Since its founding, Seattle has been given many nicknames, but the one that really resonated with runners at Saturday’s Alaska Airlines Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon and Half Marathon was Emerald City. With ideal temperatures in the 60s and partly cloudy skies, Washington’s most-populous region showed off its beautiful early-summer green hues for thousands of participants who got to take in a mixture of urban views of Seattle’s downtown, as well as stunning vistas along the city’s Lake Washington.
The courses for both the half and the full marathon this year were revamped with the start kicking off within sight of the city’s iconic Space Needle and the finish taking place at the home of the Seattle Seahawks, CityLink Field.
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Jared Ward, the pre-race favorite, of Kaysville, Utah was the first to cross the half-marathon finish, clocking one hour, 6 minutes and one second. The 27-year-old Ward’s victory was a commanding one as the second-place finisher, Craig Hopkins, of Great Britain didn’t come through the finish until 1:08:08. Third place went to Jack St. Marie who finished five seconds later (1:08:13).
“It was beautiful out there,” said Ward. “The weather was awesome. I don’t know how many bands we had out there. I felt like I was smiling the whole way.”
Ward will be wearing the Team USA singlet at the 2016 Summer Olympic marathon in Rio in August and was using Seattle to gear up for his big Olympic race. He admitted that Saturday’s win was a good gauge for the 26.2-mile event. “I got a couple more months to get ready.”
Since qualifying for the Olympics, Ward said that his life has changed for the better. “I still wake up in the morning and ask myself if this is for real,” he admits. “I think it will hit me out there at the Olympic opening ceremonies as I take it all in. I fell really blessed.”
Ward has been logging 120-mile weeks with a handful of 25-mile long runs in the lead-up to the Olympics.
As a professional, Ward says that he isn’t used to the incredible festival atmosphere that comes with the Rock ‘n’ Roll brand. “The Rock ‘n’ Roll team does a great job making it an amazing experience for all the runners. You have all the bells and whistles. You have a fantastic start and finish and great bands along the way. I’ve always loved Seattle.”
Kara Ford was the first woman to cross the half-marathon finish in 1:19:59.
“The race was fantastic,” said Ford. “The weather was perfect. It was nice and cool. The course was beautiful. I have to say that I’ve run several half marathons and this was one of my favorite courses to date.”
Ford, a Broomfield, Colorado resident said that Saturday’s victory was her biggest to date. “I don’t really have a competitive career. I didn’t run in college and started after I graduated.”
Ford raced Seattle as an opportunity to visit friends that live there. “I just liked the looks of the course. It’s a beautiful city and it’s so nice to be here.”
Monica Folts (1:23:56) and Liz Wilson (1:24:33) took second and third respectively.
In the marathon event, Samuel Hadgu of Eritrea broke the tape, clocking 2:26:02. His nearest rival was Jeffery Stein (2:33:07), while Andrew Ivanov was third in 2:34:53.
The women’s marathon champion was Sophia Liu in 2:53:47. Liu has been living in Seattle for the past 5 years and is a research scientist.
“I didn’t expect to win,” she admitted. “The bands really helped. There were so many people running and cheering for you. The course is beautiful. It wasn’t as difficult as I would think.”
Second and third went to Lisa Stelzner (2:56:13) and Nikki Leith (3:01:05).
An 8K was also held on Saturday with Alex Doran (27:40) taking the top spot for the men and Vanessa Trofimenkoff (30:31) prevailing in the women’s race.
Waiting for all finishers and their families at the finish line was the headliner band, The New Pornographers, who filled the Seattle air with their iconic song “Dancehall Domine” and gave everyone something to celebrate at the end of a thrilling and fun-filled day.