Posted by: Joe English | November 19, 2007

Races: Seattle Marathon 2007 Race Preview

UPDATE: For post-race coverage, click here.

With the Thanksgiving weekend approaching, most people are thinking about turkey and stuffing. If you’re in Seattle, you may be thinking about something else: the Seattle Marathon.

The Seattle Marathon has historically landed on this holiday weekend, part of a small number of races that round out the end of the marathon season in the next few weeks. With the late November date in mind, Seattle can be a fairly tough marathon, because of the potential for cold and unpredictable weather in Seattle at this time of year.

Marathon organizers warn runners in their promotional materials to expect temperatures in the mid-40s with a chance of rain, wind and colder temperatures. In fact, as of this writing the weather forecast seems to bear that out with a prediction of temperatures in the low to mid-40s with a 30% chance of rain. If the weather holds to predictions, you will want to check out my article on racing in cold weather, by clicking here. It contains a check-list of items to keep in mind when racing in bad weather.

The fun of the Seattle Marathon is its fascinating course, which is different from any marathon that I’ve ever run. The course is difficult, with hills in sections, but features a very unique run across the I-90 Floating Bridge on Lake Washington. Almost 3 ½ miles of the course runs on the bridge across the lake. Also, the course now runs on the express lanes down I-90 freeway, going through the very long Mt. Baker tunnel on its way to the bridge. Running through the tunnel, and then out across the water onto the bridge surface, will be a unique experience for any runner.

The course then traces the shoreline of Lake Washington south from the bridge through and around Seward Park and the back north again. For most Seattle-based runners, this may be familiar territory as these are great, mostly flat, training grounds.

Challenges
The course does hold a couple of difficulties in store for runners. First, the bridge crossing can be quite exposed to the elements if the weather turns out to be windy or rainy. Running across Lake Washington in bad weather can be less than ideal in the winter as I can personally attest to, having run the bridge route across the lake many times.

Second, there are several fairly good hills on the course. The largest hill comes as runners of the full-marathon course leave Lake Washington’s shoreline just after mile 20 (half-marathon after mile 7) and start a lengthy climb up and away from the lake back toward downtown Seattle. This climb tops out at about 200 feet, which means that it isn’t an enormous climb, but at mile 20 of the race, it will feel like it. There is also one last shallow climb just before the end of the race as runners make their way up toward the Seattle Center, which will be at the point when you’re most feeling the pain of the late miles of the race.

Eating and Drinking
There are 15 aid stations planned on the course, stocked with water and Gatorade Endurance Formula – and some will have Gu energy gel as well. Don’t be fooled by the cool temperatures into not eating and drinking as normal. You’ll still need to stay on top of your hydration and, especially, your eating.

Take advantage of what’s in the aid stations if you’ve been training with these particular products, but make sure to carry whatever gels or bars you’ve been using if you haven’t tried these products and never count on the aid stations to have the energy that you need to complete the race. Make sure to take care of yourself and use the aid stations as a back-up or supplement to your plans.

As a final note on eating, be mindful of what you eat at your Thanksgiving table. Make sure to eat plenty of carbohydrates to load up for the race and try to avoid overdoing it on the highly fatty foods – like eggnog and pies. You’d hate to pack on a couple of extra pounds of fat just before the race. Have your loved ones save you a piece of pie for after the race, as you’ll have definitely earned it then.

Coach’s Advice
With the combination of the weather and hills, I wouldn’t predict this to be a fast race for most people. I’d suggest dressing warmly and keeping the pace conservative, leaving something in the tank for those hills in the late miles of the race. As with all marathons, you need to feel like the pace is particularly easy in the early miles of the race to avoid hitting the wall later. Just remember that the SAME pace in the SECOND half will feel much harder than it does in the FIRST half. So if the pace feels hard in the first half, you’re most likely pushing too hard.

Eat, drink, have fun and good luck out there!

Look for more Seattle Marathon race coverage here after the race.

Related article:
Seattle Marathon in hot water over charity fundraising

What is the weather is really bad on your marathon race day?

Race Web-site Link:
Seattle Marathon

Coach Joe English, Portland Oregon, USA

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Responses

  1. […] Running Wild with Coach Joe Races: Seattle Marathon 2007Commentary: It’s just not a holiday without a holiday raceHappy ThanksgivingRaces: Tergat and Wanjiru to duel in Fukuoka MarathonRaces: Seattle Marathon 2007 Race Preview […]

  2. Seattle Marathon 2007
    The good: wonderful city, cool but dry weather, amazing on course volunteers handing out water, Gatorade, GU and good wishes. Spectators can be sparse in a lot of areas but the ones who do turn out are great (loved the people handing out sliced oranges, bananas and gummy bears).
    The bad: if you are having a bad race (as I did this year) the lack of variety in the course is physically draining as well as mind numbing. After an eventful beginning running through the downtown core and onto the interstate (including the floating bridge) there is an endless flat stretch that if your muscles are aching, makes them ache even more. Then there are a series of hills that continue to climb with sparse downward sections that also offer little relief. On top of that if you finished about 4:10 or more there was little or no food left and only sports drinks with artificial sweetener in them. And instead of having a band play to pump up runners at the beginning of the race, there was a band playing at the end of the race, in the small recovery area, deafening everyone from the runners in the medical area to people waiting in the lost children and parents area. Most importantly, one runner collapsed with only metres to go in the race and officials were very slow to react. When someone finally did call 9-1-1, no one thought to redirect runners. Instead finishers had to run around the two ambulances that arrived through the same tunnel as the runners. Then officials failed to redirect finishers as paramedics performed compressions on the man.
    Overall – I had heard Seattle is a tough course – and if I had been as strong as I have been in other marathons likely I wouldn’t have noticed as much. But I just feel like organizers have not utilized Seattle’s geography by providing greater variety throughout the course. Plus there is no excuse for running out of food – I thought San Francisco was cheap for checking off what food you received on your bib – but at least – from what I am told – they still had food for late finishers. Also, a lack of an emergency plan in the arena (for any kind of emergency) is really bad. Plus – what’s with handing out finisher shirts before the marathon even starts?
    Just my two cents,
    JS

  3. Good comments JS.

    It’s sad that we’re hearing about more food shortages at another marathon. That seems to be a trend this year – races either running out of food or water on the course or in the finisher areas.

    I will admit Seattle is not one of my favorite courses for some of the reasons you cite. I think it is, in some ways, tough without good reasons. I’d like to see a course that gets rid of the big climbs late in the race.

    As I’ve also said, I think having the race in November isn’t really sensible in Seattle, because the weather could be a disaster (it wasn’t this year).

    Keep on racing and having a good attitude out there!

    Try California International Marathon (CIM) next year for a race at this time of year.

    Check back here tomorrow as I will have an interview with the race director of CIM talking more about it.

    Coach Joe

  4. I agree with the above comments, both good and bad. I ran the Seattle marathon after a disappointing Twin Cities marathon in steaming hot temperatures had left me frustrated. I decided to maintain my condition for another seven weeks or so and give this marathon a shot. It worked out well, as I was able to squeeze out a PR (only my third marathon).

    I did not care for the running on the highway actually. No spectators, a lot of ups and downs and bad for the joints to run on concrete. After a couple of miles I found it rather boring and unattractive. The stretch southwards was a beautiful flat run, but spectators were few and far between. Especially in the park where you turn around I found that bizarre, no one to be seen but marathon runners and some people going for a stroll in the park. Once I got back on the course of the half marathon crowd support grew a bit stronger. I am used to the hundreds of thousands that line the streets during the Twin Cities marathon, so it was still a bit sparse to me, but I agree that the people along the course really did a great job in cheering every individual on. It got really hilly towards the end and I had done no hill training whatsoever this year, and my longest run since the Twin Cities marathon seven weeks ago was 16 miles. So I struggled a bit, but was able to power through it and I finished in about 3.43 “About” because apparently the organization is unable to provide me with my chip time. It has listed my chip time as being the same as my gun time, while I did not cross the start line a good 45 secs after the gun went off. I know these things can happen, but they shouldn’t if you really want to be a serious marathon. And there were some other issues that made this marathon’s organization inferior to the Twin Cities marathon, my only point of reference.

    There were plenty of water stops, but did anyone notice that at some stops the water was handed out at the left side of the road and the sports drink at the right side? I like to drink a cup of each, which is kind of hard to do this way.

    Finishing zone was a zoo. I did not see any food at all, no cornered off zone for athletes. Made you feel like you had just run a 5k turkey trot.

    More porta-potties would have been handy. In the first couple of miles of the course there were very few biffies and they all had a line. Since the first miles of the race take place on downtown streets and the highway, there are also no bushed to pee in. I had to wait until mile 8 to make a quick pee stop.

    I also read an article in the Seattle Times (I think) today that this marathon’s organization does only give a very small amount of its proceeds to a charity and it implied that a lot of the money went in to the pockets of the organizers. Maybe they could spend it on better timing services and more food and porta potties instead.

    I am happy I ran it, running in the cold crisp weather was great, the course is very scenic (you even run by the house were Kurt Cobain killed himself), but I don’t think I would again sit in a plane for almost four hours to come to this marathon.

  5. I agree about the hills, maybe they could at least reverse the course. Also the had run out of GU (which I was counting on) at mile 16 (?) but thankfullfy that had more at mile 19. Here’s a story I wrote about my experience 🙂 http://charlesesmith.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!782D0E31F20A873E!160.entry#trackback


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