When I run half marathons, I don’t listen to music. While I very much enjoy (and need) those beats, rhythms, and melodies during training runs, I prefer to avoid them on races day. Those mornings tend to be adrenaline-filled as it is, the last thing I need is a Public Enemy song inspiring my legs to take on a Fight to Power pace when I still have several miles in front of me.
However, the main reason I spurn my iPod during races is because I’ve found that I love soaking in the event, which I can do better sans ear buds. And, of course, races — especially big ass ones like the Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle Half Marathon which I ran this past Sunday — are great for people watching. My 13.1 mile trek through the Emerald City did not disappoint.
A few of my favorite moments…
Rock ‘n’ Roll events are huge and, for the most part, well organized. However, it is my humble opinion that whoever was in charge of porta-potties at the starting line should be fired. Every runner needs to take care of business before a race and we expect to stand in line, but what I saw on Sunday was unreal. I waited in a long, winding row of humanity for 15 minutes and barely moved. I never even got close enough to see the johns let alone use one. I gave up and decided to figure it out on the course. For me, “figuring it out” meant finding the right moment to jump in a course-side porta-potty. Other runners were not that patient.
The second mile of the race wound us through the Washington Park Arboretum. Once we passed the first musical stage and found ourselves flanked by trees, runners took advantage. In addition to seeing many men off to the side watering the greenery, a couple of women behind me debated for a minute before peeling off into the woods to relieve themselves.
Bringing Back the Sonics
Around mile four I made a pit stop at a real bathroom that was part of a park along Lake Washington. As I got back onto the course, I witnessed an unusual runner clad in a tight Sean Kemp Supersonics jersey and equally tight short shorts that had a swirly green and yellow pattern. He sported a bushy brown beard, frizzy, unkempt hair, and plenty of tattoos. He carried a speaker in each hand that pumped music as he ran. His pace was fairly slow, mainly because he was dance-running. I passed him pretty quickly but am very curious about what time he was able to post with his unique running style.
At this point, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series is a global brand that is not short on sponsors. Seemingly each mile had a corporation supplying volunteers, signage, and, in some cases, landmarks. In a handful of locations giant, inflatable arches reached across the road, marketing their products to all who ran beneath them. There was a plain black arch (missed the name on that one) an Alaska Airlines arch with a big plane on it, and, my favorite, the Brooks Running arch featuring a hipster runner playing a guitar shaped like a sneaker.
My Favorite Sign
Clever signs are one of the highlights of any half marathon I run. I appreciate that people take time out of their busy schedule to craft a sign of support for loved ones and strangers and stand there brandishing it for hours. My favorite sign from Sunday, probably because it hit close to home: “All toenails go 2 heaven.”
Blue Suede Running Shoes
Just past the 8-mile marker was an Elvis-themed water stop. I didn’t catch which organization brought us these volunteers in white jumpsuits and black wigs, but it was something to behold. Men and women of all ages handing out refreshments dressed as the King. There were also a bunch of faux Elvises lined up on the side of the road wearing large foam fists and giving fist bumps to all participants who ran by. I’m not ashamed to say I pounded it out with three different Elvises.
The last stretch of a long race is often the most celebratory. You know the finish line is close and you can almost taste the cold beer you’re going to enjoy after the race. But why wait? The final stretch of the Seattle half brought runners one last obstacle in the form of a steep, circular ramp we had to climb to get over to Occidental Avenue and the end of the race. Well, there were people on the ramp handing out cups of beer. The woman in front of me grabbed a cold one and drank, no ID needed. Based on how many times I had to show my license to get my free Michelob Ultra after the race, I’m assuming these were unauthorized distributors. I was tempted to partake, but despite my love of beer, I passed on the opportunity. At that moment, all I wanted to do was get to the end. If I had it to do again, I would’ve grabbed that plastic cup, carried it to the finish line and chugged the cheap domestic swill as I crossed the finish line.
The argument could be made that much of the festive happenings I witnessed during Sunday’s half marathon could’ve been just as easily observed by someone who was plugged into their phone and listening to a finely cultivated playlist. That’s fair. But those people would have missed out on hearing two grown women discuss the pros and cons of peeing in the bushes.