For more than a decade, the Seattle Marathon or Half-Marathon has been a Thanksgiving weekend tradition for me. Last Sunday (Nov. 25), I resumed this tradition after a two-year break by running the Seattle Half-Marathon. It was my longest run of the year, my first half-marathon since September 2016, and a challenging but fun experience.
I actually signed up for the Half-Marathon Walk, because I wasn’t sure how much of it I could run. But I ended up running at least 12 of the 13.1 miles. So, I ran the Walk, as I’ve done a few times before. After my latest ankle surgery last December, as well as my previous one in 2011, I’m cautious about doing too much pavement pounding — yet I continue to find that my ankle is up to the challenge.
This was half-marathon No. 39 for me, as I work toward getting to 40 in 2019. It was also my eighth Seattle Half-Marathon, to go with six full Seattle Marathons (21 marathons total). I’ve been doing this event since 2002, but missed the last two — in 2016, we spent Thanksgiving weekend in New York with our daughter Molly, and last year I had stopped running to get ready for the Dec. 18 surgery.
It felt great to be back at it, to be doing a longer race with nearly 5,000 other people, including some of the area’s hardcore runners. You don’t see any tutus or Thanksgiving costumes in the Seattle Marathon or Half. Most of these athletes have trained extensively for this event and are focused on PRs. On top of that, the course was great and the weather was mild and dry.
A refreshing new course with a downhill final stretch
Since my last Seattle Half in 2015, the courses for both the marathon and half-marathon have changed twice (the half-marathon course still remains pretty much a half-segment of the full marathon course, geographically).
The old courses I knew well; they included the Interstate 90 express lanes, the marathon out-and-back to Mercer Island and to Seward Park, the scenic west Lake Washington waterfront leg through Leschi, and the challenging hills leading to and through the Seattle Arboretum. But those loop courses had to be revised because the I-90 express lanes are now off-limits — they’re being converted into Seattle’s light-rail link to the Eastside.
I can’t tell you much about last year’s revised courses, except that without the I-90 stretch, the full marathon added a southern jaunt through Mount Baker and then east to Seward Park, and the half-marathon stayed north of I-90 and made up extra mileage in the Madison Park area. Otherwise, they covered a lot of the same ground as the previous longstanding courses.
This year’s courses, however, were a complete overhaul. We ran on the I-5 express lanes for the first time, plus the Burke-Gilman Trail, the streets of Fremont, the Aurora Bridge, and Aurora Avenue. All are relatively flat, except for an uphill climb in Fremont and a downhill final stretch on Aurora.
What stayed the same: The start in front of Seattle Center and the finish inside nearby Memorial Stadium. Running across the stadium football field to the finish line is, and always has been, an awesome feeling.
I liked it all. I vote to stay this course for at least the next few years.
Pushed myself to avoid being disqualified on I-5
Here are some of the other highlights of this event and the new course:
- The 7 a.m. or 8 a.m. start times: There was a 9:10 a.m. deadline for runners and walkers to be off the I-5 express lanes (miles 2 through 5) so they could be reopened to traffic — otherwise, you’d be shuttled off and disqualified. Those doing the Marathon and Half-Marathon Walk events were encouraged to start at 7 to avoid missing this deadline. I started at 8 because I wanted to sleep longer; that meant I had to push myself to get to mile 5 on time. I did, and appreciated this incentive to run hard.
- Running the I-5 express lanes: I’ve done this a few times in the Seattle Jingle Bell Run 5K, but this course took us further north across the Ship Canal Bridge. I liked having all this running room with no cars.
- Joining the marathoners on the Burke-Gilman Trail: The marathon race started a half-hour before our race, and marathoners headed north and east on the Burke-Gilman Trail all the way up past Magnuson Park and back. Then they joined us as we ran westward on the trail, with faster marathoners passing slower half-marathoners like me. It was fun seeing some elite runners in action.
- Running downhill for the last two miles: I started to feel spent crossing the Aurora Bridge, but got some energy back when I realized that Aurora was going to take us most of the way back to Memorial Stadium. This is a hill that I’ve run up and back down in the St. Patrick’s Day Dash, the Hot Chocolate 15K, and the Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle Marathon. It was awesome just having to run down it.
- A friendly finishers’ area with hot chicken soup! For my more recent Seattle Marathon runs, it was so late in afternoon that the finishers’ area under the grandstands at Memorial Stadium was nearly empty and all the food gone. But after last Sunday’s Half, I finished well in time to get soup, bananas, chocolate bars, and anything else I wanted, and to chat with a few friends and fellow runners.
Happy to beat my goal time
My conservative goal for the race was to beat 3:30, and I did, without too much trouble. I finished in 3:22:35 (15:28 per mile), obviously not my best time (my PR is 1:55:33 in 2004), but not my worst, either. While I didn’t beat my last half-marathon time of 3:00:30 at the Overlake Labor Day Half-Marathon in 2016, I didn’t expect to. We’ll see if I can ever break three hours again.
My time is listed in the results among the half-marathon walkers (93rd out of 277). But had I signed up for the run, I would have finished 3,068th out of 3,152 runners. Good enough for my first half-marathon after a second ankle surgery. Full results are here.
Congrats to Boston Marathon veteran and former Ragnar Relay teammate Larissa Martin Ralph for her impressive marathon finish, and to journalism and Microsoft friends Anthony Bolante and Jen Gaudette for their strong times in the half. I could tell from their Facebook posts that they all enjoyed the event as much as I did.
I’m looking forward to half-marathon No. 40 next spring (probably the Mercer Island Half-Marathon in March). In the meantime, I am running two 5Ks in coming weeks, the 12Ks of Christmas 5K on Dec. 16 and the Resolution Run on New Year’s Day. With a busy work schedule in December, I’ve got little time to train for longer races.
As I mentioned last post, I’m also signed up for the Tunnel to Viaduct 8K on Saturday, Feb. 2, and the Cascade Bicycle Club’s Tunnel Ride 2019 on Sunday, Feb. 3. These back-to-back events will give us an early look at the new Highway 99 Tunnel, plus a final jaunt across the Alaskan Way Viaduct being dismantled soon.
Happy holidays, everyone! Thanks for reading.