Well, that worked out better than expected: 1:41:37 for the half-marathon, or just under 7:45min/mi. That’s over 10 minutes faster than my earlier PR of 1:54:18 (which is from 2.5 years and 35lbs ago, though), and even beats my goal of 1:45. That’s also, interestingly, exactly my 10K pace, so I need to push a lot harder in my next 10K (7min/mi? But that’s my 5K pace – it never ends!).
Mercer Island is really very hilly. I didn’t mind the hills early on, which were not very steep and I was still fresh. But they started to get to me around mile 11 or so. There was a particularly nasty one around there that just would not end. The downhills were pure bliss, though.
There is a hill and a drop at the very end. I had seen that hill on my way there, and it’s not particularly bad, but it’s just before the finish. The top of the hill is just after mile 13, and then it’s a few more steps downhill to the finish. That entire last mile was no fun. There are a number of sharp turns, which I really didn’t care for. There were also two hills in that mile, and I wasn’t sure if I was on the last one until I saw that final stretch. They also lead you onto a short bit that’s on a piece of trail (presumably to hit the exact distance of the race), which could cause a bit of a backup. Luckily, the folks around me at the time were all going as fast as me, so no issues there.
What was annoying, though, were the walkers. Most of them stayed on the right, so I barely noticed them. But when there are three of them abreast, leaving barely enough room for a single runner to pass, it gets annoying. I understand why they start the walkers before the runners (so they overlap and they don’t have to keep the course open for so long), but that also makes it much more likely to cause issues. In the Seattle Marathon, I hit the walkers just before the part that’s going through the I-90 tunnel, so there was plenty of space to go around them there. The roads on Mercer Island are much narrower though, so this a much bigger issue.
The organization of the race was generally pretty good, with some gaffes. They apparently got many more late registrations than planned, so they actually emailed participants that they would likely run out of finisher medals (which they had ordered a while ago). They also didn’t have a long-sleeve t-shirt for me when I picked up my race packet (about a half hour before the start, long story), though they did tell me to come back after the race to get one, presumably from the ones they had set aside to sell. That worked out nicely, so I got my shirt in the end (and also my medal, there were still plenty when I came in).
There were also plenty of water stops, including some “unofficial” ones (where people just set up a table and some cups with water), plus lots of people cheering along the entire way. The weather was also perfect, with some clouds and lower 40s in the beginning, which soon gave way to sunshine and upper 40s. And Mercer Island is quite beautiful, with lots of trees and some pretty amazing houses.
So yeah, great race. Not easy, but worth it. And hard to beat as an early, local half to start the season with.
Mercer Island Half-Marathon: http://mercerislandhalf.com
Activity on Strava: http://www.strava.com/activities/123363324