2013 green river marathon

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that final push for the finish near Alki Point – photo by Neil Dial

The first weekend in June is a great time to do a marathon in Seattle.  The weather’s not too hot, and usually the days of horizontal spring rain are behind us.  This year was the fourth time I marked the day by doing the Green River Marathon.

The course is okay – especially the nice stretch along Alki with its views of the Seattle skyline.  But the draw for this event isn’t the course.  It’s the energy.  The small dedicated army of volunteers and the group of 200+ runners you share the experience with.  That’s what makes it fun.

I registered for this year’s GRM a bit over a week before we ran.  Two weeks from a 50k slog in the Redmond Watershed, I wanted to do something different.  A mostly flat fast course would challenge me to run strong and steady.  The last road marathon I’d done had been a PR, why not try again?

I coaxed that bit of false confidence to head out to the Interurban Trail on the first of June.

I arrived about 45 minutes before the start, just enough time to talk with some friends and to find my happy place.  I set off from the start with Mark, a friend from Eastside Runners.  It was a casual start – I was still awaiting a GPS signal, so my watch didn’t actually start until we’d been running for over half a mile.

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mark and I around mile 5 (not sure what we were talking about) – picture taken by larissa uchiyama

The smart way to run a marathon is to start with a steady pace you’re sure you can sustain, and then speed up a bit at a time from there.  I got the first part right, but around mile 2 or 3, I sped up by 30 seconds per mile.  Now I had been training for this, it would have been fine.  I had not.  And I knew at the time it was a bit brisk a pace for me.  Mark and I loped along together for the first 10 or so.  I approached this sort of like a hungry overly optimistic college student might use their first credit card – buy now, pay later.

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middle miles  – photo by Neil Dial

We fell in with Jim Anderson around mile 9 or so.  Jim and Steve Barrick were co-race-directors for a number of years.  He gave us a bit of the backstory for the fresh pavement we were running on.  Apparently the path was torn up and un-runnable just days before.  Steve had considered re-routing the course around the construction, but that would have meant losing the certified course (so the event would not be a Boston Qualifier).  On the other hand, an impassible route isn’t much of a BQ possibility either.  So – on Friday Steve had gone out to check out the progress, and found the path still torn up.  He asked the crew how things were going, and to his surprise they said “just about to wrap things up”.  And they did.  Certified course intact, there we were running on fresh pavement.

Not long after, I pressed ahead, maintaining my faster than sensible pace.  I could feel the fatigue setting in, it was really a matter of just how long I’d be able to hold this pace.  My splits for the first 19 or so were surprisingly consistent for how I felt.  Winding up along 99, then along the Duwamish, I could feel my wheels starting to fall off.

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winding towards the water in West Seattle  – photo by Neil Dial

By the time I hit the nice stretch along the Sound, I was mixing in a bit of walking.  Just as I’d abruptly sped up, I slowed down to the tune of about 30 seconds per mile, and then more for the final three miles.  I pushed as hard as I could to get in just under 3:47.

charts and graphs for running geeks

Not a great strategy – going out fast, and then just trying to hang on.  In looking at the splits, I’d been on pace for about a 3:43 – not PR territory.  I’m convinced that my poor pacing probably cost me about 3 minutes.  Have to wonder whether it was worthwhile though, since I wasn’t as close to PR territory as I’d imagined.  Food for thought.

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