The race registration said that you needed to average an eleven minute mile in order to beat the beginning of parade. After watching all the stragglers running in last year's race, I think that was put in to discourage really slow runners, but still, the potential was there to get kicked off the course. My training up until straining my Achilles was about 13 minutes per mile for three miles. So this is a real wild card.
The race begins at Quest Field, heads south to the Safeco Field, then around to 1st Avenue. Then north up the on-ramp to the Alaska Way Viaduct. The run follows the viaduct north, through the Battery Street Tunnel, and then turns around south after popping through the tunnel. Then it's south towards 4th Avenue, the Parade Route, which is at about the 3.5 mile mark. Then it's basically 1.5 miles, mostly downhill, in front of the crowd waiting for the parade, estimated at up to 300,000 people.
I picked up my youngest sister Alice at SeaTac along with her Boise State U. Sophomore Angie at SeaTac Airport. Then we headed to downtown Seattle to set up some chairs to stake our claim for seating on the parade route, and also drove the race route, noting every hill which would soon menace us later in the day. We set up a place between Blanchard and Bell on the north end of 4th Avenue, about two blocks from where the runners would enter the parade route.
Team Tegeder: Daughter-In-Law Julie (holding 2+ month-old Summer), who ran in the Boston Marathon, Son Andy who qualified and ran in the Washington State Cross Country Meet in high school, Alice on the far right, who ran on the Weber State University Track Team, and me, whose last distance run was a 5K around 1980, and last ran twelve days ago! I am definitely the weak link in Team Tegeder.
We met at our spot, then headed about a mile and a half to the start line. Andy and Julie rode bikes so they could more quickly get back to their children (Julie's a nursing mother, and even though the details of the race were explained to the baby, there was no guarantee that Summer was going to have any empathy if she got hungry) Alice and I rode the bus that runs free downtown.
(Left: Angie (in camoflage), Noah and Lovis wait at base camp.)
Alice and I took the bus, and got to Qwest Field about 15 minutes before the race was to start. We got our numbers and our ankle bracelet. (No, not that kind of ankle bracelet - it was a velcro band with a timing chip. It measures your time from the exact time you cross the magentic strip on the starting line to the magnetic strip on the finish line.) We got in the pack of 1,500+ runners kind of in the middle. I didn't want to get caught in the pace of the front of the pack, but didn't want to be in the rear, either. (There would be plenty of time for that after the race begins.) It was really cool to be in a pack of fit, motivated people. There was just an exciting energy, more exciting by the fact that I was actually in it. Most of the participants looked a lot fitter, and a lot younger than me. It had been cloudy all day, but the sun was breaking out. Perhaps an omen? But, what the heck - I'm in. I felt like Gene Wilder in "The Producers" just before the curtain goes up when he says "Well Max....THIS IS IT!" I've never run five miles in my life, I'm older than I ever have been,...and the gun sounds, and the pack begins to move. THIS IS IT!
Alice and I had our Ipods, and the plan was that we would run together until we had to split up, and didn't need to plug in until then. Alice could tell immediately that my pace was too slow, so we ran together about two blocks and Alice broke ahead near Royal Brougham Way, the first turn. Royal Brougham was a one block run, and then we take a turn north towards the Alaska Way on ramp. Andy and Julie ran with me on Royal Brougham and then after the turn towards the viaduct, I wished them a good race.
The first major hurdle was the on-ramp to the viaduct, at about 1/2 mile into the run. I just had no idea how much gas I had in my tank, but I knew how tired I was after running hills in some of my training. So, I decided to walk up the on-ramp - which goes to the top of a double-decker freeway. Once I hit the top, I started to jog. I looked behind me and it was pretty sparse, already.
"Running" on the Alaska Way Vidaduct - The arches in the background are on the roof of Qwest Field
At the 1.5 mile mark on the viaduct was the first water station. Lots of volunteer offering cups of water. Wowzers! I'm getting treated like the distance runners on TV! I accepted my cup, took a sip, splashed the rest on my face and threw my cup over my should just like a real runner! I have officially arrived!...well, except for the part about the 3.5 miles yet to be run. I was starting to feel the pain, and decided in order to conserve energy I'd walk a little. On the viaduct there were expansion joints, so I would determine to walk from one joint to another, and then run between two joints, then walk between one, etc. That seemed to work and keep me going. There were a few people watching from the parking garage overhead at one point, and as they cheered I told them I was going to dedicate the next minute of running to them!
I hit the 2 mile mark in the Battery Street Tunnel, which is about a 1/2 mile tunnel under the surface streets. A significant milestone happened in the tunnel when I actually passed a high school kid who had started walking. It was pretty lonely in the tunnel. Every time one of the support guys on a bike rode by I felt like you do when a police car passes you slowly. Even though you think you're OK, for a moment you wonder, "I wonder if he's looking at me? Is he going to pull me over?" I just looked straight ahead, and the support guy rode on. Whew. By now, at the two mile mark, the mens and womens winners are already across the finish line.
I made it out of the tunnel, ran up Aurora Avenue to Republican Street. Kind of symbolic of the Presidential Race. As the old guy makes his solitary run onto Republican Street, the throngs are cheering elsewhere. However, I still have Hope, and my feet are telling me that I am experiencing Change I Can Believe In: my feet have changed from training-day sore to race-day painful. The fact that the race turned on Republican street makes me wonder, is there a Democrat street in Seattle? Of course: They're ALL Democrat streets! But then I hit Dexter Ave: the symbolic right turn at roughly the halfway point. I am heading south! By now, the rest of team Tegeder has passed the Tegeder base camp.
(Right) Nurse Wendy waiting with Lovis and baby Summer, experiencing her first SeaFair Summer!
As I approach Denny Way, the 3-mile mark of the run, there is the second water station. By now the rest of Team Tegeder is crusing down towards the finish line.
(Right: Andy and Julie are greeted with high-fives from Noah and Lovis)
...and they're off to the finish.
And about four minutes later, Aunt Alice hits base camp, smiling, fit, and hiding the pain of having run a mile and a half further at this point than any of her training runs.
It looks like Alice is ready for a big high five, while Noah is deciding whether to give a high five or clear out of the way in case Alice collapses.
Notice that in the photos of Andy, Julie and Alice, there are other runners on the course at the same time. It's a little different feeling in the back of he pack where I am. As I approach the Denny Way water station, I see that it is manned by what looks to be a bunch of high school kids. There are about ten of them, all holding one or two cups of water, and here I come. It's probably been two or three minutes since the last runner passed through, most of the race is done, and they're, well, high school kids. A young woman hands me a cup, which I take on mouthful and realize that I can't swallow and breathe while running very well. So I took one swallow then shot the rest of the water in my face. As I do so, the high school boys take the cue, and every one of them douses me with their water. By the end of the gauntlet, I'm soaked...and refreshed. It was in good fun. And I turn onto Denny.
One of the bike support guys rides along side me. I'm thinking "No, you can't pull me off now - the parade doesn't start for 20 more minutes!" But instead he just said "Are you OK? " I replied I was and he said he would check back. No threat of being pulled off the course...Hey! There's 4th Avenue! I'm gonna make it!
Base camp waits. Most of the runners have passed, the parade hasn't begun yet, and Robert is somewhere.
As I neared 4th Avenue, I called Wendy on the cell phone to tell her where I was and that I would be by the base camp soon. I'm still on the phone as I hit 4th Avenue, and people started to cheer. I felt like "What a dork, I'm the slowest runner out here and I'm on my cell phone!" I hung up the phone & looked around and realized that the cheers were for me! I thought it sounded fun to run where there would be energy in the crowd, but, having accepted the fact that I was going to be what could be the last finisher in the race, if people were going to cheer, I was going to enjoy it. So did the uplifted arms thing that pro athletes do when they're trying to get the crowd to cheer more. It worked. It gave me a boost.Wendy got the grandkids set to give their "Opa" (German for Grandpa) a high five. Then as I approach, some girl in holding an inflatable dolphin pops in between them as a street vendors cart comes into the same area. So it detracted from what could have been a cuter photo. Timing is everything. I hope the girl was happy that her dolphin got high-fived (high-finned?)
The dolphin-toting girl returns to her chair as I get congratulations from Lovie.
The picture doesn't show it very well, but my shirt is completely drenched. Wendy said I should just stop now and rest. I was thinking, "What!??" Two perspectives: I was well onto 4th Avenue, three blocks of people have been cheering for me, and I'm going to finish this race even if I get kicked off the course and have to go on the sidewalks to the finish. I've hit goal #1 which was to beat the start of the parade, and now goal #2, to cross the finish line, is within reach. I've paid my dues and my fans await me. Wendy's perspective: Here's my out-of-shape husband, beyond any distance he's run in the past 20 years, and is completely drenched! To Wendy, a Registered Nurse, it looked like I had completely drenched my clothing due to sweat, and was a candidate for heat stroke or heat exhaustion (I get them confused - one has symptoms of no sweat, just clammy, and the other has symptoms of profuse sweating. I should have paid more attention in my college first aid class, but cute girls in a class mess up your concentration, of which Wendy was one.) So Nurse Wendy was just trying to keep me from something serious, like death. Sounds kind of selfish, but when it comes to husbands, she prefers the kind that are breathing! I convinced her I'd be OK. (OK, I don't think I convinced her, but I had convince me.)
People were cheering, and it was keeping me going! Last year my daughter Sonja said she probably ran an extra quarter mile serpentining the route giving fives to all the little kids on the parade route. Well, that was OK by me. I was going to try to give a five to every body who offered. I high fived young and old, little girls and older people in wheelchairs who would love to be able to run as poorly I was running. The crowd inter-action took my mind off the pain and the breathing and the pain.
One of the things you notice as you run, is that the world is full of slogans, and I was getting the fully supply of them. Among the things I heard were:
I heard them all and then some. It was fun and it kept me going. I hit the hill at Seneca Street and started to walk. Then someone would cheer I said "these next ten steps are for you!" and I would start jogging again. It was a fun, slow run down 4th Avenue. After going under the Yesler overpass at the 4.5 mark, the course turned downhill to 2nd Avenue, and then a turn south and there it was: The Finish Line. There was no more hill, and man oh man, do my feet hurt. If Alice thought I was going slow before, I was really going slow now, but I was going to make it!
The Finish Line! I called Wendy on the cell and said "Yo Adrian, We Did It!" Man oh man do I hurt! It was great to finish! I lingered at the finish line area, drinking the free water and eating the free fruit. I was kind of in a daze and my feet really hurt. (Have I said that my fee hurt?) As I'm limping over to the refreshment table, a vivacious young woman walked up to me to hand me a flyer and started saying something about "We sponsor marathons and half marathons.." and about then all I could do was shake my head like a foreigner does when they don't understand what you're saying but want to be polite. I think my fatigued brain heard the words "marathon" and couldn't process any additional words the young gal was saying. I did have the strength to accept the brochure. Never found he strength to read it, though.
I found out that the free bus that runs downtown stops being free at 7:00 pm. I didn't have any money, so the only way back was to walk...or highjack a car. I opted for the good citizen method and limped the 1.7 miles back to Tegeder Base Camp. But I made it, a finisher. Final Time: 1:10:59.8. I finished UNDER one hour and eleven minutes. A 14:11 mile average for the five miles. Of the 50 men in the 55-59 age group, I finished 50th! I thought I was the last guy to finish, but the official results showed that I beat three guys in their thirties among a handful of others finishing behind me somewhere. Alice was really happy finish 11th among the 22 women in her age bracket. She was in the top 50%!
I knew my feet hurt. The left Achilles tendon I strained was sore, but not nearly as much as it felt they day I had to stop running. I didn't find out until I got home and took my socks off that in addition to my number and t-shirt, another souvenier of the race was a blood
blister on my right foot about two inches long and in the shape of Japan.
So, will I do this again? I think I will. Next year I'll do it in less than an hours. That means I may have to compete with other runners for the cheers, but I look more like a runner instead of a novelty act during intermission between the end of the race and the beginning of the parade.
I hope you enjoyed reading about my running adventure. It actually took me longer to blog about the race than it did to run it! But at least my fingers are not sore and blistered.