My power-walk around the guardrail and to the starting line simply turned into a run (which, for me, is only slightly faster).
The Torchlight Run is the cool run where the first two miles are mostly in front of Seafair Torchlight Parade-goers. The 5K and 8K runs apparently warm spectators up for the parade to follow. This is the 10th time I’ve done the Torchlight 8K, and my PR is 43:02 (8:39 per mile) in 2007. I simply enjoy the festiveness of the parade, the graciousness of the crowds, the kids who want you to high-five them as you run by, and the whole vibe of doing a race through downtown Seattle at night (it’s still light out, and Saturday’s weather was sunny and around 80 degrees — a little on the warm side).
I felt a bit winded in the first mile, but soldiered on. The course is as friendly as the crowds watching; a few inclines but nothing too steep to worry. I kept running and felt OK. You run down and up Fourth Avenue, turn left at Seneca and have a massive downhill to the Viaduct. I get nervous going downhill on my bad left ankle, but I wanted to take this downhill faster than I did last year, when I almost slowed to a walk because of concern about ankle damage.
When I finally got on to the Viaduct, the tough part began. You no longer have the crowd to cheer you on and give you adrenalin. This is where the packs separate. It’s also where people slow or stop to take in the gorgeous views of the Puget Sound; many stop and take selfies or group shots. I tried to photo-bomb a few. But I kept running, all the way south to the turnaround near CenturyLink Field and back north.
High up above, people getting high
Something happened in the last two miles, as we headed up the Viaduct to the ramp onto Western Avenue. I felt an incredible rush of energy. I also smelled people smoking pot on the street above, where you could watch the runners. I thought back to the two men passing a bong in front of an industrial business on Alaskan Way on my power-walk to the race. Two very-public signs of our Initiative 502 passing!
It was the energy rush, not the pot fumes, that got me to the finish line in one of my stronger last miles. I was hoping to beat an hour — alas, I finished in 1:02:52 (12:39 per mile). Full results are here. This is still progress. A year ago, my time was a sad 1:05:33, in the first 8K I’d done since my August 2011 ankle surgery. At any rate, I felt good about this 2014 run and my finish.
Other things to note:
- Bright (loud?) yellow Seafair Torchlight running shirts dominate: I usually don’t wear my race shirt until after I have completed that particular run (conventional). But these shirts were perfect for race night, and I had to wear mine. Most other runners were thinking the same thing.
- Race turnout actually down: Like I said, that line of participants seemed to go on forever before everyone doing the 8K or 5K crossed the starting line. But 2,793 runners and walkers finished the two races in 2014, down slightly from 2,879 a year ago, and 3,472 in 2012. The drop is surprising, but it could be people not interested in running in the hot weather.
- Congrats: To Microsoft friend Lisa Baker, who ran the 5K. If any other friends did the run, congrats to them too; I just don’t know of any others.
- 169, but who’s counting: This was my 169th road run since I started doing them in 2001. That includes 15 8Ks — 10 Torchlights Runs and five Beat the Bridge 8K Runs.
I have turned my focus to the Seattle-to-Vancouver (B.C.) Bicycle Ride (RSVP) on Aug. 15-16. I may do the Spirit of Bellevue 5K Run the Sunday before, on Aug. 10. The two-day bike run is where I am putting in the training. Looking forward to riding that with Edifecs friend Paras Bedmutha.
Thanks for reading. Till next time.