Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Seattle Marathon

What a day! This post is brought to you from my crippled and battered but thoroughly exhilarated self, from the comforts of my couch and the heaps of ice and Ibuprofen under which I'm currently buried. Today I completed my first (hopefully of many!) full marathon. 26.2 miles through the streets of Seattle - a course that's considered "moderately hilly" and is discouraged for first time marathoners by all conventional wisdom and opinions on the Runner's World forums.

But! I love this place, and I love running, and running and urban living have become inextricably linked in my heart, so what better way to celebrate my first few months here by running the Seattle city marathon?

Alan saw me off at the starting line!

By conventional wisdom, too, I probably under-trained for today, doing 1-3 training runs a week, only once running a 30+ mile week. And being on my feet close to 40 hours a week the last couple weeks probably didn't help either.

But! (Again!) I started out really strong.

Look how happy that smiling runner's face in the crowd is!

The weather couldn't have been more ideal. Cool, overcast, but most importantly, no rain! (It's been known to sleet and hail on marathon day here, and we'd had a couple sunny days in a row, so I was terrified our no-rain quota had already been used up for the week.) The temperature, I believe, hovered in the high 40s. Little wind, with a few exceptions. Everything felt second mile was an overly ambitious 7:02-minute pace, but I blame it on a tempting long downhill stretch. After that, we all entered the I-90 Express Lanes and ran for several miles out and back on the floating bridge to Mercer Island - a rather excruciatingly long and straight and extremely windy portion, but nice to have lots of cars and truck honking on either side of us to cheer all the marathoners on. I averaged 8:20-8:30 miles along there and along the scenic Lake Washington Boulevard that followed.

Alan and Seyeon both cheered me on along the way. I saw the two of them together at about mile 9, and it was an incredible boost to see both their smiling faces along the "sidelines." They were fantastic. I, coincidentally, also still felt fantastic at that point.


I didn't see them again until Mile 21. They apparently went and had a fabulous lunch together at a cute organic cafe on Madison. In the meantime, my legs starting wearing down. I'd been sticking pretty well with the 8:35-pacer group at that point (aiming for a 3:45 finish), and it felt like a solid but not-too-stressful pace. I hit the 13.1 mark about three minutes faster than when I raced the Cleveland Half Marathon last May. That felt pretty awesome.

At around mile 15, though, my legs started to cramp a little bit. It may have been dehydration (I did my best, Carolyn, I promise!), or it may have been the hills, or it may have just been my pushing my pace to its limits, but they got progressively worse and worse through the last, increasingly painful 11 miles. My pace slowed to 9:00 minute miles. I had a quick pick-me-up around mile 17 when Aseem called my cell phone, and I got a hearty laugh from some spectators when I picked up the call and chatted for some time while running. I wouldn't have, except that Aseem and I used cell phones to communicate our locations when he cheered me on in Cleveland, so I figured talking to him while running marathons has become a bit of a tradition at this point.

So, here's me at Mile 21:

I'm smiling, yes, as Seyeon snapped this, but it's because she and Alan had parked themselves at 33rd Avenue (I love them!) and I was so unbelievably relieved to see them again after my first few flickers of "Oh God, am I going to be able to finish this after all?" I'd taken my first walking break at that point (steepest block of the entire marathon and a steady uphill for nearly a mile following it? Ugh...) Fortunately, there was a long downhill at the end of it all, where Seyeon ran next to me, and I got a bit of a second wind.

It was short-lived, though. The last 5 miles were pretty excruciating. My legs were totally shot. I stopped to try and stretch and my legs almost collapsed out from under me as I tried to orchestrate a simple quad stretch. Uh-oh, I thought. But other marathoners are great, as are the spectators, and people consistently cheered me on with positivity and support any time I stopped to walk (which was a LOT in those last few miles.) The 3:45 pacer had long disappeared ahead of me, and I found myself stealing nervous glances backward in dire, depressing hopes that the 4:00-pacer group wouldn't catch or pass me in that final stretch.

Happily, they didn't! I crossed the mats with a chip time of 3:55:51 - which I'm really happy about, given how difficult almost the entire second half of the race felt. 3:45 would have been great, but that's what next time's for, right? I'm thrilled to have come in under four hours for my first.

Seyeon and Alan were at the finish line, with water and a space blanket and the best-tasting banana I've ever had. (There was a guy with a box of Krispie Kremes about two miles from the finish, and I *almost* went for one...) I got my calves iced at the medical tent, and inhaled everything from power bars to fruit cups, and it all tasted like heaven. As did:

It was the first time since moving to Seattle that I've been to McDonald's, but gosh were those fries yummy. And apparently a lot of other runners thought so, too. The place was jam-packed with marathoners in space blankets.

Anyway. I feel fantastic. I can hardly walk at all, and it's a blessing that I had the foresight to ask off work for the next couple days to give my legs some time to recover...hopefully a good night's sleep and some gentle walking tomorrow will help. In the meantime, though, I'm daydreaming about the future of my running life. Alan and Seyeon and I have tentatively agreed to all run Cleveland next May - so attention all friends in the Cleveland/Oberlin/Chicago (Amtrak, Becca, Amtrak!) area...stay tuned!

"We run, not because we think it is doing us good, but because we enjoy it and cannot help ourselves...The more restricted our society and work become, the more necessary it will be to find some outlet for this craving for freedom. No one can say, 'You must not run faster than this, or jump higher than that.' The human spirit is indomitable."
- Sir Roger Bannister


  1. Woman, I could not be prouder of you!

  2. Ok, so I have a story for you that is, in light of this psrticular post, incredibly relevant:

    So I was at work the other day, spacily shelving books, when I saw it: Ultra Marathon Man. As I'd get fired for stealing, I had to wait an excruciating 4 hours for my shift to end, but I finally snatched it away and will read it once I'm done with "Memoirs of a Geisha." Yay!

    Also, congratualations on the marathon!! I was a little hesitant to read your post (because of the optimism) but I actually found it super-encouraging for my own running goals. I really liked that you revealed your training schedule, as I'm working toward a 1/2 marathon in April and mine has not been that different. :p

  3. Yitka! I'm so so proud of you! Congratulations! Wish I could have been there to cheer you on too! And who knows, maybe there'll be a 10k in Seattle in a year or two that we could run together when I come to visit you! :)

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