Strongest. Half Marathon. Ever!

March 26, 2007 on 6:27 pm | By | In Race Reports | 7 Comments

Mercer Island finishOkay, so yesterday’s Mercer Island Half Marathon was only my fourth, but I must say I kicked some serious butt. Sure there were probably hundreds of people who finished ahead of me, but I don’t care about that — I compete against myself and yesterday my bad self whipped my wimpy self all over the course.

Although my finish of 2 hours, 9 minutes, 35 seconds was about six minutes behind my Seafair finish, the aftermath was much more pleasurable. Yes, I was sore and in need of some serious couch time immediately after the race, but I feel fine today and even mustered up the strength for a 4-mile walk. Conversely, after Seafair my darling and I only had enough strength to collapse on our deck chairs for an hours-long nap, and I pretty much took off the entire week following from any type of exercise.

I attribute my success to Jeff Galloway‘s run/walk program. I know it has some detractors who say it’s cheating if you don’t run the entire way, but for this 40+ body, it’s a godsend. It prepares me both mentally and physically; I have no doubt I can run 13.1 miles since I’ve already gone farther than that during my training program (14+ miles). By incorporating walk breaks from the very beginning, I can finish the race strong (in fact, I was faster during the last half of the race than in the beginning). I’ve decided I don’t need to prove anything by trying to run a sub 2-hour half marathon; I’m just looking to have a good time and keep my body healthy and injury-free for the next race.

The Mercer Island Half was particularly significant for me as it’s a fund-raiser for colon cancer awareness: my dad is a colon cancer survivor, although unfortunately his dad is not. I know diet & exercise play a crucial role in one’s risk of developing colonMy big bottom cancer, so that was a primary impetus for me to get back on a healthy track two years ago. Early detection is also very important, especially given my family history. But my doctor and I have butted heads (tee-hee, I said “butt”) about when I should get a colonoscopy. I thought I could wait until I’m 45, but she’s insisted I get it done ever since I turned 40. I’m 43 now, so obviously I’m a little behind (giggle). I know I need to do it, but let’s face it: it’s not a fun procedure and I’ve been putting it off. I guess I’m just a cheeky (snirk) old gal. My bottommost (chuckle) concern is the stuff you have to drink to clean yourself out. But I refuse to let fear rear (snigger) it’s ugly head and have scheduled an initial meeting with a colorectal surgeon on April 16. I’m sure it’ll be a gas (yuk yuk yuk)

(Yes, I’m actually only 12).

I had heard the Mercer Island half was particularly tough given the hills, so I decided a course drive-through was in order. One of my clients lives on the island (the race goes right by their house), so I drove most of the route immediately following their cook date. It didn’t live up to the torture described to me. Granted, what seems easy in a car at 35 miles per hour could be horrendous during a run at 6+ miles per hour. In addition, my attention kept veering from the course to the magnificent mansions along the route. But still, it didn’t seem that bad. However, I didn’t have the printout of the actual route with me, so I forgot what turn I was supposed to take off of West Mercer Way. I just meandered my way back to the freeway.

After consulting several running forums I found the “killer hill” was at mile 12; a spot I missed during my perambulations. Because I prefer to know what I’m getting myself into, I decided to find “the hill” a few days later. Sure enough, it’s rather steep, but it’s only .1 mile long!!!! You call THIS a killer hill?

I then spoke with several people who had biked the route — people who are quite fit and therefore would know the difference between a tough and easy route. They confirmed the course was challenging, so I was inclined to believe them. Besides, I still hadn’t followed the entire route; perhaps it was the beginning that was going to be the killer. This was confirmed while talking to a gentleman during the expo — the first three miles are the most difficult in terms of hills. In addition, the road banks quite a bit through several turns, which can be tough on your knees and ankles. Never fear; I planned accordingly. My last two training runs incorporated a lot of hill training, including the almost mile-long Stone Way hill.

The forecast was for some showers with sun breaks, but as luck would have it the heavens opened up as my darling and I headed east on 1-90. I made the unfortunate decision to leave my heavy waterproof coat at home, opting instead for a lighter shell that is only somewhat waterproof. By the time we arrived at the race start I knew I was in trouble — we’re talking total downpour — but my darling made the ultimate sacrifice and gave me his North Face jacket to wear during the race. He, meanwhile, spent the entire race shivering in the car (he must abstain from running for a while due to a stress fracture in his foot).

The gun went off and everyone was thrilled to start running as it meant we’d all warm up. Thankfully the rain stopped within a few minutes of the race start, and I was soon peeling off the jacket (sorry Pooky!) While we did encounter a few hills in the beginning, they were gradual and rather short. In fact, that’s how I’d characterize all the hills — gently rolling. The worst one for me was a steep downhill about halfway through as it aggravated my runner’s knee.

Betsy smilingThis race was definitely the most enjoyable to date. The weather finally cooperated (we got our promised sun breaks), the course was scenic, my iPod was loaded with songs to spur me on (my new favorite is the dance mix to Nina Simone’s “Sinnerman”) and I was feeling strong. As with most races nature called, so my official time will most likely be about two minutes slower than what my watch said (at least I found a quick Port-o-Potty line, unlike the one during the Seattle half).

Rather than take my walk breaks at regular intervals, I let the music determine the timing. I walked with purpose — long, controlled strides; arms swinging strongly back and forth — so as not to make people think I was wussing out. My hamstrings announced their presence starting at the halfway point, but a couple of packets of gel helped provide the energy I needed to continue. The “killer hill” at mile 12 was mercifully short and was followed by a nice, gradual downhill to the finish. With Helen serenading me, I picked up speed, passed several runners, blew my darling a kiss and sprinted powerfully over the timing mat.

I’m already jonesing for my next race!


  1. Hi Betsy,
    I may have been in arrears in responding to your blog.I have been a little behind in my correspondence I know
    Congratulations on your finish. I knew you would make it in the end.

    I was expecting to see a recipe for rump roast on this blog. You didn’t think that I would respond without some kind of crack did you?

    See you soon sister,
    Love, Kim

    Comment by Kimberly — March 28, 2007 #

  2. You bum 🙂

    Comment by ovens2betsy — March 28, 2007 #

  3. Oh my gosh! We could have TOTALLY run together! I do Galloway too and pffftttt to those detractors! As Jeff said, the point is finishing the race and having FUN! I had a great time, even with the rain.

    You’re right, most of the people on MI were really great. I was just REALLY stunned by the rudeness of the two people I encountered. It takes all kinds, but obviously they were in the minority.

    So what’s your next race? Here’s my plans:

    Next Saturday: Birch Bay 30k I did it last year as a training run, and I’m doing that again this year. I won my AG last year, though! (Yes, it was a SMALL race. LOL!)

    April 7: Tulip Run 5 miler

    April 22: Mt. Si Relay (I’m one of the Racygirls this year!)

    April 29: Eugene Marathon

    June 3: Rock and Roll Marathon

    I start coaching Seattlefit in June, so I’ll not be racing as much if its Saturday races.

    Do you plan to do any of those?

    Comment by Tory aka MsTeechur — March 28, 2007 #


    Terrific race report for a terrific race. Congratulations! Enjoy your well-deserved recovery.

    Comment by Angie — March 28, 2007 #

  5. I recently found your blog (through your “bloglight”)…and I love it! You are truly inspiring…a foodie who is balancing a thirst for fitness. Keep up the good work!

    Comment by Culinary Cowgirl — March 31, 2007 #

  6. I just found you having just found Culinary Cowgirl today. This made me ‘crack’ up (sorry)! The tears ran down my legs, as they say.

    I’ll be keeping a watchful eye as I’m a firm believer in eating plenty of good things so long as you don’t sit around on it all day!

    Comment by Bev — May 9, 2007 #

  7. Thank you Bev!

    Comment by ovens2betsy — May 9, 2007 #

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