seattle half marathon

Today I walked 13.1 miles in seconds over three hours.  It’s good to be out doing these events again, in just five months since my bike crash.  As a bonus, I finished third in my age group for the half marathon walk, something I wouldn’t have done in the run.

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photo was taken by my friend Bob Wismer, as he and many ESR Folks volunteered to help on the course 

Walking the Seattle Half Marathon became a goal of mine a couple of months back when I was walking nearly everywhere I needed to be.  This included such exciting destinations as physical and speech therapy, work, and doctor’s appointments.  It became second nature to grab my backpack (containing an umbrella, a jacket, and the New York Times), and hoof to where I needed to be.  Since I was already walking between twenty and thirty miles a week anyway, it made sense to enjoy the Sunday morning after Thanksgiving with thousands of friends. 

The morning of the race saw our family coming off of Kris’ adventure doing Ironman Arizona, and a nasty flu bug which eventually got all of us.  I was a bit nervous about how I’d hold up after spending a couple of days this week in bed.

I took off for Seattle about an hour ahead of the gun, which turned out to be cutting it sort of close.  After improvising on the parking, I made it to the start with just enough time to find my happy place and then line up.  I reflected upon how lucky I was to be here, and then the gun sounded.

The first couple of miles were through downtown.  As we made it down to the International District, we passed the great noodle place Randy Erber had turned me onto, as well as Uwajimaya.  Walking definitely gave me a bit more time to enjoy the sights along the way.  I also noticed people alternating jogging with their walking.  While I was tempted to do this, I decided only to walk.  This would keep the experience pure.

We then made the climb onto the "road to Boston" (the course uses the I-90 express lanes to cross the city).  It was a couple of miles into this that we got to see the first marathoners run past.  They came by at the 5k mark, about 17 minutes after they’d started.  I’d be happy to run one 17 minute 5k, let alone maintaining that pace for about 42k!

By now, I was clicking miles off regularly under 14 minutes, better than expected.  By the time we turned off onto Lake Washington Blvd., I was feeling pretty good about my effort.  I fell into conversation with a guy named Tom for a few minutes, which helped the time pass nicely.  By the time I made the turn up the short steep climb on Galer, I was starting to feel the tax in my quads and calves.  At eight miles into the half, you don’t want to feel too much pain (yet), so I tried to gear it back a little.

A lot of the fun today was seeing familiar faces.  Earlier in the race I’d seen Alysun Deckert, an accomplished marathoner (she’s been to multiple Olympic Marathon Trials), and one of our running coaches from Team in Training ten years ago.  Along Madison I saw Jim, a friend from the Eliot Institute family camp we attend each year.  He greeted me warmly saying "it’s great to see you up again!". 

Then, as I climbed the hill towards the nine mile mark, I saw many friends from the Eastside Runners, who were attending to an intersection.  I felt pretty good before seeing them, and felt great afterwards.  Many of those folks had spent time with me when I was in the hospital, so it felt good to high-five and smile with them.

I smiled most of the way over Interlaken (my favorite stretch on the course), and then plodded my way over I-5, and then down Boylston and Harvard.  By then I was ready to be done.  One thing remained though.  I wanted to finish under three hours, but it was going to be close.

Close it was.  I sped my stride up as I made my way up Mercer.  If I’d broken into a run, I could have done it.  But why break the spirit of the walk?  I turned into Memorial Stadium for the final stretch and saw my watch flip over the three hour mark. 

I was done.  Over the course, I’d averaged about 13:50 seconds per mile, over a minute faster than I’d expected.  I enjoyed seeing the race from a new perspective, and great to be on the course, soaking up the energy. 

In the recovery area, I met Cathy and Scott from work, and Liz a friend from church.  I’ve missed the post-race chatting for the past months – it was nice to exchange observations and share impressions of the race.  Cathy is a mentor for the Team in Training program this time around, so she’s been busy with the running and fundraising.  I enjoy seeing running and health at the center of such powerful causes. 

The 2008 Seattle Marathon marked an important place on my recovery.  I’m not running yet, and still have some healing to do.  But today confirmed to me that I’m going to be doing many more miles in the near future.

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