I Beat the Blerch!

I recently completed marathon #55 in state #44 (Washington). But before getting into the race report, I want to acknowledge a tragedy that occurred during this two-day event. I ran on Saturday so I was not there on Sunday, but there was a fatality on the second day. A 28-year old man named Evan Sebenius collapsed at Mile 12 and received medical treatment, but did not make it. I do not know all the details, but I will pass along the link to a GoFundMe site for Evan's family to receive donations to cover expenses and to help realize one of Evan's dreams of building an orchard and vineyard in his home of Carnation WA. There is also a memorial run that will be held on 11/2/14. Click here to donate to Evan's family or to learn more about the memorial run. I cried when I saw that Matthew Inman (The Oatmeal, and creator of Beat the Blerch) donated $10,000, and I was moved to donate a small amount of my own.

And on that sad note, I will share my thoughts about this otherwise very wonderful event. This was a really fun and beautiful race. But, you may be asking: “what is a Blerch?” Well, it is a fictitious, fat little cherub that encourages a runner to quit, sit down on the couch and eat lots of cake. It came from the imagination of cartoonist Matthew Inman, a.k.a. The Oatmeal. I’ve been a fan of The Oatmeal for some time, and have enjoyed his bits on running, especially this iconic one. The concept of the Blerch has had a cult following among runners with a sense of humor, and The Oatmeal has sold Blerch merchandise for a while. And then, he decided to organize a marathon (with an associated half marathon and a 10K too). The event sold out the day registration opened, so a second event was added. I got in from the waitlist for the Saturday Beat the Blerch Marathon, held 9/20/14.

Marathon Maniac and Half Fanatic pre-race pic

This was going to be a quick trip to Seattle just for the weekend, and I redeemed frequent flyer miles to get there. I met up with fellow Marathon Maniac Barb and my friend Matt, who was running his first marathon. I got in on Friday night and had little time to eat something, get to the hotel in Bellevue and sleep. Fortunately, the race didn’t start until 9:00 AM the next day, so we all got plenty of sleep. Matt arrived earlier in the day and took care of packet pick-up for the three of us. Apparently there was a long, slow line (took hours to get through) for getting books autographed. Thanks for doing that, Matt.

Blerch Merch: sticker, magnet, long sleeve quarter zip top, bib and medal for running; squishy Blerch and book were separate purchases

Race morning was a little cool. Actually, it was perfect. There was a little haziness, which would later burn off and create warmer temperatures in the afternoon. Most of the course was wooded, so the sun was not really a problem.

Barb and I found Halbert in the parking lot before the start

Here's Matt before running (and kicking butt at) his first marathon

Getting ready! That's The Oatmeal in the green shirt under the umbrella.

The course was on absolutely beautiful trails in Tolt-MacDonald Park in Carnation WA. The main trail was a converted rail trail covered with a comfortable, finely packed gravel or limestone. We ran over several bridges and railroad trestles. There were a couple side trails with heavier gravel and rocks, and thank goodness these sections were short. But not short enough, as I found out at Mile 25 (more to come). The woods were gorgeous, and there were some great vistas looking out toward the Cascade Mountains. There was a gradual uphill incline for part of the first half, but after Mile 15, we had a slight downhill to the finish. Great course!

Matt passes me on the first out & back

We ran over this railroad trestle twice

Awesome view of the Cascades

I saw Carole and Tom at Jackson Hole Marathon just a few weeks prior, then again at Beat the Blerch

With Barb and Kate in the final miles

Part of the fun was the Blerch theme. Two of the aid stations had people dressed up in Blerch suits and couches to sit on. This made for some fun photo ops.  And a few of the aid stations offered cake (it was a really good, moist white cake) and Nutella sandwiches. These are things from the original Blerch comic. The volunteers were lots of fun, and so were the other runners, many of whom really got into the spirit of the race by dressing up.

It's a handmade Blerch!

A human Nutella with Magenta the Road Trip Flamingo

And there were couches at more than one aid station

These Blerches tried to talk me into sitting down, but I said NO!

My race went alright. I did a little better than my recent hilly and high altitude races, but I could have done even better if I had just pushed myself harder. But with my really crazy fall marathon season kicking off, I was content to run a nice, easy pace and finish the race well within the course limit. I had been worried about a pain I’d had in my foot earlier in the week, and fortunately it didn’t become a problem during the race. I felt pretty good, until Mile 25. That’s where I tripped on a rock in the last section of heavy gravel. I landed on my left knee and really banged it up. I have quite the abrasion, and soreness on the side of the knee from the impact. The fall really shook me up, but I was OK. Barb and another Maniac named Kate were with me at the time. They made sure I was OK, helped me up, and then we ran most of the last mile.

My knee, pre-first aid
With the medical banner and my patched up knee

At the finish, we were reunited with Matt, who’d been done for a while; he ran a very respectable first marathon in spite of some nagging pains. Things were starting to wrap up as the last finishers were coming in. We stuck around long enough to have the medic clean and bandage up my knee, and then we were off to the drug store for first aid supplies, post-race beer, and some post-race eats at Taco Time. (We followed that up later with a drive-by of the Space Needle and some good pizza downtown at Serious Pie.)

Kate and Barb just finished and here I come with my banged-up knee, and a Blerch cheering me in

Finishers Kate, Matt, me, Barb

I’m really glad I chose Beat the Blerch for my Washington state marathon. I know there are lots of other great races in Washington, but this one was so much fun for fans of The Oatmeal. And it was also well-managed. There were plenty of happy volunteers, more than adequate port-o-potties, good support, well thought out logistics, and a healthy dose of fun thrown in. The only things I would change are fairly minor: at the aid stations, place the trash cans farther out from the tables so we can keep moving and discard the cups later; and at the finish, offer a greater variety of post-race food, not just sweet stuff. Otherwise, keep up the good work. There are lots more Blerch fans who will want to run next year. I hope they make this an annual event!


  1. Thanks for including the link to the comic. I didn't sign up for this race, because I was already doing other races in Washington this year. I wish I had been there.

    1. Definitely consider it for next year. He also might expand to other cities.


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