This is the 3rd year in a row that my family has made the drive up to Seattle to run in the Ghost of Seattle Marathon and/or the Seattle Marathon (and half marathons). Both races are held on the weekend after Thanksgiving, and make up half of the Seattle Thanksgiving weekend quadzilla (four marathons in four days) and quadzuki (four half marathons in four days).
This year, I ran the Ghost of Seattle Half Marathon, which is run on the old course of the Seattle Marathon. The event fields a half marathon, full marathon, and 50k, and is run on Saturday. The race is capped each year at 400 total participants; the 2016 registration was $80 and included a really nice hooded sweatshirt with the race logo on it. If a fall race is in your future, I highly recommend this event. In this recap, I’ll go through the course and then my personal experience so you can determine if it might earn your registration money.
The course starts and finishes right on the water at Lake Washington. The half marathon starts off running through Seward Park and makes a small loop towards the end of the park. The distance of this segment is 3.7 miles, and it goes by quickly. The race starts on an asphalt path and then opens up onto a wider road, passing at least three restrooms along the way out and then again on the way back. Towards the small loop on this section, the road narrows again to about the width of a sidewalk. Even knowing the course made a loop, I was still surprised to round a bend to find the start/finish tents (and aid station) right in front of me.
From there, you’re back on the asphalt path for another few miles before the first only significant (but short) incline that takes you up and away from the water to run along Lake Washington Blvd. This entire section is an out-and-back, and once you’re on Lake Washington Blvd., which is primarily residential, you’re either on the sidewalk or the road. Nearly all runners were on the sidewalk, though; except where there were huge puddles spanning its width. The road makes a very gently sloped decline and then incline that was reversed on the way back.
Running here, you will pass by some beautiful homes, then some nice apartments and a very small business area before reaching the Leschi Park Aid Station which is at mile 7.5 on the way out. After the aid station, you run for another 0.9 miles to the turnaround, which is marked with a cone and a small sign. The Leschi Park Aid Station will greet you again at 9.3 miles and then it’s back to that short, steep hill which this time, is a decline.
This “second half” (more like the second and third thirds) was broken up into nice, manageable segments. From the start/finish area, it’s broken up into park path, then residential to the aid station, then aid station to the turnaround; a total of six segments to make up about 9.5 miles. Mentally, it made the distance less intimidating, and once again, the start/finish area seemed to sneak up on me.
If this course sounds nice to you, how would you feel about running it twice? That’s exactly what the marathoners do at this event; the 50k runners did the same but had a turnaround that was slightly past mine. My husband ran this marathon in 2013 and said that he was surprised at how easy the 2nd loop felt compared to what he was expecting based on his previous marathon experiences. This year, I noticed that nearly all of the marathoners that I passed (coming and going) seemed to still be smiling, despite the rain.
This was my first half marathon since the birth of my son in March 2015, and I was hoping to run better than 2:30. (My usual pre-kids half-marathon time was between 2:08 and 2:15.) I was running solo, but met a number of very nice people who were near my pace that I was hoping to run with a little during the race. The marathon started first, at 7a, and the half was scheduled to start at 8a, but started just a few minutes late to allow for the registration volunteers to get everyone their bib. There were only four porta-potties at this event, and one of them was … not really an option; but there were restrooms at Seward Park just a short distance into the route.
The start of the race is a little congested due to the narrow path; my first mile was about a minute slower than my average pace for the full distance. I think this was probably good for me; I didn’t go out too fast and I was put in a really positive mood running alongside quadzuki participants, including one woman whose kids were in their 20’s and was “only” running 6 half marathons in the 2-week span. Participants were so friendly at this event, and for the first three miles there was a lot of people passing and being passed (I think due to the availability of restrooms immediately off the path). I was mainly running by myself but caught up to or was passed by people I’d chatted with at the start.
Two women who were running with the Galloway method kept passing me on their run and getting caught by me on their walk (they beat me in the end), so I had fun talking with them. Near the turnaround, one of them said, “Oh, the turnaround already?” which made me laugh because I had been thinking the exact opposite thing at that moment. I have never run in an out-and-back race where so many of the other participants made an effort to say hello and smile. Even the marathon runners who were already starting their final segment as I was finishing my race were extremely friendly.
At one point I found myself running with a very lovely woman who had a great pace and seemed as much of a talker as I am. In the short distance that I kept up with her, I learned her name was Kat, she was from Canada, and that she was running with an injury so trying to take it easy. I had to let her go ahead of me but I saw her again at the finish and I hope she’ll be back to run in Oregon, one of her favorite places to run.
I started having a hard time around mile 8, when my neck started to hurt – a flare-up of an old injury – but it passed and with every mile alert from my GPS I gained confidence. When I hit mile 11 at 1:56 I knew a 2:20 was within reach and decided it was time to turn on some music to keep my stride. My husband and kids were at the finish, but my daughter wiped out in the mud on her way to the path and I had to stop and remind her to be tough (just like Lightning McQueen doesn’t quit during a race); my son didn’t understand that he was supposed to run with me and had a complete meltdown 20 meters from the finish. I, along with other runners and spectators with kids, had to laugh.
After the race, runners could get some hot chili, a chili dog, and beer from Odin Brewing; but since my kids were NOT in a good mood and I was pretty soaked, we just headed to the car. I did, of course, collect my finisher’s medal first – it’s a nice medal, with a stand so you can display it and a keychain ring in addition to the usual lanyard.
I was much more stiff than I probably should have been … definitely a reflection on my training and preparation and not the difficulty of the course. My unofficial time (results won’t be posted for a while yet, but the race organizer sends participants an email when they’re up) was 2:19:something, so I’ll call it a good day.