With a route that features incredible water views and cityscapes around every corner, the Amica Seattle Marathon should be on every local long-distance runner’s bucket list. But the course is no gimme: Its hills (and, of course, the 26.2-mile distance) make it the real deal. Which means, with race day scheduled for November 29, it’s time to start training.
Getting ready for a marathon means a lot of time pounding the pavement, which can either be a drag or a delight. No matter where you are in your training, having an arsenal of quality routes to choose from will help reduce the drudgery on those days when you just don't feel like lacing up the sneakers, as well as allowing you to explore Seattle (and beyond) in a whole new way.
Luckily, we’ve done the legwork of finding the best training courses around the city. Here, eight local routes to work into your Seattle Marathon training.
Even though the whole point of a marathon is that it’s long, everybody’s got to start a running program somewhere. Plus, having several go-to shorter runs will be useful further on in your training to help you shake out the muscles and recover from the longer ones. Another bonus with mini-routes? Sometimes, it's easier to bang out another loop, or add on extra miles, after getting those first few under you. These routes are all around three miles or less.
The 2.4-mile, relatively flat loop around Seward Park boasts incredible views of Lake Washington, Mount Rainier, and the skyscrapers of downtown. Plus, this loop is actually part of the Seattle Marathon course: Getting familiar with it on training runs will make it all the more enjoyable on race day.
Circling around Green Lake is an all-time Seattle favorite run. The run is 2.8-miles if you take the inner loop and 3.2 miles on the outer loop, and you can add on an extra mile or two to either variation by taking the wooded trails in Woodland Park.
Discovery Park is a solid choice for hill training. The 2.8-mile “Discovery Park Loop” trail travels through forests and meadows to bluffs with breathtaking views of Puget Sound. For more of a challenge (read: more hill training), head down to the beach, run along the shores past the lighthouse, and then come back up the stairs to join back up with the loop trail. This will make it about four miles.
The medium-length run will be the bread and butter of your marathon-training regimen, so you’ll really want to pick some winners that you can modify and tweak to keep things interesting. Here are a couple of Seattle’s best.
Running around Lake Union ’s perimeter will offer great views of the city from every angle, including skyscrapers, floating homes, and landing sea planes. The standard loop is 6.2 miles, which can be easily extended to nine miles by taking the Montlake Bridge, through the University of Washington, and connecting back with the Burke-Gilman. Or you can do the double-lake 13-miler by adding on a lap around Green Lake, too.
Similarly satisfying to running around a lake is running around an island. Mercer Island’s perimeter, which is about 14 miles, is a great route at the halfway point of your training. You can get some extra mileage by tacking on the I-90 bridge, which is also part of the Seattle Marathon course.
Of course, the hardest—and most satisfying—part of training for a marathon kicks in when you’re ready to really amp up the distances. Which is why you’ll want to make sure you’ve got some long runs picked out with views pretty enough to help take your mind off of those aching muscles and feet. Here, some options that will do just that.
Trail runners will love Tiger Mountain ’s dirt trails that go up and down the park’s six peaks (including the popular Poo Poo Point ). Link all of them together for an epic (read: tough!) 16-mile loop through the park.
The Alki Beach trail in West Seattle keeps on going, going, and going, right along the water. You’ll be treated to views of downtown Seattle to the north and of the Olympic Mountains to the east along the way. Turn it into a loop by running down past Lincoln Park and continuing through West Seattle’s streets until you meet the Duwamish Waterway on the other side.
When you’re out on your peak long run before the race (most experts recommend your longest run to be no more than 22 miles to avoid injury), you don’t want to make it even harder by wasting energy route finding along the way. The Burke-Gilman Trail is the perfect solution: a straightforward path that goes on for miles and miles. Leave your car at Golden Gardens and get a friend to drop you off on the East Lake Sammamish trail in Bothell. Continue around the tip of Lake Washington, down the lake’s coast until it meets with Lake Union, and then continue along until you get back to Golden Gardens.
Stock your car beforehand with a cooler of beer and, if you really want to make it a post-race party, something to grill so that afterward you and your training buddies can celebrate the end of your training. Dip your feet in the cool ocean from the beach’s shores, watch the sunset, and start getting excited for race day.