After 2 days of healing up and site-seeing in Seattle I was ready to have another go at the marathon. I trundled up to the start line in the shadow of the Space Needle from my hotel in Queen Anne a few blocks away keeping my head on a swivel for my friends from the Seattle quad or those just in for this race. I saw Jan and Tania, of Saskatchewan. I would say how nice they are but showering praise on Canadians (even by way of South Africa) for being nice is akin to bringing coal to Newcastle. They, as well as everyone I’d spoken with about this race had warned me that it was not an especially good race.
I will say this, I have seen bad races. I have seen many races worse than this, but for a big city marathon course this one is hilariously poorly designed. The actual nuts and bolts of the race are well done, there’s plenty of water, gu, the traffic is not a problem, but the course. Oh my god the course is comically bad.
We start at the Space Needle, next to the Gates Foundation, and begin running along the monorail line. The monorail is basically only a mile long so once that fun is over we are immediately shunted into a tunnel for the scenic views of the inside of the express lanes of I-5, we continue for 5 miles. Awesome, amiright?
Once out of the express lanes we settle into the Burke-Gilman bicycle trail for a 5 mile out and 5 miles back. It’s fairly broad, but once people start coming back at you from the hairpin out and back it gets a little hairy and you start wondering “this is a major city marathon, right?” The view from the Burke-Gilman is pretty much limited to the surrounding trees, but the out and back gives you a chance to look for friends who are also doing the race. I saw Bucci again, Marathon maniac newsletter dude Steve from Oregon, and a few others.
As we wrapped up mile 15 I ran into a girl named Allison who had used the “phone a friend” option usually reserved for game shows for some moral support. She asked for her friend to pray for her, and I shouted that “no worries, she’s got this.” For the next 6 or 7 miles we hung together and chatted. I learned about her life as a equestrian enthusiast, and I shared a bit as well. Together we made the miles pass until eventually she got into her music and I let her do her own thing.
The last few miles were odd to say the least. We snuggled up against dockyards, and through industrial neighborhoods, before another hairpin turnaround (I need to stress how uncommon this is for major city marathons. Thousands of people should not be turning around at a single point. It’s not such a big deal for slower folks like myself, but for the people at the front, that’s a nightmare.) This turnaround was behind a Fred Meyer and in front of a BevMo parking lot. At the turnaround is a kid with a sign that says “I’m holding a sign.” This in a nutshell was the Seattle Marathon. Just a lot of of “What in all of hell is this?”
On the way back we made yet another weird hairpin turnaround after a block. Now at mile 22 or 23 we run into a giant hill. Again, sometimes that happens. Seattle is a city surrounded by mountains (Fun Fact: Despite its reputation, due to those mountains Seattle actually sees less annual rainfall than New York or Boston.) It’s hardly shocking that there are hills in the city, but thoughtful race directors try not to put some of the biggest hills of their race in the last 5k when participants are most tired. We went up a hill, it leveled off, up another hill, turned, and went up yet another hill. At this stage I couldn’t help but laugh. I sidled up next to a Seattle native and chatted about where to get food after the race. We finished in Memorial Stadium which was a nice landmark finish and proceeded to the tunnels of the stadium to the recovery area, past a series of dumpsters. Hilarious finish.
Fun fact: In 1889 the entire 116 acre central business district burned down. Residents rebuilt on top of the rubble. Some streets are as much as 22 feet above their original height, a small portion of the original Seattle downtown is available for tour in the Seattle Underground tours.