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The 26.2 mile race known as the Seattle Marathon is held every year on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. At this time of year, runners should be prepared to be cold and wet, although they have a good chance at clear skies too. I've run this race in 2003 and 2005. It was sunny both years, despite rainy weather the preceding Saturdays. The wind is also a big factor since much of the race is on the shore of or on a bridge in the middle of Lake Washington. This year the wind was mild, while in 2003 there was a brutally strong north wind.

The first Seattle Marathon was run in 1970. 38 crossed the starting line, and 31 crossed the finish line. Now several thousand participate in several events held on Marathon Day. A 13.1 half-marathon race is organized concurrently with the 26.2 mile marathon running race. One can also get a head start if one wants to walk either course. To get an idea of the turnout for a typical Seattle marathon, let's look at this year's finishers. 1385 men and 728 women finished the marathon, while 2405 men and 3337 women ran and finished the half-marathon. About 200 people walked the marathon and 1000 walked half-marathon, with women making up over 80% of the walkers. There were 2 participants in the hand-crank wheelchair division.

Most of the course is flat -- much of it is along Lake Washington -- however there are a couple tough hills starting after 19 miles. The start is next to and finish is in Memorial Stadium at the Seattle Center, in the shadow of the Space Needle. Runners go through downtown, south along 5th Ave, following the monorail tracks for some distance. (This year the 2 monorail trains actually collided the night before the marathon, so we could see them smooshed together above us.) The city turns over the Interstate 90 express lane to the marathon, and runners take the I-90 floating bridge across Lake Washington to Mercer Island, where we make a u-turn and go back to Seattle. The wind can be oppressive while on the bridge.

After returning from Mercer Island and Lake Washington, the course turns south and follows the lake along a scenic road to Seward Park, a wooded faux-island. The course follows the 2.5 mile perimeter and then retreats north back toward the I-90 bridge. Here the marathoners join up with the half-marathoners who skipped the bridge and the southern excursion to Seward Park. The course still parallels the coast of Lake Washington past the very fancy houses in the Madrona neighborhood, and starts to be a little more rolling.

The shit really hits the fan, though, as soon as we make a sharp left on to Galer Street, which might as well just have stairs. This short, steep hill is followed by a long, uphill grade for 1 mile up Madison St. The right turn toward the arboretum couldn't be more welcoming, as the hills start to roll, giving us at least 50% of the time flat or downhill. The course goes through another beautiful wooded section on Interlaken Blvd. which affords some nice views north, across Portage Bay toward the University of Washington and North Seattle. After skirting northern Capitol Hill, we run near and over Interstate 5 and head back toward the Space Needle. Coming down from the I-5 overpass, one is tempted to think that it's all downhill from here, but there is a pernicious dip as Mercer St. goes under Aurora Blvd. The uphill back to street level is heartbreaking as one strains, and fails, to make out the richly anticipated 26 mile marker. It is there, just over the summit, and seeing it gives one enough of an adrenaline boost to put a little spring in one's step for the spectators inside Memorial Stadium. The 100 yards to the end zone, and the finish line, don't seem quite as bad after all.

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