You guys, I did it. I finished the 2nd half marathon course in the 2016 San Francisco marathon event on July, 31. What an amazing experience!
Since this was my first half marathon ever, I didn’t have any specific time goals, although my training plan had aimed to prepare me for a 2:15:00 finish. But since I had only run 12.5 miles tops in training and the race would be my first full 13.1 miles, it was going to be an automatic PR either way. So, really my only goal was “to finish and not require immediate medical attention”(as so eloquently quoted from Jen Miller’s book “Running – A love story“).
And fortunately, I did finish and did not require medical attention! I win!
But let me start from the beginning.
I had planned to drive to the Bay area on Saturday morning and then go to the Race Expo in San Francisco with Susi (and her husband, who also ran the race) to pick up our race packets (they didn’t offer to mail them). Well, turns out, Bay area traffic is becoming increasingly unpredictable (even on the weekends) and it took me 3,5 hours to cover the 75 miles from my house to hers. Luckily, she was able to take my bib confirmation and pick up my race packet for me (because I doubt we would have otherwise made it in time).
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We did some carb-loading in the evening and then relaxed and chatted for a while before heading to bed at a reasonable hour. I didn’t sleep too well (first couldn’t fall asleep, then couldn’t stay asleep) and was up before 5:30 a.m., which was almost the time we had get up and get ready for the race anyway.
We drove the car into the city, parked close to the finish line and then caught a shuttle bus that would take us all the way to the other side of the city. As you can see on the map (above), our point-to-point course started in Golden Gate Park by the ocean and ended at the Embarcadero, the eastern waterfront along San Francisco Bay.
There was the full marathon (DARK BLUE) and the two half marathons. The 1st half marathon (YELLOW) was the first half of the full marathon (from Embarcadero to Fisherman’s Wharf, over the Golden Gate Bridge and back to Golden Gate Park) and the 2nd half marathon (LIGHT BLUE) from Golden Gate Park through Haight Ashbury, Mission District back to the Embarcadero) was the second half. We picked the 2nd half marathon, because a) it started a little later and b) the elevation profile looked a little less intimidating.
We used the port-a-potties, dropped off our sweat bags (that UPS drove over to the finish line! Excellent organization!), warmed up and thanked the law enforcement officials that were strategically placed around the start line for their service. We got into the corral with plenty of time to spare. It was overcast and almost a bit chilly around 60°F, but that’s pretty much perfect running weather, am I right? I hadn’t really done any hill training (because Sacramento is pretty flat), but I was hoping that my training in the heat would balance out the lack of elevation training.
Luckily, both Susi and I were assigned to the same wave (5), which meant we could at least start this race together (hand in hand, as we did our first 10k). I was excited and a bit nervous, but also surprisingly calm somehow. The first wave (with the elite runners) started at 7:30, our official start was not until 8:15.
Here we are waiting around, taking silly selfies.
Still lacking a proper running watch, I was using my trusted Runtastic app for pace feedback, but I wanted to really focus on not starting out too fast and running at a comfortable pace that I felt like I could keep up. My goal was to keep my average pace below 10 minutes/mile and not walk (except for taking water/electrolytes at the waterstations).
Mile 1-4: The start was great. I felt awake and strong and ready to take on this race. The first few miles of the course were a gradual, but steady incline, but I kept focused on a comfortable pace. We had to run a little loop around Strawberry Hill/Stow Lake and I saw later (in my Whatsapp family group) that my sister thought I had gotten lost and was running in circles. Haha.
Mile 5-6: We passed the Observatory of Flowers (beautiful) and then made it into the Haight Ashbury district. I felt good, my breathing was calm. I can do this!
Mile 6-9: Hello there Mission district. People were cheering for us and the occasional car honked encouragingly. People also held up some quite funny signs which kept me entertained (and distracted) for a while. “You look so skinny today!” “You’re kicking as(phalt)!” “Go random stranger go!” “I am sure it seemed like a good idea 4 month ago.” Haha!
Mile 10-12: We were getting close to the Bay, so it felt like we were almost there, but there were still 4 more miles to go. My legs were starting to get a bit tired, but I pressed on, only taking very brief walking breaks at the water stations. I had vowed to get water/electrolytes at every single aid station and I did. I didn’t bother trying to get out my ProBar energy chews that I had tried occasionally (and liked)during training. I just didn’t have the peace of mind for it. I was keeping a good pace (as far as I could tell) and I didn’t want to drop down now!
Mile 13: We passed AT&T Park (Home of the SF Giants) which was exciting and gave me an extra push. I knew that I was closing in on the last mile of the race. Spectators became more abundant there too and helped me keep the momentum to the finish line (although I was getting tired and thirsty and I was getting to the point where I just wanted to be done). And then the finish line came in sight…
One of the absolutely FREE (!) race photos by Saucony. I wish I knew where on the course this was taken… I am assuming it was toward the end because of all the flags and balloons in the background. I don’t look like I am completely falling apart, so maybe I was actually holding up quite well or they used a very flattering filter. Ha! (BTW, that is the second bigger race with free race photos – is it really so uncommon?)
Here I am crossing the finish line (all by myself and not in a crowd of people)!! The print on my t-shirt turned out to be “nomen est omen”.
My legs were tired, but I felt amazing and giddy. I couldn’t quite believe I had just finished this race. I got some water and then moved to the side of the finish area to call my Dad. My whole family (overseas!) had been able to follow me race via the RTRT.me app and my Whatsapp had been buzzing with encouraging messages throughout the race (which I only read after the fact!), but I think my Dad was almost more excited than everybody else. You must know that he was my long-distance coach, my cheerleader, and go-to training resource during my half marathon training (he’s an athlete and former soccer player and physical education teacher and has a wealth of knowledge) and it felt amazing how excited and proud he was about my race finish.
I hung around the finish area to wait for Susi. And then there she was making it across the finish line! I am so, so proud of her – of our! – huge accomplishment!
We got our medals, grabbed some water, a banana and protein bar, and then made our way over to the Expo. We were so happy to have finished, that we completely spaced out on taking a photo in front of the official backdrop. So this post-race selfie with our medals and the Bay Bridge in the background will have to do.
Because we had run both in the Berkeley Halfmarathon (2015) and the San Francisco Marathon Event (2016) consecutively with official finish times in both events, we qualified for an extra challenge medal that we could pick up at the Race Expo after the race. AWESOMESAUCE :)
I also really loved the long sleeve tech shirt! Definitely one that I will wear out again!
We walked around the Expo for a bit, picked up our sweat bags and got some (non-alcoholic) beer, free greek yogurt, and Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream before we headed home.
My official finish time was 2:09:30.
According to my Runtastic app, I was even a bit faster (of course, I didn’t run the perfect race line and ended up with an extra half mile according to my app) and it had me consistently under 10 minutes per mile, which I am super-stoked about. I wasn’t sure if I could keep this pace over the whole 13.1 miles.
I finished 5:30 minutes under my training plan goal of 2:15:00. I came in 77th in my age group (of 249), 815th female (out of 2460) and 1932nd overall (out of 4489).
Running my first half marathon in San Francisco was a huge success all-around. The race – which is going into it’s 40th year – was organized to the T. From shuttle services, to baggage check, to after-race entertainment and free swag, not to forget FREE race photos. The medal and tech tee are awesome and the challenge medal was an extra perk!
The weather was perfect and the ‘rolling hills’ of this (2nd half marathon) course were absolutely manageable. Running through Golden Gate Park and the San Francisco neighborhoods was simply amazing, although I am thinking that the 1st half marathon course – over the Golden Gate Bridge! – is even more stunning! So, maybe next year?!
For now, I am going to relish in the fact that I DID THIS. Big, happy smile and all.
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