Against all odds the sky in Seattle was bright and cloudless at 4:30 am when I looked out my hotel window yesterday morning. The start wasn’t until 7:15am and I wasn’t intending on getting up this early but I must have been on Eastern Standard Time when sleep would not return after waking at 4:13am. So be it. Better to be up early, than fall asleep again and miss the start. I’d already woken up once in the night dreaming that I had fnished the race but had no recollection of walking it! Wishful thinking – finishing a race without walking it.
A few hours later I left my hotel. A bright, near full moon almost pulled me toward the race start. Once there, I was happy to discover that the slight early start for the marathon walk meant that line-ups for the portable toilets were minimal to non-existent. Who-hoooooo!
My next stop was the clothing check area. This was in the stadium on an upper level. Over the railing and into the stadium the finish area was set up under bright and optimistic lights. During the most gruelling parts of the race I would find myself visualizing myself walking through the stadium entrance and over to that finish line. At times it was the only mental image that kept me going.
I had chosen to walk the Seattle Marathon because it has featured a marathon walk in both the full and half distances for several years. I looked forward to walking a race where walkers were welcomed. The race website did say it was non-competitive and there are no awards but the results have always been posted separately from the of the runners. I assumed that there would be no reason for any runner to start with the walkers. But, lo, as soon as we were sent on our way, at least 10 people ran out ahead of me. And I mean, ran. These were not people who thought they were walking but always landed with a bent knee that made them look as if they were running. These people were running – bouncy, head-bobbing running.
Now, I have to be honest. This makes no sense to me at all. And, it is discouraging for those of us who train hard to walk fast.
If a race organization decides to have a walking registration, walking start, walking results couldn’t the race website post a couple of guidelines? Something to the effect that the start and division is for walkers only and participants must keep one foot on the ground at all times? Ideally,the guideline would also state that excessive head bobbing is indicative of a running gait and is not allowed. And, a back bib or tag is given to walkers so that people coming up from behind know that the participant is a walker.
In my experience these guidelines work. I have seen it work at the Chilly Half Marathon in Burlington, Ontario, The Edmonton Marathon in Edmonton, Alberta, and the CRIM Festival of Races in Flint, Michigan. I’d like to hear about more races where this is done. If you know of one, post here!
Still, Seattle Marathon turned out to be a magical course. I was lucky enough to be participating in a year when the weather gods were with us. The sky was clear, yet there was a mystical fog over Lake Washington. The sun burned a path through the fog just as I was crossing the bridge to Mercer Island. The long journey south along the shore of Lake Washington to Seward Park continued to be graced by a magical light.
After this, I’m sure there was more beautiful scenery but during the return trip north along the lake’s shoreline, I was hanging in by my toenails! I know there was a soothing stretch through some parkland and I remember a slight feeling of optimism overtake me upon returning to a main road that I vaguely remembered, from reviewing the course route the night before, meant that we were spine tingly close to the finish.
Sadly, that last few miles always seem, and sometimes are, the longest of the race. I was pushing to beat my previous personal best and cross the finish under 5:01:33. I know I gave gave it my best shot in that final stretch. It just wasn’t good enough this time for that race against myself.
The good news is, I still have a goal! I still need to beat that time!