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BREMERTON, Wash. -- For the majority of approximately 15,000 runners and walkers taking part in the annual Seattle Marathon Nov. 25, the event was a culmination of their training leading up to the actual run.
But for John Spannuth, Navy lieutenant and physician assistant at Naval Hospital Bremerton, the run was the finale, lengthy leg of completing four full marathons in four days over Thanksgiving.
Spannuth took part in the Third Annual Seattle Quadzilla, Nov. 22-25, which consisted of back-to-back-to-back-to-back marathons, starting with the Wattle Waddle Marathon Nov. 22, then the Wishbone Run Trail Marathon (actually 27.5 miles) Nov. 23, Ghost of Seattle Marathon Nov. 24 and finally the Seattle Marathon Nov. 25.
"Why do this? Because it's there, so why not? I had not attempted this series before, but have completed one similar - the Tahoe Triple 3 in 3 days - that circumnavigated Lake Tahoe and was an incredible experience," said Spannuth, a 43-year old Chicago native.
Spannuth logged a 3 hour, 44 minute time for the Waddle; finished the Wishbone with a 4:43 on the trails; completed the Ghost with a 3:39 and Seattle with a 3:51. The total mileage for the series was 106.3 miles that he completed in 15 hours and 57 minutes.
"I had no true specific goals in mind other than complete all four with no injury, and if possible finish all three road marathons with a time under four hours for each," Spannuth said.
The first in the series was the Wattle Waddle on Thanksgiving morning, an out and back route in the Seattle area.
"The Wattle was low key. There was maybe 150 total for the full and half (marathon)," Spannuth said, adding that the marathon just might be his current favorite of the four because that was his 100th marathon/ultra run completed.
The Wishbone at Gig Harbor's Crescent Forest proved to be the most challenging due to the inclement weather. The course consisted of four loops in private forest land of trails, mud and standing water. Lots of standing water.
"I thought I was back doing recon training with the Marines on that course with the 'how can we make it more difficult' philosophy kicking in. There was one stretch of water up to mid-thigh for almost 200 meters. It was alternately sprinkling, raining or was a torrential downpour all during the run," related Spannuth.
The Ghost of Seattle Marathon took place near Seattle's Lake Washington and had Spannuth clock in his best time at 3 hours, 39 minutes for the event. "I smoked the last six miles. The medal is cool also," he said.
Seattle almost didn't happen. A serious bout with gastrointestinal distress threatened to keep Spannuth off his feet until his good friend and fellow runner John Lui made an early morning drug store call for needed supplies.
"John came back around 3:30 a.m. with medicine that really helped. If I wasn't running the Quadzilla series, I probably would not have done Seattle. But I'm glad I did. It was a good crowd and it's good at times to have others around you when you're running for camaraderie and support," said Spannuth, who finished with a 3 hour, 51 minute, 24 second time for the Seattle.
Spannuth states that the Quadzilla series proved to be tougher than an ultra, which officially is listed as any distance longer than a marathon, but is traditionally considered to be at least a 50 Miler or 50K (31.1 miles).
"It's harder to get back up the next day and repeat the process all over again, for another three days, and be completely disciplined to watch the nutritional intake. Yes, doing an ultra for 100-miles means following the same routine for a day or so, but you just keep yourself going instead of stopping and going, stopping and going and stopping and going. Still, I'm glad I did it. Would I do it again? I don't know. There was a lot of road and not enough trail."
Although his times were not of the personal best variety, Spannuth is satisfied with the results, even as he adds there's always room for improvement.
"If I stop running ultras and seriously train, I could bring (my time) around 3:10 from probably the current 3:20 shape. Running or any exercise is the fountain of youth. Anyone can do this. They just start slowly and before they know it, it's a lifestyle change and no longer 'work.' Want proof? There were thousands of examples at the Seattle (Marathon)," Spannuth said.