Seattle Rock N Roll Marathon: #14 in the Books

When: Saturday, June 25th at 7 a.m.

What: Seattle Rock N Roll Marathon

With my fourteenth marathon in the books, I am reminded of two consistent themes which always hold true.

  • I always get nervous beforehand. Experience does not deter nerves, as I never know what the race will feel like at mile 20. And I can’t help but get nervous about the unknown pain that lies ahead.
  • I’m always elated at the finish, overwhelmed with an amazing sense of accomplishment, eager to do another and feel the same post-race euphoria all over again.

Here’s the low-down on #14.

The VIP treatment. I am currently working on a marathon sponsorship for HP as part of my marketing consulting life, and as such, was able to receive two VIP passes for me and my friend Chris. VIP = cushy seats on the bus to the start line, tents with heaters, a private gear check and personal porta potties. Ditto at the finish line plus a nice spread of food. This was really a treat and MUCH appreciated, thanks to David at the Competitor Group.

The hills are alive…. I guess I could look a bit more closely at the elevation map beforehand, but even as Chris suggested the night prior to the race – it’s hard to run 26 miles in Seattle and NOT run hills. And truthfully, I enjoyed the variety in terrain till that LONG, 1-mile uphill at mile 17. And the cruel one at mile 25 that played tricks on my mind.

Concrete central. About 17 miles of this course was on highways, and given that concrete is the hardest surface a runner can encounter, my legs knew it. Those who ran the half marathon had it much easier, in my opinion.

Aurora on my mind. The last 12 miles of the course was SR-99, known by the locals as Aurora Avenue North. Now admittedly, about a mile in both directions provides lovely water views (and mountains, too, if we’d been able to see them). However, the majority is next to industrial artifacts, scary hotels and apartment buildings like the one in which my husband used to reside. Given how picturesque Seattle is, I was sad to be sharing so much quality time with the shortcut I used to take to the airport. And I never even thought about how hilly this highway was until I actually ran on it. (The hill pictured below was the easier one at mile 19).

Rain, rain went away. Seattle laid witness to winter-like conditions the day prior and promised sunshine the day of the race, yet the race began with a typical ominous sky. Though I yearned for views of Rainier and the Olympics along the route, I was happy nonetheless to avoid rain droplets from the sky. And frankly, during those last concrete, highway moments, I was happy to have clouds.

Out and back. A lot of races have at least one out and back (excluding Boston, NYC, Chicago and Marine Corps). I’m not a fan, and rarely run them on training runs, if I can help it. This particular course had three – one the I-90 floating bridge and two on Aurora. The last was a mind bender, too. Runners had to pass the finish (at Qwest Arena), run 1 ½ miles south beyond the Starbucks headquarters, turn around, run up the ramp onto Aurora at mile 25, then finally cruise into the finish. Chris had warned me this last 5K would be difficult mentally, and it proved to be true.

Stranded without a Garmin. Despite creating marathon checklists and laying out belongings the night before, I nearly always forget something (Chris even asked me prior to the race, “So how many of these did you say you’d run?”) This time around it was my Garmin, a tragic loss for someone addicted to GPS. I like to monitor my pace during races, and it’s hard to do so by looking at a stopwatch and mile markers, especially late in the race when it’s almost impossible to subtract 3:14.53 from 3:23.45. I harkened back to a blog post written by Kirstina Pinto, in which she suggested speeding up and slowing down according to how you feel. That was my strategy – and apparently it worked.

Almost ran a PR. My goal prior to the race had been to break 3:55, so I’d be able to register (hopefully) for Boston a day earlier than the masses. And with a 10K left, I was sitting at 2:56. That meant – if I could run better than at 9 minute pace, I would be in the 3:51 range. I have never broken 3:52. Sadly, it didn’t happen this time around, and I’m blaming it on the hill at mile 25 (ha!). But I gave it my best and still finished with a time of 3:53.16. I only ran 30 seconds slower in the back half of the race than the front. So I’m happy.

What’s next? Not sure. But of course I want to run another and try to hit a PR. I guess all of us marathoners are addicts for some reason or another. And who says you have to slow down as you age?

A special thanks to my friend Chris for going the distance with me, making the experience all the more memorable. And my other friend Chris for sharing her lovely home with me during my stay in Seattle. It’s always a pleasure to see my “running club” buddies.

Melinda Hinson