The Maniacal Double
By Burko Crutcher
now, most folks need no introduction to the Seattle Marathon, a Thanksgiving
weekend fixture for runners from the Northwest and beyond. Whoops, my bad. By
truncating the title, I don't mean to diss the "
meet the Ghost of Seattle Marathon -- sans sponsorship prefix. And that is one
of the key points of the race, also a Thanksgiving weekend fixture for the
Northwest's running counterculture. It's a low-key event with an ultramarathoning attitude and ambience, occurring annually
on the day before its much more massive marathoning
cousin. For some participants, it's a nostalgiac trek
on the former Seattle Marathon course, a now-two-decade-old layout along
On this Saturday, the field numbered in the dozens -- well, maybe four. Most were running the marathon, a handful in an accompanying 50k and half-marathon. A disproportionate number were Marathon Maniacs, a club whose entry-level membership requires completing three marathons in three months. Prospective MM members also can run two marathons in two days, and that admittedly was an attraction in this race for yours truly. But the back-to-back marathoning nut fell from the tree eight years ago, when I did the 50k version of the Ghost. At the start, the race director asked for a show of hands on who was doing the Seattle Marathon the next day, and more than one-third confessed. It's a thought that hadn't crossed my mind before but has loitered there since.
Thus began the quest for the maniacal double:
about 15 minutes before the start after the Metro bus driver on Route 39, who
had been asked to let me off as close to
up with fellow Hard Core Runners members James and Mary Klarich -- James in the
marathon and Mary doing a shorter training run. I stayed with them a mile or
so, but they were long gone after my first walking break. The plan was to treat
the double marathon like a 50-miler and walk two minutes a mile -- at regular
intervals on the flat spots and on the few upgrades. After looping
Quickly, the other runners left me behind, even those replicating my double. I saw them coming back maybe a mile or more before the first turnaround. I was settling into an extremely comfortable 11-12-minute-per-mile pace, supplemented by extended -- and unanticipated -- use of the facilities. So *this is the true price of Thanksgiving overindulgence.
we ran amid neighborhood residents out for a stroll, neighborhood residents'
dogs out for a stroll and scores of bicyclists touring the lakeside bike loop.
One peloton must have had 30 riders. Near the north
The halfway point, the quarter-point for the double -- saw a stop for food and an extra pair of gloves -- the wind had picked up a tad. Off I went with a 2-hour, 23-minute half-marathon split, comfortably under sub-5 goal. Another loop around the forested peninsula of Seward Park, another potato chip stop, another out-and-back focusing on, then passing under, the Interstate 90 bridge.
The extremely nice lady at the aid station near the turnaround unfortunately believed me when I said I thought I was the last runner. She closed up shop, only to rush back when she recognized a couple of women behind me. It was hard to tell us from the locals -- this race had no bib numbers.
The legs started feeling more stressed in the final miles than I would have liked, so I kept walking two minutes per mile through the end. The key to all of this was not bonking in the first race, and I wasn't quite sure if I avoided that or not. The race director's cell phone got me at -- I wish I could subtract the eight minutes lost in the facilities. That put me 30th out of 34. At the finish were a couple of surprise witnesses: the tolerant spouse and the bemused stepson. I thought they had better ways to pass the time. In true ultra style, the race director was warming soup and grilling hot dogs for all the finishers. Both went down well, as did the remaining Payday candy bars.
The warmish sunshine (temps in low 40s) and cordial companions encouraged lingering, but eventually it was back onto Metro Route 39 and to downtown Seattle, to the high-rise Westin Hotel with its expo and packet pickup and timing chip and prerace instructions for the next day's race. Thus armed, it was back to Metro Route 255 and a trip back to the suburban motel and a bath, a large meal (salmon/garlic mashed potatoes and asparagus no doubt from Peru, a sore point for asparagus growers in the Yakima Valley) and a long sleep. The quest was halfway done.
Here's a confession. I have no problem with the UW Medical Center's sponsorship of this race. I wouldn't be up and running back-to-back marathons, and arguably not up and doing anything at all, without the UW cardiologists who laser-angioplastied my 100-percent coronary blockage back in 1993. That was, like, serious stuff. I appreciate the sentiment of the Ghost; I'm indebted to the skills of the UW Medical Center.
morning, off Route 255 and onto Route 13 with two young women, sisters. One
recently moved to
marathon walkers had already gone, and the half-marathoners were lining up.
Numerous porta-potties kept the lines nonexistent. It
was chilly, again in the mid-30s in the morning, but the day promised more
sunshine than the previous day. temps reached the mid-40s. No rain
for two straight days in
Talked to a Maniac whom I'd recognized from the day before. He was a veteran of this doubling thing. He was also a lot faster than yours truly. I knew from training -- back-to-back long runs -- that the first mile would reveal everything. The initial signs were ominous; the legs felt dead, the pack with water, sports drink and cell phone in case I crashed and burned felt very heavy, man. Anything in the neighborhood of 10 minutes for the first mile would be very encouraging.
we went, not quite 2,000 of us. I lined up way in back, where I belonged, and
it took a little over a minute to get to the start. We meandered under the
supports of the Monorail, and soon came an impressive and enduring image of an
urban marathon: the skyscrapers of
long, sweeping ramp took us out of downtown and onto the Interstate 90 express
lanes. Another enduring image: the condensation from the breathing of 2,000
runners rising in the faint morning glow. We entered and exited a long tunnel
and emerged onto the Lacey V. Murrow (brother of
Edward R.) floating bridge, which carries I-90 traffic across
the mile-and-a-half-long bridge, I caught up with Bob Dolphin, our
internationally famous Hard Core Runners member. The lead runners were coming
back after a turnaround; Bob spent about half his energy moving forward and the
other half acknowledging the scores of returning runners yelling his name.
Together in about we hit the 10K, where we touched land
we returned on the bridge, a young woman brightly said, "Hi, there!"
It was the
the bridge at mile eight, we were in very familiar scenery. The next 11 miles
would cover the same ground that I had traversed twice the day before. Two key
differences: We ran the
was a gentle, friendly, loving, huggable course for 20 miles. After that, it
turned mean. I don't know what we did to it, but suddenly the course hated us.
Mile 20-21 threw a 125-foot rise topping out with an old friend, the
An oddity at mile 25: Passing right in front the nightclub where I saw the bemused stepson perform a musical gig last summer. Just past that, I managed to avoid stumbling over the tracks for what officialdom calls the South Lake Union Line of the Seattle Streetcar; the locals prefer South Lake Union Trolley -- because of the acronym.
Though this, I was moving well and picking up places. My pace dropped under 11 min/miles, even when walking uphill. After 18 miles of wondering what I was doing, the last seven I wondered why it had to end. This was a finish to savor, which I did in (gun), (chip), 1,108 of 1,236 men and 1,634 of 1,879 overall. In the age group, 87 out of 100. My encore witnesses were the tolerant spouse and bemused stepson, who joined hundreds of others in Seattle Center's Memorial Stadium, then accompanied me indoors to the heated Recovery Area for soup that didn't measure up to the day before.
Thus ended the weekend of racing contrasts. The one constant, of course, is the distance: twin 26.2-milers for Marathon Maniac No. 724, Iridium (four-star) Level.
* FINISHES BY HCR MEMBERS AND FRIENDS:
Ghost: James Klarich, (11th of 34 overall); Burko Crutcher, (but under an assumed name)
Clifford Banister, 3:09:22 (78th of 1,237 men, and negative splits by five
Did we miss anybody? Please let us know.
* MARATHONS BY THE NUMBERS:
* Number of finishers:
* Entry fee
* Bib number:
Ghost: No bibs
Ghost: When you hit aid station and turnaround (4.57 mi, 8.88 mi, 13.1 mi, 17.68 mi, 21.99 mi, assuming you remembered all that from looking at the Web site)
Seattle: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26 miles plus 5K, 10K, 15K, 20K, 25K, 30K, 35K, 40K. All (or most) splits read by volunteers with aid of amplification.
* Road closures
Ghost: Metro buses 255/39
Ghost: Two (hit four times)
*Aid station offerings:
Ghost: Water, sports drink, candy, fruit, potato chips, pretzels
* Clothing check
Ghost: Leave gym bag next to van at start-finish
* Race time:
Ghost: (race director's phone)
* Personal half-marathon race splits:
*In prerace packet:
Ghost: No packet
Seattle: Copy of Outdoors Northwest magazine, entry forms for nine races, including three Sunbelt rock 'n' roll marathons and three Canadian marathons, a card for "nutrition drink" sample, card for a financial adviser, samples of lip balm, hair elastic bands, "high performance sport detergent," vitamin supplement and ubiquitous "udder cream," plus an admittedly way-cool poster that features a Google-type race-course map
* Number of stories in daily newspaper questioning race director's salary and race organization's fund-raising practices: