If there’s one thing I’ve learned about running, it’s that you can never be too certain how it’s going to go. You can feel unstoppable and strong one day, and the next day you can feel like you’re moving through mud on the exact same run.
In other words, running—for the most part— isn’t necessarily predictable…which is why I’ve learned to not put all my eggs in one basket. I actually like this about running, because it takes a bit of the pressure off…and while sometimes this uncertainty leads to disappointment, it also can also lead to some pleasant surprises.
And Sunday was definitely a surprise.
I truly did not know what to expect going into this race, other than it would be cold and there would be lots of hills on the course. I didn’t taper, I wasn’t exceptionally hydrated, and my eye wasn’t necessarily “on the prize.” I definitely have a big fancy dream time for a half-marathon, but I knew that this wouldn’t be the race for it. So, I went into it a little blindly…happy to shake off some of the turkey hangover and simply enjoy a run through my city.
As expected, Sunday morning was freezing…but I was actually excited about this. I know I run better in the cold, and with no rain the only thing that I needed to worry about was keeping my blood moving at the start line.
BF dropped me off with no trouble, and after wandering a little bit to see if I could spot anyone I knew…I decided it was futile and plopped myself in what seemed an appropriate group—near the 1:45 pacer. I thought I might be too close to the start line, but when the gun went off I realized that I probably should have put myself a bit further up. The first quarter mile was one big stop-and-go as people shuffled along, and although it was a bit frustrating, I weaved my way out of the masses and kicked it up.
I loved the first few miles through downtown. These were streets I see everyday, and it was great to see them in a new context—as a race course. There was also a monster downhill right off the bat too, which I used to put some time in the bank.
I questioned my speed very early on. Since I didn’t have a defined goal or plan for this race, I kind of decided that negative splitting wasn’t a necessity, and I would just do what I could. The times on my watch were definitely surprising me, but what surprised me more was just how good I felt.
Once we entered the tunnel, I lost satellite reception as expected, which threw off the distance calculations on my Garmin. And now is when we play a new game called “Find the tunnel faulty paces!”
I still felt great, and I loved the course. We had travelled from downtown over to the west side of Lake Washington, and it was lovely. There was a lot of fog, but the conditions were ideal for running and I generally just felt happy.
I crossed the halfway marker at a little over 50 minutes, and it was at this point where I started to get sparkly thoughts about potential finish times. However, I kept myself reeled in, because I knew there was still a fair amount of climbing to do and—as we all know—a fast start can mean scary things for the finish.
The hills picked up a bit, but other than one soul-crushing climb around mile 8, there was nothing too unmanageable. I started to realize during this race that I’m becoming much more confident and comfortable on hills. I’ve developed a climbing strategy/pace that makes hills a lot less daunting, and I’ve actually found myself kind of…gulp…liking them.
My speeds from miles 8-10 were a bit slower. I think it was in part due to the climbing, and it was also at this point that the fatigue of not tapering started to creep in. I could definitely feel the nearly-30 miles I’d already run that week, and I cursed myself a bit for not executing a more conservative race. However, this part of the race was also a beautiful, winding path through the park…so I think I may have been a bit distracted by the scenery.
But we only had a 5k to go, and I knew there would be a bit of a downhill finish. Time to kick into gear. My legs were barking a bit…not because of the distance, but because of the hills/speed. My goal was to grind it out the best I could without leaving much out on the course…because at this point, there wasn’t much to lose. Also, I realized that half marathons are about 1000x better than full marathons in this regard.
Around mile 11.5, I thought it could be possible to finish with a 1:40:xx on the clock…and all of a sudden, the girl without a set time goal became fixated on that number. There was something so even, clean, and benchmark-worthy about that time…and I wanted it to be mine.
So I ran. My legs were heavy and my stomach was getting a little angry, but my pace somehow didn’t falter I had already decided that I’d condemned myself to a positive-split no matter what, so all I was trying to do at this point was get to the stadium (where the finish line was).
I saw Erika (for the SECOND time during the race!) around mile 13, and she definitely gave me a boost. I straightened up my form, smiled, and booked it.
All at once, we were coming into the stadium, and I can’t tell you how good running on astro-turf felt after pounding pavement for 13 miles. I saw BF right before I crossed the finish line, and despite feeling a little nauseated…I was pumped. My watch showed a 1:40:50 finish, a time that going into the race—I didn’t think was possible.
We visited the post-race recovery area for a bit, and despite my best efforts to spot some friends, there were just too many people. We were able to check results right away which was quite convenient, and I confirmed that my finish time was in fact just what I was hoping.
Here are the official stats:
7:42/mile average. And wouldn’t you know it…somehow I did pull off a negative split. 5 seconds still counts…
I’m still a little disillusioned from this race, though quite pleased with it too. I have a big, undisclosed-until-now dream of running a sub 1:40 half marathon, and frankly…I didn’t think this would be possible until maybe next year. I went into this race not even considering that goal because the course was so notoriously difficult.
But the results have changed my mindset a bit. In all honesty, I expected to finish this race around 1:44, maybe 1:43 if I was lucky. And I would have been totally happy with those. But this race (as well as last week’s 5k) have shown me that I need to stop selling myself short.
I have a lot of will and determination, but I don’t necessarily have a lot of confidence. I tend to not believe things are possible until they actually happen, and while I think it’s good to be realistic…I also think that it would serve me well to have a little more trust in myself.
Other than the existential lessons learned during this race, I have to say that this course was absolutely fantastic. Other than the crowding at the beginning of the race, this was perhaps the most enjoyable course I’ve ever run on, and I was really impressed with the Seattle Marathon organization overall.
This race fired me up. It was encouraging and fun…and while I’m still a little hesitant to hope for anything more, I’m realizing that there’s no harm in trying.
Try I will, and I’m feeling pretty excited for pushing those limits back even further.
Did you run the Seattle Marathon/Half-Marathon? How did it go? How did you like the course?