we beat the blerch - a recap of our half marathon

we beat the blerch – a recap of our half marathon

beat the blerch

What do Nutella sandwiches, cake, and magical grape beverage have in common? They are all ways you can fuel, aka stuff your face, at the “Beat the Blerch” race series. For my husband’s second half marathon, he wanted a completely different race experience than his first, which was the 2014 Rock and Roll Vancouver half marathon. I think we succeeded in finding something unique. If you’re like me and have heavenly visions when you hear the words Nutella and running in the same sentence, this race is for you! 

First let’s start with a little background info:

what’s a “blerch”: The Blerch is a cartoon character created by Matthew Inman, the author of the online comic, The Oatmeal. He’s a chunky, devil-on-your-shoulder character whose sole purpose is to defeat your running mojo by tempting you with activities such as eating junk food, hitting the snooze button, and binge watching Netflix. It’s also the sound a condiment bottle makes when you squeeze it.

This is a Blerch. Isn’t he cute?

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why is there so much love for the Blerch? Some of us can relate to the Blerch because we have one of our own. I know I do. I was a chubby kid who found running and slowly lost weight. Matthew portrays the Blerch in a way that makes us chuckle at the voice lurking in the shadows of our mind while his comedic approach motivates us to get off the couch and move our asses. Many of us have this fear of becoming sedentary and gaining it back — hence we run. Once you’ve beaten the battle of the bulge, trust me, you don’t ever want to do it again.

 photo 5ecc60c7-01de-48a8-976d-27d52a2059e6.pngMatthew Inman (The Oatmeal)

how did the Blerch become a race? The Blerch was originally a six-part comic that was eventually published as a book called “The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distance“. In 2014, to coincide with the release of the book, Matthew decided to host a race featuring a 10K, half marathon, and full marathon. The first race sold out in 20 minutes. In 2015, he expanded to two race days in Seattle, plus he added Morristown, NJ and Sacramento, CA. If traveling to one of those cities isn’t an option, there’s a virtual race option as well.

check out the book that started it all in the below link


what’s with all the crazy food? Dig around the internet and you’ll discover that Matthew Inman was once an obese, insecure child. The below picture proves he no longer has trouble controlling his weight, but apparently, he still loves to eat – a lot.  He also runs a shitload of miles so he has the right to. The food options at this race is an ode to the inner “fat kid” in all of us, and a fun way for us to remember to keep outrunning our own personal Blerch. You’re running a half marathon — when has there ever been a better time to eat crappy food and not care about calories? For goodness sake, let them eat cake!

that’s Matthew (and me) at packet pick-up
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the half marathon recap:
Roughly 45 minutes east of Seattle you’ll find the quaint town of Carnation, WA nestled in the Snoqualmie Valley. It’s like a postcard town dotted with picturesque farms and surrounded by the scenic Pacific Northwest. The race starts at Tolt-MacDonald Park and follows the Snoqualmie Valley Trail south 6.55 miles out and back.

When you register for the race, you can purchase a $10 VIP parking pass that provides an easy 4-minute walk to the start/finish of the race. Big win! If you decide not to buy the pass, the walk is probably more like 10 minutes. Purchasing the pass also ensures extra sleep-in time, plus easy car access to change clothes, stay warm, and drop your bags before and after the race. BONUS: The porta potties are super close.

happy faces at the porta potties: photo IMG_6371.jpg

Making your way to the starting line area for a little pre-run action is a must. There’s a great chance you’ll bump into Matthew Inman selling his wares at the Oatmeal tent. Stock up on books, water bottles, hats, games, stickers and other Blerchy items — they make great holiday gifts! (Matthew is also a partner of this crazy new game called Exploding Kittens: Original Edition.  It’s “a card game for people who are into kittens and explosions and laser beams and sometimes goats.” Basically, if you like Cards Against Humanity you’re going to love Exploding Kittens.)
The Oatmeal Tent photo IMG_6358.jpg
Need a place to zen out? Zappos sponsors the Relaxation & Temptation Combination Activation Station. Can you say that 10 times fast with your mouth stuffed full of bacon-chocolate marshmallows? Don’t mind if I do!
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Here you can plop yourself down on an extra-large bean bag, prop your legs up, and devour a greasy grilled cheese sandwich prepared by Seattle’s own Wizards of Cheese. Not into grilled cheese? How about donuts, Twinkies, and more Nutella to quench your inner Blerch cravings?

mmm, grilled cheese!
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Are you having fun yet? We’ve done all of this, and we haven’t even started running. The truth is, by the time you get to the starting line it’s almost like you’ve forgotten you’re about to run 13.1 miles. The mastermind behind this genius plan deserves a raise! Since the trail isn’t very wide, and it’s an out-and-back course, the 3 race distances (10K, half marathon, and full marathon) start at different times throughout the morning. Roughly 900 people lined up for the 9:30 AM kick-off for the half marathon.

The trail starts out paved for the first 3/4 of a mile and then changes over to chunky river stone. That part is not very comfortable on your feet, but it only lasts a 1/4 mile and then the trail turns into a runnable crushed rock trail. No need for trail shoes — road shoes are enough. The trail is small so you might have to dodge  around people before settling into your pace, but once you find your niche you can sit back and enjoy the rest of the race.

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Four aid stations line the half marathon at miles 3, 6, 7.2 and 10.1.  Traditional GU and water are available, or you can get extra spicy and opt for cake, Nutella sandwiches, and magical grape beverage. It’s really just grape electrolyte drink, but saying it’s “magical” is just more fun. At aid station 10.1 we  broke the golden rule of not eating anything on the run that we hadn’t trained with, and we dove in for some cake. I’m not gonna lie, after eating a bunch of electrolyte gummies for the last 10.1 miles, that shit was awesome.

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Need a break? Plop yourself down on one of the comfy couches along the course. In true Blerch fashion, they run around teasing the runners saying things like, “you should really slow down” and “your  IT band is telling you to stop”. Don’t listen! Keep going! You’re almost done. The last 3 miles are a piece of cake. That river stone area I mentioned earlier is slightly harder on your feet after traversing 12 miles, but before you know it you’re at the finish line, medal in hand and more food in the other.
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course review: Overall this is an extremely approachable course for runners of all levels. There is a slow, gradual uphill to the turnaround point, it’s subtle and most people won’t feel it, but the great news is it makes for an easy negative split opportunity. Tall trees providing shade the entire way, there’s not traffic to worry about, and the trail surface offers more forgiveness for the body than traditional roads do.

would I run it again? Count me in. This one takes the cake!

giant jars of Nutella make killer kettlebells
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Do you have a favorite race?  What makes that race so special and why? Drop it in the comment section below..

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