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Originally published June 27, 2009 at 12:00 AM | Page modified July 1, 2009 at 12:29 PM

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Rock 'n' Roll Seattle Marathon course has its ups and downs

Saturday's race has plenty of fast entrants, but a hilly course will offer a challenge for runners.

Seattle Times staff reporter

The marathon will include the 45 bands lining the route.

The course, however, might be remembered for the bumps along the way.

The inaugural Rock 'n' Roll Seattle Marathon today will include ups and downs. Quite a few of them, in fact, as the route has already developed a reputation.

"It looks like it's pretty hilly," said Peter Gilmore, one of the elite entrants in the men's marathon.

Gilmore arrived from California, and while he hadn't seen the course firsthand, he had the scouting report for the 26.2-mile course from elevation profiles. The race, which starts in Tukwila, has four different sets of hills before finishing near Qwest Field.

Nothing so steep as the famous Heartbreak Hill in Boston, but enough of an incline to make a runner take notice — not too mention a few deep breaths.

"A challenging course," said Toni Reavis, host of Elite Racing Television that will cover the event.

A first-time event presents the challenge of the unknown, which can be as puzzling for the racers as it is for anyone trying to gauge whether today's race will be run at a record-setting pace.

The field is fast, no doubt about that. In the men's half-marathon, Elijah Nyabuti of Kenya has a personal-best time of 1 hour, 1 minute, 19 seconds. Ethiopian Berhane Adere, a former world champion at 10,000 meters, is a favorite in the women's half-marathon and could challenge the women's state record.

The question is how the difficulty of the course will affect the times. The clock, however, isn't the only thing the runners will be racing.

"Hilly courses have a tendency to make great competitions," Reavis said.

The women's marathon field is led by Michele Suszek, a 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials qualifier, and Leah Thorvilson of Arkansas, who has won two marathons this year.

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The men's elite marathon field includes Jynocel Basweti of Kenya, who should be recharged. He hasn't raced a marathon in the United States in almost five months.

Gilmore is another favorite. He's from San Mateo, Calif., and he was not scheduled to run in the Rock 'n' Roll Seattle Marathon. He entered a marathon in Duluth, Minn., last weekend, but pulled out early in the oppressive heat.

"I thought, 'I've got all this fitness. I should find a marathon soon,' " Gilmore said.

Gilmore's personal record in the marathon is 2:14:02. The state record for the men's marathon is 2:14:20.

So how does Gilmore feel about the course?

"My best times have come on kind of hilly courses," Gilmore said. "Personally, I don't like it, but it doesn't seem to slow me down too much."

Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or doneil@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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