The Green River Marathon is a free marathon put on each year (this was the 14th annual) and is what I would describe as a community-driven event. I had not run a race like this in awhile and frankly I was looking forward to it. I have three "big" marathons on the books this year - Seattle Rock N Roll, Portland, and Seattle and after this year I plan on seriously limiting myself to trail runs and smaller community runs.
Luck led me to the start line this year. I found this race somehow online last year and thought it would be good training for the Seattle Rock N Roll. Unfortunately a bout of ITBS during my training led me to bail on the Green River Marathon even as a training run. I put the run on my calendar this year but it was soon trumped by the Blanchard 50k as I wanted to finally get my first ultra trail run under my belt. Last Monday (T-6 days) the race organizers canceled the Blanchard run due to lack of permits so I emailed the race directors and secured a spot for the race on Tuesday.
My plan for the race was indeed not to race but to put in a good marathon effort in preparation for Seattle. I figured if I could run 9:00 miles through the half I could gauge where I was and determine how realistic a 4:00 training marathon was at that point.
There were to be plentiful aid stations along the route so I decided to forgo carrying my own hydration since my plan for Seattle RnR is to go without. GU or other "solid" options were uncertain so I wore my pocket shorts with 4 GUs + 1 pre-race. I'm not a big GUer during training so wanted to test how my body would react to "overfeeding" on the race compared to my training.
The day before you would not have believed the forecasters who were calling for sun and 60s. It was rainy and miserable. Indeed when I awoke it was sunny and looked to be a gorgeous day, if not a bit warm for this part of the country. This made the choice of clothing painfully easy.
What great fun not to have a Charlie Foxtrot of confusion at the start of a race. 200 or so solo marathoners (including some crazy talent from what I believe is the Western Washington Cross Country team), several solo half marathoners and several relay teams. The fun thing about this run is that there are really no rules - if you want to solo marathon the go for it. If you want to meet a runner at mile four and run for five miles to be relayed by the next the so be it.
Several runners had started an hour early at 7:30am if they were planning on a 5+ hour marathon. It was fun to cheer them on as they passed through the four mile check point after having completed the out-and-back part of the course.
The other fun thing to see what the number of runners who knew each other. In what I suspect is common for these smaller races there are an inordinate amount of Marathon Maniacs in attendance. Saw one runner come through with the early starters in his VFF Bikilas.
Quick Side Note: I was in Boston the day after the Boston Marathon and saw all the BAA jackets on runners who had just run the Boston Marathon. While quite an accomplishment (and I have aspirations of running a BQ time one of these days) when I compare and contrast these two groups I find I have an affinity much more so for the Maniacs of the world.
The race starts where the Interurban Trail meets the Green River trail - a route I have been on several times on the bike. The course changed this year due to sandbags along the Green River so did a two mile out-and-back along the very flat Interurban Trail. I eased into pace alongside another runner Patty and chatted a bit with her as we got into the groove. She is an Ironman who has done Kona so I had plenty of questions about how she fuels on the race and handles different aspects - quite interesting. I thought we were running pretty easy but also felt I was just at the edge of my "easy comfort zone" so was totally surprised when I came through the four mile mark at 31:something.
I felt really good but also knew I needed to back off a bit. I was not going for 3:30 today.
I hung with Patty for another 3 1/2 miles to the next aid station and through several "arterial street" crossings (remember, this is a friendly group marathon - there are no road closures). Once we got through aid station #3 she took off (I'd told her earlier she should, after this station she let me know she was). I actually kept the tether on her pretty well through miles 10-11 when we got off the Interurban and reached Fort Dent Park. I still felt really good - had passed a few of the early starters and had been passed by a couple of folks as well. I felt like I was running my own pace which was good.
I was not really pacing myself all that seriously - I knew the 4 mile mark and the half mark but had not memorized the mile markers of the other aid stations. That's why I was surprised to hit the half mark at 1:50:something (my PR is 1:49:24)
The big mistake I made last year in the Seattle RnR was while knowing I was over pacing I still reached for a half time v. just running the marathon. I had done the same thing in this race but totally unintentionally.
It had started warming up as we reached 10:30 am and miles 14 & 15 were spent in some canopy cover (as were miles 11-13 in Fort Dent Park) which was nice. I distinctly remember starting to fidget with my gear - hat, shades, etc. I had taken off my shades during the my jaunt through Fort Dent Park and would not put them back on the rest of the run.
In retrospect (as in Monday morning) I probably should have taken a bit more hydration at the half station just due to the heat of the day (I have no idea the last time I ran when it was over 60 degrees).
A couple of other runners passed me in this stretch - no big deal as I knew I was pacing down to 9:00 miles and they were still in the 8:20-8:30 range. One of the runners was also going to run Blanchard that weekend so we chatted for a second about that.
Once we hit the aid station at mile 16 though we broke out into the open road and the heat started to pound on us quite a bit more. I blew through the station grabbing a water and a gatorade - again maybe not enough for the heat of the day.
We were on a stretch of road without a sidewalk and I had caught a bunch of the early starters but was also getting caught by a bunch of faster marathoners. At about mile 17 1/2 there is a tight little hill that I would have done better to have walked up but I was pissed and irritated so I stubborned my way up instead. I knew this hill was coming because I'd driven the course the night before and likely I psyched myself out a little bit. From here through mile 19 was rough - lots of people passing and had the "slow jog" going.
The aid station at mile 19 had run out of cups (I have no complaints about the run otherwise - especially for a free run - but given the number of runners and where I was still placed I was a bit surprised) so I grabbed a gallon jug and guzzled.
This stretch sucked. That is all there is to say. We were totally exposed on concrete and getting into the warmest part of the day. I walked out of the aid station and then the shirt came off. My IT Band was starting to hurt (not severely but it was tight). I walked for two minutes a couple of times and then coming into the park along West Marginal on mile 20 I just had to walk - figure I did for 5-6 minutes. Coming into the aid station I didn't know where I was but I knew I had to run in to look strong. Whoever was manning this station - bless your heart.
All I had to hear was "Your at mile 21 - only 5 miles to go!" Hell, I can run five miles. WTF has my problem been? I took water and gatorade and took off from the station determined to run the rest of the way in.
Coming out of the aid station I found where you cross West Marginal (a busy four lane street) and got across fine. Up a slight hill until under (SHADOWS) the West Seattle Bridge until I hit a stoplight crossing Spokane (along my usual drive home).
Once I was through the next aid station it was a mere 3 1/2 miles to the finish and all on a course that I'd run a dozen times this year alone. Alki was BUSY of course (it was noon on a 65-70 degree day). I felt my back getting burned so I threw the shirt back on. The wife drove by a couple of minutes later and honked at me. I calculated and figured she'd just have enough time to park before seeing me at the finish.
Along the way I passed a couple of other early starters, tethered with a group of runners that caught me at the stoplight as they walk / ran in front of me, and got caught by a couple of more. Just around the point one marathoner caught me and that was it - I got up on my legs and pushed. That may be toughest mile of my life - I held that pace but it was not easy.
The problem with Alki is you can see off in the distance forever. I'm also used to running this stretch 2:00 faster per mile. The finish line - between the pain of kicking up the pace, knowing I was almost done, and frankly not remembering where Spud's is - took seemingly forever to get to. The wife caught me right before then and ran me in. I crossed the line and someone told me the finish line had maybe not recognized me so I circled back to make sure my time got recorded.
4:17:13 (by the race). Not super happy with this as I figured I could run a 4:00 training run but given my far-too-fast start and the heat I am happy with the time. Plus it's a 34 minute PR.
Got my bearings about me which was not too difficult. In retrospect I did not immediately fuel after finishing which was fine. I talked to a couple of runners that had been around me - frankly not too many earlier finishers were lingering around the finish but it was fun to chat with folks around my finishing time.
Later on I found out that several DailyMile and Twitter folks also ran this race - I had no idea. Hopefully I can hook up with them before the Seattle RnR.
This is a really well-supported race and I plan on doing it again hopefully several times.
I am glad I ran this right before Seattle RnR so I don't pace myself out of a time early. The fueling worked out really well and depending on the weather that day I'm going to need a better shirt option than what I chose this day.