Recap | The SF Half Marathon 2018

A week ago, I ran the (1st) SF half marathon again. This race has become one of my favorite races (albeit an expensive one) because it combines a great race with a fun weekend in San Francisco. I was lucky that I signed up last year at the bargain price of $85 dollars. This was cheap. Prices went up to $125 for the half marathon, even more for the marathon, until shortly before race weekend.

Still, this race is (relatively) close to me (2 hours from Sacramento) and it’s just a great race all around.

Last year, I took the Amtrak into the City and since that had worked out so well, I decided to do it again this year. J dropped me off at the Amtrak station around 10:30 a.m. and I switched to BART in Richmond and was in Downtown SF with my backpack at 1 p.m.

I walked to my hotel near Union Square and was able to do an early check-in. I dropped off my backpack and then headed out to the Expo to pick up my bib and race shirt. I caught the free shuttle bus that departed from Embarcadero/Market St and it took me to Fort Mason in 30 minutes.



I picked up my bib + t-shirt, got my picture taken at the Biofreeze wall, the new sponsor of the SF Marathon, and grabbed more water and a sandwich at the local grocery store, before starting my walk back to the hotel. I walked through Great Meadow Park over to the piers. The weather wasn’t as clear as last year, and Karl the Fog was keeping the Golden Gate Bridge well under wraps. No pretty views of the bridge for me!



I ran into some Germans on the way over to Fisherman’s Wharf (when do you NOT run into other Germans in SF, I ask you?). It was a Dad and his two teenage kids and he was gesturing towards the SF Marathon swag bag on my shoulder and with (very) broken English asked me where the Expo was. You should have seen the relief on his face when I responded in German and told them the way. Haha.


I paid a quick visit to the sea lions at Pier 39 and then ran into the  Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream carnival a few piers down, so of course, I had to stop for a free small cup of caramel cookie fix ice-cream.






I had dinner at the food court of Westfield Mall (it was the closest to my hotel and I just wanted a quick bite, and didn’t feel like eating at a fancy restaurant by myself) and was back in my room 7:30 p.m.

I got my stuff ready for the morning, called J for a quick check-in and then turned the lights off by 9 p.m.


My alarm was set for 5 a.m., but of course I had already been awake a few times. I can never really sleep well before a race, no idea why! I got dressed, had a protein bar and some water and made my way over to the Embarcadero start line at 5:40 a.m.. Lots of people were out and about already, after all, over 27,000 runners were signed up for the event this year.



I dropped off my bag off at gear check, got in line for the port-a-potties, as I always do, then I warmed up a bit and made my way to my corral. And then I had to pee again. I chalked it up to “phantom bathroom urges” (don’t we all have them before a race?) and just hoped that it would go away.


I had a pretty good start and the crowd dispersed much faster this year, which was great. The first 5 miles were the ‘easy’ part of the course because they were mostly flat except for one relatively short hill in mile 3 and even though I was not quite hitting my goal pace, I was moving fairly well and tried to focus on that.

I was a little bit frustrated with the pacer though. I had planned to try and stay with a pacer as a new race strategy, but the 2:00-hour pacer was a joke (sorry). I had started in front of the pacer and even though I was about 10 seconds-per-mile slow, I never saw him during the first 5 miles. Then in mile 5, all of a sudden, he passed me, and FAST. I probably should mention that mile 5 was also where serious inclines began. I mean, WTactualF?

I don’t want to sound ungrateful. I appreciate the runners who sign up to be pacers and put their own goals and ambitions aside to support fellow runners during a race, but if you commit to being a pacer, then, for the love of all things sweaty, run that pace. Don’t run slow for 5+ miles and then speed up disproportionally. The people that are looking to you to PR will not be able to keep up with such fluctuating paces. Well, at least I couldn’t. Not on an incline.

So, I let the pacer go and focused on myself and tried focus on the hills in front of me. There was a fairly rapid decline for about a mile after we passed the Golden Gate Bridge between mile 7 and 8, which is where I hit my fastest pace, and then there were some rolling hills left until the finish line.


I remember feeling really good throughout the race, but was still happy to see the finish line. There were a lot of people out cheering on the runners and even though I had contemplated at every water station to use the bathroom (yes, I ran the whole race thinking I needed to pee), I am glad I didn’t (and once I crossed the finish line, the urge was gone. Go figure!).

Sadly, I didn’t reach my A goal (still no sub-2 for me – womp!), but I was really happy with my finish time, because one huge success this year was that I didn’t die on the hills. I ran all of them, something I wasn’t able to do last year! On top of that, I felt great. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I was glad that I was done, but I physically felt really good and my legs weren’t shaking or hurting.

I also shaved almost 5 minutes off my previous course PR from last year and finished at 2:05:03. My Garmin watch was scarily accurate this time as well. I ran a nearly perfect race line and the time was off by only 8 seconds.



I was a bit bummed this year as the organizers had made some big, last-minute changes. The race start for the marathoners and 1st half marathoners was split up. The marathoners had started at 5:30 a.m. and the 1st half marathoners started at 6:30 a.m.
For me personally, it meant that the course was much less crowded right out of the corral and there was a lot less swerving around and passing of people involved this time. For friends that had planned to run together but were signed up for different distances, this might have been a huge bummer.

The other big change was that the 1st half marathon was re-routed and we didn’t run over the Golden Gate Bridge anymore. That was a big disappointment and they literally announced this change a couple of weeks before the race. There was the option to upgrade to the full marathon (which was still going over the bridge – but I mean, who can just sign up for the full marathon if they trained for a half?) or defer your race entry, but I still think that was a shitty move on such short notice. In the end, it wasn’t a deal-breaker for me (since I had the experience of running the bridge last year), but I wish they had announced this earlier.

Still, you really can’t beat the race course through this awesome city. The 1st half marathon took us from Embarcadero along the piers to Fisherman’s Wharf, through Fort Mason and the Marina, along Crissy Field, under the Golden Gate Bridge, and through the Presidio and Golden Gate Park, and I would run this race again anytime.

I collected my medal, some snacks and – wrapped in my race blanket (it’s amazing how fast you cool down and start shivering after a race, or is it just me?) – made my way over to the bus shuttles that took us back to the Embarcadero marathon (and 2nd half marathon) finish line and to the race festival.


I walked around a little bit, got my finisher beer, and took some more pictures. I had time to go back to the hotel, take a shower, and get some brunch at Mo’z Cafe before catching BART back to Richmond and Amtrak back to Sacramento.




I really had a fantastic weekend and wouldn’t mind doing this again next year!

Have you been to San Francisco? Wanna join me next year?

  1. What an awesome little getaway for you! Congrats on shaving 5 minutes off your PR and staying strong on the hills! Perhaps you can find a half that isn’t hilly and then you will surely get your sub 2 hour half. I love San Fran! This was the first big vacation Paul and I went on 5 years ago. I would have been INSANELY PISSED if I signed up for a race so I could run across the bridge and then they switched it. What a bummer for people who really wanted to do this.

    Years ago, I signed up for the Gettysburg Marathon. It was their first year. At some point after I signed up, they changed the course to an out and back. I hate out and backs and never, ever would have signed up for it if I knew they were changing it. I contacted the RD and asked for a refund. He said no and that he thought I would enjoy the course. I said well we’ll never know because I’m not coming- ha!

    1. Thank you :) and you’re right, I should find a flatter race to get my PR LOL

      This is so shitty that they didn’t refund you the race fee after they changed the course on the Gettysburg Marathon.

  2. What a fun marathon! I love the views you had! And I love that you were able to help out some fellow Germans! I bet they were so happy to talk to someone who spoke their language!

    1. Thanks friend! It was fun!

  3. What a “fun” event…. If I can get to like running within the next 8 month I might join you next year :)

    1. I am counting on you :)

  4. What a gorgeous route!! I live near Duluth, Minnesota and every June we have the Grandma’s Marathon and people come from all over the world to do it. You run along Lake Superior and it’s a beautiful race. You should add it to your bucket list!

    1. Thank you, it really is a fun race. I have heard from other running friends about the Grandma’s Marathon, it also sounds amazing!

  5. I’ve never been to California, but I’d love to go someday. I’m glad you had such a nice race – though that’s a bummer you didn’t get to run the bridge again. I’d have been really upset about that too since it was a pretty last minute notice. That’s awesome you were able to help the German family – I’m sure they were so relieved (and maybe even a bit shocked LOL).


    1. Oh, you need to go! :)

  6. San Francisco is gorgeous. I would love to visit with my husband and have a bit time to explore. I understand the feeling of not being able to run over the bridge. I hate running BUT when I was there I actually did run over with my sister – well we made it about 1/3 before we died. Then we layed down and enjoyed the different view and the vibrations of traffic. A moment I’ll always cherish.

    Congrats for yet another race and such a huge time off your PR. That is huge.

    1. Thank you :) It really was a great race… even if we didn’t run over the bridge. But just being on the bridge is amazing, right? So cool!

  7. I have been to San Francisco and love it there. Unfortunately, I blew my hip out a few years back and can no longer run marathons or 5 k’s. I wish I could. I loved running.
    By the way, I love your running skirt! That is so adorable!

    1. I know you mentioned that you were a runner… I didn’t know that before you told me and I am so sorry you can’t run anymore!

      Thank you – with the black shirt, it almost looked like a dress :)

  8. Congrats on such a great time on this race! That’s awesome. San Francisco is such a beautiful city and I can imagine it is a lovely place to run a marathon like this.

    1. Thanks so much friend!

  9. I have been to San Francisco but have never in my life participated in a marathon. So incredible that you conpeted, and bested your previous run time. This was interesting to read—didn’t know so many things about these races, about the pacers in particular, and am sad you had this experience and that you didn’t get to cross the bridge/ at least you did that route last year!

  10. Yay well done! I think I would have passed out during the first mile (first third of the first mile) :D You should come back to DC and run one of the events here, but not when it’s hot. Come for the Cherry Blossom ten miler!

  11. Nice work on your course PR. That is odd/frustrating that the 2 hour pacer was running such an inconsistent pace and increasing the pace at the worst spot. I would have been frustrated and annoyed, too!

    This post makes me miss San Francisco. It’s such a beautiful city and that race course looks awesome! I think my half marathon days are over for awhile – at least until I am done pumping as it’s just too hard to fit running in these days since I could only comfortably run after pumping and it doesn’t work out to do that right now. But eventually I will be done pumping and I can get back to running. SO maybe next summer or fall I will be back to running races!!

  12. Okay, that pacer guy was not doing his job right! It’s like he was like, “Whoops, I’m the 2-hour pacer, not the 2:30-pacer!” or something. Ha. Get it together, man! You have to run at a consistent pace, not slow down and speed up throughout the race. Womp!

    If I was a runner, this is the kind of half marathon I’d love to do! Such a great locations and so fun to be able to run in all of those scenic spots.

  13. Great job running this year! Maybe I can come cheer you on next time. ;-) You were in my city, after all.

  14. Someday I’ll join you for this race! Also, I’m glad I’m not the only one who fights with the phantom pee feeling before a race. EVERY TIME.

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