I achieved my goal last Sunday (March 24) of running at least 40 half-marathons. It was fitting that my 40th was the Mercer Island Half-Marathon, a demanding race I’ve done 14 times now, including before, between, and after my two ankle surgeries (2011 and 2017).
The course is a clockwise loop around the perimeter of Mercer Island, and I know it well. It’s rolling hills most of the way around, with a few major dips and inclines. Besides running it 14 times, it is a regular bicycle training ride for me that gives me a decent workout.
After a two-year absence of doing this run, I was challenged to get through it. I’d signed up for the Half-Marathon Walk so I’d be OK if I undertrained because of work demands, and I am glad I did. I ran most of it, as did a few others in the Walk, but finished in 3:24:37 (15:37 per mile), good for only 101st out of 165 in the Walk. It was a bit slower than my recent Seattle Half Marathon time, but this was a harder course. Full results are here.
Yes, I got passed by walkers as well as runners. It’s amazing how fast some speed-walkers can go. The Half-Marathon Run started 90 minutes after the Walk, and those runners clocking 1:50 or faster also passed me on their way to the finish line. Altogether, 1,072 people finished the Half-Marathon Run.
But it was all OK. Why? My second surgery — the ankle fusion surgery performed by Dr. Eric Powell in December 2017 — has allowed me to run a half-marathon without much ankle pain or swelling. Though I have reached new levels of slowness, it is relatively pain-free, an acceptable tradeoff.
That doesn’t mean my body wasn’t sore at all, because it was. I had trouble walking down steps the next day because my quads were tight. But I can quickly bounce back from that.
Newer course added tough hills at end
I did my first Mercer Island Half-Marathon in 2003, and the following year got my best time for this event of 1:57:31 (8:57 per mile). I’ve been unable to run it in under two hours since then, though I finished in 2:00:08 in 2005 and 2:00:09 in 2006.
The course was slightly different then. You started in the downtown area and ran around a few blocks before making your way to East Mercer Way for a semi-loop around the island. Since 2008 or so, the start and finish lines have been at the north end of the island, near the Mercer Island Community Center. The race is now a complete circle around the island.
With the current course, you’re spent by the time you hit those last three miles, and there are tough hills in miles 11 and 12. The last tenth of a mile to the finish line is also an annoying uphill climb. But crossing the finish line always feels good, especially when it is No. 40.
Also since 2008, the Mercer Island Half-Marathon includes 5K and 10K races (I’ve only done the half-marathon). Some 2,153 runners and walkers combined finished the four events, a slight decline from prior years but still a strong turnout.
What I like about this event is that the participants are serious runners and fitness buffs, including lots of couples and families. It is also for a great cause — colon cancer research and awareness. The main sponsor is the Swedish Cancer Institute.
I’d like to give a shout-out to Larissa Martin Ralph, a veteran marathoner and former Ragnar Relay teammate, who led the 1:50 pace group at the event. Larissa’s mom recently passed away. Larissa, your pace group passed me in the last mile, but I was too busy laboring to get to the finish line to give a yell or even see you. Good luck in the Boston Marathon coming up!
My half-marathon highlights since 2002
In light of this being my 40th half-marathon (to go with 21 full marathons), I put together some of my half-marathon highlights:
- Half-marathons completed: Mercer Island (14), Seattle (8), Super Jock ‘n Jill Labor Day Half (5), Kirkland (4), West Seattle (3), Seafair (2), Seattle Rock ‘n’ Roll (2), Overlake Labor Day Half (1), Black Diamond (1).
- First Half ever completed: Seattle Half-Marathon, November 2002 (my time was 2:20).
- Fastest time: 1:55:33, Seafair Half-Marathon in Bellevue, June 2004.
- Slowest time: 3:46:56, Mercer Island Half-Marathon, March 2012 (seven months after my first ankle surgery).
- Best course: (tie) Seattle Half-Marathon (2018) and Overlake Labor Day Half (2016). Both courses were largely flat.
- Worst course: West Seattle Half-Marathon (2005, 2006, 2007). No police or volunteers were available to escort runners through the West Seattle business district, so you had to stop at stoplights. Still, I was close to breaking 2:00 in all three of these runs.
- Most memorable: Last two miles of the Overlake Labor Day Half (2016), as I was trying to beat 3:00. I gave it my best shot, but earlier leg cramps set me back. I finished in 3:00:30, my best post-surgery time.
An April run, and back to bicycling
This was my fourth road run of 2019 and my 228th race overall since 2001. Nos. 5 and 229 will be a smaller, Easter-themed 5K run at Marymoor Park in Redmond on April 13, called the Beat the Bunny 5K Run. I wanted to do a run that weekend because the following weekend I am starting a well-deserved vacation.
My normal April run, the Seahawks 12K Run, is taking a hiatus this year and may never come back.
I need to get back to bicycling, however, as some of the best rides of the season are coming. I’m planning to ride the Seattle Bike-n-Brews Ride, a 37-mile ride into south King County that I enjoyed doing last year.
Thanks for reading! Go Ducks and Mariners!