Getting running in Seattle

Welcome to Seattle, land of more trails, and rain, than you can imagine! As you look out over the landscape, you might be wondering where to get started, where to run, and where all of the other runners are. Hopefully, this little post will help you out.

One caveat before we get going here - I am a road running marathoner. As a result, I don’t have any great insights on trail running in the area. I know it’s plentiful, and there are plenty of trail runners around. I’m just not one of them.

General Seattle notes

First and foremost, let’s talk about the wet elephant in the room - the rain. Seattle has a mostly deserved reputation for having a lot of rain. As a result, you will need to run in the rain. When I moved here from San Diego, this took a little adjusting for me.

That said, it does not rain nearly as often as the media implies. In addition, it’s rarely real rain; it’s mostly a hard drizzle. It’s pretty easy to just deal with. You will notice most Seattle runners eschew a rain jacket, as all they generally do is lock in body heat and sweat. Plus, you can only get so wet.

The one thing you might not realize if you’re new to Seattle is the hills. There are hills basically everywhere, and the majority of races in town will have some good climbs. There’s no avoiding it, and really - you don’t want to avoid it. Hills make you stronger. If you plan on doing any of the races here you’ll need to train hills.

Big races

The surrounding region features races nearly every weekend, or at least it seems that way. If you decide on a random Sunday morning you want to add a new medal to your collection, chances are you’ll be able to do it.

The two big races are the Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle Marathon in June, and the Seattle Marathon in November. The former is a bigger race, with June being a more desirable month to run, and of course the marketing power of Rock n Roll. Both courses are similar, and have been recently redrawn due to construction on I-90, and are hilly. You will certainly be tested in those races.

Rail Trails - Burke Gilman (The Burke) and Sammamish River Trails

Totalling over 30 miles of (mostly) uninterrupted paved rail trail, the Burke Gilman and Sammamish River trails make up some of my favorite areas to run in King County. They offer miles upon miles of wonderful views, nature and tree-lined goodness. Because they’re rail trails, they are bone flat, so you certainly don’t want to make it your regular route as it won’t serve you well come race day. But they’re a wonderful treat, and extremely popular with the locals.

One thing to note about The Burke is there is one section where the trail is broken by an industrial neighborhood in Ballard. It looks like they’ll finally be completing it, but until then you will have a little bit of neighborhood running to deal with depending on where you are.

Alki Trail

As a West Seattleite, Alki Trail is my backyard, and one of my favorite spots. You can run from the southern tip of Lincoln Park, through a couple of cute neighborhoods, along the beach area, and all the way to downtown Seattle if you feel like crossing the bridge. The run will treat you to wonderful views of Seattle and the sound, fantastic people watching on summer weekends, and the occasional view of Mount Rainier.

Green Lake

Easily the most popular route in Seattle, Green Lake boasts a 2.8mi inner trail (and just over 3mi on the outer trail), which is perfect for a quick jog. Green Lake has a similar vibe to a much smaller Central Park, and the same walker congestion to match - you will be weaving on busy days. That said, the people watching and the feel draws me out there on a regular basis.

Lake Union

The second most popular route according to Strava, the lap around Lake Union is just over 6 miles. The route will treat you to views of the lake, and a few charming neighborhoods. There are a couple of hills on the path, but it’s still pretty flat by Seattle standards.

Seattle Green Lake Running Group

There are a few different running groups in Seattle, but the only one I have any experience with, and easily the most vibrant, is Seattle Green Lake Running Group. Offering runs every day of the week (sometimes twice), SGLRG is a community driven group which fits almost any runner’s needs and schedule. You can find tempo runs on Wednesday mornings, speed work or hill repeats on Mondays, and long runs on Saturdays, which is by far the most popular run for the group. The Saturday run starts at Green Lake, and ventures out into the neighborhoods from there; I’ve been able to get a wonderful tour of Seattle during my time with SGLRG. If you’re looking to join, the best thing to do is to post a distance and your pace on the Meetup page for the Saturday morning run, and jump right in.

Got any other tips? Feel free to comment below! I’d love to hear them.