With temperatures hovering in the mid-twenties over Thanksgiving weekend in Seattle, I began to question my decision to run the Seattle Marathon half marathon with my 20 year old cousin Megan.
The day before the race, we had a family lunch in the city and got a taste of the bone-chilling wind and sub freezing temps at 3:00 in the afternoon. I was scared to think of what the start line would feel like at 7:30 the following morning.
My biggest concern, aside from being under-trained, was what to wear. I mean, living in Kauai means almost all of my runs are in balmy temps. Even the ones at 5:45 a.m. Figuring out how to layer appropriately for this race was a complete guessing game. I was stumped.
I went to Runnersworld.com for some advice and plugged the impending weather stats into their What-to-Wear calculator. I ended up trying three different times because “do you like to feel cool, warm or in-between?” sounded German to me. What does that even mean? I’m a dripping wet, sweaty mess after all of my runs in Hawaii’s heat and humidity but that is definitely not by choice. So I tried all three options and here is what they suggested I wear:
The thought of wearing a tshirt and shorts gave me horrible nightmares of my legs turning blue, then gray, then completely cracking in two and falling off by mile 4. Definitely not an option.
It didn’t take much to convince me to go for the “I like to feel warm” option. I even added a few additional layers as an extremity protection measure (call me a wuss but I kind of like having legs). My race day outfit ended up looking like this:
- Nike Run CW Reversible Knit Hat $22
- Nike Element Thermal Running Gloves $25
- Columbia Thermarator Neck Gaiter $20 (Found this in the men’s section and it was a life saver)
- Lululemon Run for Gold Long Sleeve $88
- Nike Dri-Fit Full Zip Running Jacket (I bought this at the Nike outlet a while back and can’t find it online now)
- Patagonia Houdini Jacket $99 (Made from featherweight nylon, this was the perfect layer to protect from wind)
- Zella Live In Reversible Leggings $52
- ProCompression Marathon Socks $50 (I bought them with a 40% off coupon code last year)
- Brooks Ghost 7 Running Shoes
The morning of the race Megan and I made our way to the starting line at 7:00 a.m. It was a mile walk from the host hotel, The Westin Seattle, and a perfect opportunity to warm up our legs, crack open our hand warmers and wrap our minds around enduring the cold for the next couple hours.
At the start, surrounded by thousands of people, Megan and I were saying things like “this isn’t so bad!” and “it doesn’t feel as cold as I thought!” and “we were worried for nothing! haha!!” We even decided to hand off our outer layers to Megan’s mom and sister at mile two where they’d planned to post up and watch us run by.
And then the gun went off.
Megan and I quickly realized we were so cozy at the start thanks to the body heat of the five thousand people surrounding us. As the crowd thinned out, we were on our own for warmth and it wasn’t pretty.
We never ended up seeing her family at mile two, which ended up being a good thing. Had I handed off my outer layer, I might have froze to death (and Megan agreed). For serious. My whisper thin Patagonia shell was the perfect layer to unzip and let out heat when I needed, and to zip back up and hold in warmth in the shade. I zipped and unzipped several times throughout the 13.1 mile run and was grateful that it never got shed.
The Seattle Marathon course was gorgeous. It was a clear day, the sun was out and had it been 20 degrees warmer it might have been near-perfect conditions. My plan was to walk through the water stations, sipping water ever so carefully as to not spill it all down my front. (I haven’t mastered the water station run-through and usually end up with water everywhere, including up my nose, during races.)
My last half marathon was four months ago in Chicago and I’ve had a nagging hip injury since then, so my goal for this race was to take it slow and easy and try to finish under 2:30. Part of me was questioning my ability to even finish at all based on my last two training runs where 3-4 miles felt like TEN. In molasses. With Janey on my back.
My race plan was executing perfectly. I kept a slow and easy pace, walked through the water stations without spilling water on myself (yay!) and even managed to not slip on any ice along the way. Just when I decided to pop in my ear buds about halfway through the course, I noticed an incline up ahead.
I kind of mentally prepared for a few hills when Megan’s dad raised and eyebrow while inspecting the race course map a few days earlier. “Oh boy,” he had told us (clearly holding back his concern as any dad would do for his baby girl running her first half marathon), “it’s a little hilly here through this section. But don’t worry, there’s a nice downhill the last mile and the majority of the course is flat.”
When I came up on the “it’s a little hilly here through this section” part, it was more like “oh! here are seventeen hills stacked on top of one another and they never ever end” part, but I put my head down and got over them. I definitely slowed to a walk through that section more times than I’d like to admit but I finished the race. And I wasn’t dead. (I might have been a little frozen, but my legs are still here. And I’m not dead.)
The downhill at the last mile was a nice ending as we weaved through the city toward the finish line at the Space Needle.
I finished in 2:26 and while it was my slowest finish ever, my hip felt great throughout the run and continues to feel fine three days later. Megan finished in 2:12 and had an amazing first half marathon. I’m so proud of her!
I will definitely run this race again.