Back in February, I decided to run my first marathon. Due to work constraints and timing issues, I chose the Rock n Roll Seattle Marathon to be my first, on June 21.
I trained using Hal Higdon’s Novice 2 plan, and for the first time in my life I actually followed a training plan almost exactly. I had a couple of weeks where I skipped a short run, and even a week where I skipped a long run when I was worried about injury, but I arrived in Seattle confident that I would finish the race. From the beginning, I was hoping to run in 4:30 or less.
When I registered for the race, my friend Junior volunteered to pace me, and over the course of my training, his goal time for us kept getting faster. LOL I knew it was a lofty goal, but set out on race morning with Junior’s 4 hour goal as my goal too.
The race started at the Space Needle.
Junior had a bunch of running friends who were also running RnR Seattle, so we met up with them before the race. They have a pre-race tradition of taking over one of the early start corrals at RnR races, and Seattle was no different – we gathered in Corral 2 for a group picture, then stayed there for the start.
Starting in Corral 2 was a very different experience for me in a big race. It was wonderful to not have to dodge and weave around huge crowds of people for 2-3 miles (or more), and it helped us start out at the desired pace – we were aiming for about 8:40/mile through mile 18 or 20, to build a cushion for the last few miles. And we started off right around that pace… in fact, we ran mile 2 in 7:40, which is my fastest mile split since high school!
The course was beautiful. The first half was relatively flat with a few hills, through downtown Seattle and along the lake. Check out the views!
Around mile 7 or 8, Junior tripped and fell on the uneven pavement, and I had to jump out of the way so I wouldn’t trip over him. I tweaked my knee a little bit, but it only hurt for a couple of seconds, so I assumed it was ok, and we kept on.
We made it through the halfway mark and were still on pace for a sub-4 hour finish, although just barely. To that point, every single split of the race was a PR for me (5K, 10K, and 13.1) – the half split was a PR by 11 minutes! Unfortunately, I started to fall apart not long after that. I hadn’t followed my race fueling strategy to that point – I’d planned on fueling every 4-5 miles, but didn’t use my first gel until mile 7ish, and my 2nd one at mile 12ish (or possibly later), and I just wasn’t able to overcome the energy deficit when I finally started fueling regularly.
Around mile 14 or 15, the course shifted to highway running for about 10 miles. Highway running, if you’ve never done it, kind of sucks. I was having a hard time finding level ground to run on, and was really struggling by this point. I definitely was doing more walking than I’d wanted to do, and we were falling way behind our 4-hour goal pace.
After what seemed like an eternity, we began to go back into downtown Seattle.
By this point, I was counting down the remaining distance in half-mile increments, mentally fighting with myself to run it in. The race ended on a fairly steep uphill, and Junior took off sprinting up the hill. I dragged myself up the hill behind him, saw the 26 mile marker and the finish chute, and dug deep. Somehow, I found the energy to run fairly hard into the finish – not my typical finish line sprint, but definitely a much harder run than I’d been able to manage over the final 10K of the race. Junior finished about a minute ahead of me, and managed to get some pictures of me crossing the finish line.
All in all, I’m pretty happy with my performance overall. My official time was 4:31:26, so I was pretty close to what I’d hoped for from the beginning.
My overall positions were pretty good – top 35-50%, depending on category. As I mentioned before, my splits through the halfway mark were all PRs (and I guess technically, so were the 2nd half splits, since I’d never run an official race over 13.1 before, LOL). I wish I’d executed my race strategy a bit better, especially with fueling. I definitely learned a lot about myself, and about longer distance running, so hopefully I’ll be able to do better next time.
After the race, we found part of the group, grabbed a beer in the beer garden, and then watched the headliner concert: Sir Mix-A-Lot!
It was a great end to a great day!