Posted by: Joe English | June 29, 2010

Race Review — Rock N Roll Seattle Marathon

running-advice-bugSEATTLE — It’s been awhile since I’ve had the opportunity to review a new Rock N Roll Marathon race. The series has been rapidly expanding, but my visit to Seattle is the first to one of the new Rock N Roll races that have debuted in the last two years. I went into Seattle wondering if Competitor Group could replicate the experience that I’ve seen in San Diego, Arizona and Virginia Beach in yet another location and I came away with the answer: yes.

Runners traverse Lake Washington at RNR Seattle Marathon

Rock N Roll Seattle retains all of the qualities of the other Rock N Roll races. It is a combination of a huge marathon event, with music, well-oiled machinery, and great course support. With a reported 22,000 runners in the half-marathon and 6,000 in the full, this really is a race that is about its largess. From the moment the buses drop you off in the southern Seattle suburb of Tukwila, the exercise is all about funneling people where they need to go and getting set for another massive marathon start. Having visited the Rock N Roll San Diego Marathon again this year, I felt that the Seattle start area felt less concentrated and over-whelming. Both starts featured a single, multi-corral start for the half and full marathons and waves that took about an hour for all of the starters to get underway.

Tour de Seattle

Rock N Roll Seattle Marathon 2010

The combined events start with a relatively flat first two miles or so and then hit the first climb of the course. The first hill is a steady uphill grade that lasts more than a mile, topping out around mile 4. This is perhaps the least interesting section of the course, running through light-industrial areas. But after cresting that first major hill, the course turns into neighborhoods and climbs again before turning into a steep run down a hill heading toward Seaward Park around before mile 6. Runners told me that the long downhill was “a rush” and a “a lot of fun”, although I observed a few blown out knees after coming down it as well. This long downhill is an area where runners with knee or Achilles issues, might be better served to walk.

Once turning left onto Lake Washington Boulevard, the course hugs the shore of Lake Washington for several miles. This was my favorite part of the course with pretty views, plenty of fan support, and even a boat with spectators cheering for the runners. This section of the course is almost entirely flat and offers a lot of shade on hotter days. When the course meets the I-90 floating bridge, the courses finally separate with the full marathon heading out and back across the bridge and the half-marathon heading directly to Seattle through the I-90 tunnel. Perhaps the steepest hill on the course — albeit very short — is right at the entrance to the bridge, but it comes and goes quickly with all of the commotion of the courses diverging at that point.

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