The race was scheduled for a 7:00 AM, and I had to catch the shuttle bus to the start by 5:30 AM. I was up at 4:00 AM, had a light breakfast, and Sue dropped me off at Quest Field, and I boarded a yellow school bus, headed to the start in Tukwila, about 8 miles south of the city. It was a chilly morning, so I wore an old Turkey Trot long-sleeved T-shirt. I had about an hour and a half to kill, so I walked around and tried to stay warm. I was surprised at the number of runners. I learned after the race that there were 21,000 combined half and full marathon runners. A few minutes before the start, I pitched the shirt, then I heard someone from behind shout, "Hey Frank". I turned and a guy whom I didn't know introduced himself. Steve. He was a friend of Kurt Molter, and Kurt told him that I would be running Seattle. He recognized me by my SERC racing shirt. We talked a little, and found that we were both going for a little below 3 hours, so we thought we might run some of the course together.
They didn't do me any favors when they started the elite and first corral together, eight minutes ahead of the rest of the field. Unless you are an elite runner, keeping pace with the elite runners for the first few miles of a marathon is likely to ruin your day. My first two miles were 6:16 and 6:26, so clearly I was allowing them to pull me along. By the time I reached the western shore of Lake Washington at the end of mile four, I had come to my senses and taken my pace closer to 6:40. We were out of the industrial and commercial district, and running in a beautiful residential neighborhood. The sky was cloudless, and the sun was warming the air, so the morning chill was gone. It was nearly ideal running weather. The course turned north along the western shore of the lake through mile 9, the flattest part of the course. I settled in and ran these at an average right around 6:50.
Miles 10 and 11 are east across the I-90 floating bridge then back west again. Floating bridge sounds about a flat as a couple of miles could be, right? No exactly, as the ramp down and then back up is about 100 foot climb. At this point, I was really beginning to work. We ran through the tunnel, westward into the south part of the city, then turned north past Safeco and Quest Fields. Miles 11 through 13 are mostly uphill, so my pace dipped a bit through this stretch. When I crossed the half, the clock said 1:29:48. In light of my 6:16 and 6:26 first two miles, I was happy that I was able to take get it back in the target range, but I knew that the big hills were in the second half.
There is a nice down hill at the end of mile 13, then it is all uphill through mile 20. As we head north through the city, the grade is moderate and very runnable through the 14th and 15th miles and I averaged 6:39 for these. The grade gets much steeper in miles 16 through 20, and it was here that I lost track of Steve. I decided to let him go and run my own race. His pace seemed too aggressive for the four miles of steep hills ahead. I kept my pace right in the low 6:50's for this leg, trying not to burn up everything in the hills.
When we finally made the turn at the top of the last hill, I was feeling every mile of it. I did a quick assessment and decided it was unlikely that I had enough left to finish strong, but I could still make my sub-3 if I ran smart. I knew the next mile was the steepest down hill of the race, and I wanted to take full advantage of it, so I cut it loose and ran it in 6:29. After that, the grade softened, and it was a struggle. The next four miles were 6:39, 6:42, 6:51, 6:57. I passed Steve who was paying the price for running the hills too fast. I wished him well, and was on my way. Most of that was run on the elevated highway running along the bay. I was hurting for most of it. I felt twinges of cramps beginning in mile 24. Thankfully, the first actual cramp didn't grab hold until the last half mile, I stopped a couple of times to stretch, but I was not going to repeat my Boston mistake. I knew I had a sub-3 finish with about a minute to spare, but stopping to stretch cramps could eat that up easily. I kept the stretches to no more than 15 seconds. When I made the turn toward the finish west of Quest Field, I heard Sue shouting, and I waved and smiled. There was a fence so no way for me to get to her. The last cramp struck about 50 yards from the finish, but I just ran, or more accurately, gimped, through it.
My lil'sis Georgeann called to tell me she saw me cross the finish line on the streaming video on line. She also said the website listed me as age group winner, which I immediately dismissed as an error. Based on the times I had seen in other Seattle marathons, I was sure that it not possible to win my age group with anything over 2:55. Regardless, given the tough hills on this course, finishing under 3 hours was all I wanted. The pain of the last six miles were a steep price to pay, but I made it. Winning my age group was actually less important to me, not that I will turn down the award. ;-)
11 hours ago