lake sammamish race report
Photo: Flashframe photography, Juan Montermoso

Race: Lake Sammamish Half Marathon

Runner: Ping S

Race Date: 03/02/2019

Location: Redmond, WA

Results: 1:25:19

3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?

One of my favorite half marathon courses around!

  1. Fast course: Point to point, nearly straight after a few early turns, and flat = fast
  2. Generally cool weather: I’ve run 3 out of the past 4 years and the weather at the start has been in the 30s or low 40s each time, with light winds.
  3. Pretty fast field for a local race: Usually a few people around you to run with/chase.

Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you

I don’t mind this personally, but others may find that the course having almost 0 spectators is not what they were hoping for.

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

Solid pacing, negative splits, and a big PR this year for me, so loved every minute of this one! What I liked most was my ability to tell myself during mile 1, and 2, that while I felt like I was working pretty hard already, that I shouldn’t panic, and that I know half marathons always get better by mile 5 or 6, and that I should just keep pushing and re-evaluate how I felt by mile 5 or 6. Sure enough, I was in a groove and feeling pretty good by then. A younger/different me might have listened to those mile 1/2 alarm bells and thought the early pace was too hot and slowed down, which would have been a mistake…

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

  • There is a gravel/dirt section in the middle of the race for a good 3 or 4 miles. One section this year was undergoing some sort of trail rebuild and so had rather large gravel chunks filled in that were not ideal to run on. That section was very short, however, but in general it is good to be prepared to run on hard dirt and some gravel for a meaningful amount of time.
  • When you are running through Marymoor park, try not to run in the middle of the trail – there are a number of road crossings that have ~3ft high stanchions to block cars right in the middle of the trail that are really hard to see coming if you’re running behind a few other people, which you often are in this stretch. I’ve never seen someone actually run in to one of these but I have seen some close calls so just stick to one side of the trail or the other, especially around road crossings in this stretch. There are similar stanchions along the rest of the course, too, but the runners are so strung out by then that they are not hard to see in advance.
  • Also, this has been noted before but some of the small bridges along the course are wood, and thus can be really slippery under certain conditions so be careful on these.
  • Lastly, it can be hard to pass people during the last mile and a half (after the big right turn to get off the trail) as you’re on a sidewalk (if someone runs in the middle, not a lot of space on either side) and then some of the turns and such within the state park make it a bit narrow to squeeze past.

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

The lake is to your right for most of the run, which is quite nice, and the finish at the state park is also very pretty.

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

Nope. One of the best “set it and forget it” courses I know of; after the opening bridge crossing in the first 1/4 mile, it winds through Marymoor park for a little while, which is a great time for the packs to mix and mingle and to get in a groove. Then once you’re in a good spot, you hit the main section of the race, which is almost straight as an arrow and flat as a pancake until mile 11.5 or so (still flat, just a big right turn then). If you’re a runner who likes courses with hills or turns to “break up the monotony”, this might not be for you.

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

Very well run.

Competition – Is there a strong field?

Fairly fast field for a relatively small/local race, though it’s still possible to find yourself running alone for long stretches – small groups would form here and there, and I was lucky in this one to end up running with 2 women for much of the last half of the race.

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

Pretty easy, and +1 for race day packet pickup (I’ve seen this line get long in past years so I arrived early this year and found no line around 6:20am).

Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?

They had gels (clif?) at one station that I saw but be forewarned – it was relatively oddly placed around mile 11 or so.

Weather and typical race conditions

Cold at the start, this year (~30 or so), but with a small local race, you could wait in your car until warming up and then head straight for the start corral.

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

Plenty of space, but the point to point course would mandate driving ahead, stopping, driving ahead, stopping, etc…

How’s the Swag?

They went with a knit hat and gloves this year, which I thought was nice, as I’ve too many race shirts already.

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?

5/5 – Still my favorite half course. You want flat, fast, and cold – run Sammamish.