A little over a week ago, I ran the 1st SF half marathon again. This was my fourth year and I think it’s hard to deny that this has become one of my favorite races, because I obviously I keep going back. The event combines a great race with a fun weekend in San Francisco, so I ask you, what’s not to love?
By now, I have established somewhat of a routine for race weekend. While I was hoping that either J or my friend Tanja were able to join me for two days in the City, it ended up being a solo-weekend for me again. 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 10:15 a.m.
I had time to grab a coffee at Starbucks and when I was on my way. I switched to BART in Richmond and was in Downtown SF with my backpack around 1 p.m.
I was lucky and found a somewhat affordable deal for a hotel near Union Square again (via Travelzoo) a couple of months ago and I was able to do an early check-in. I dropped off my backpack and then headed out to catch the free shuttle bus that departed from Embarcadero/Market St and which took me to Fort Mason to the race Expo.
But first I ran into the Safeway across the street to pick up some water and a sandwich for a late lunch. Then I walked over to the expo, picked up my bib + t-shirt, got my picture taken at the Biofreeze wall, and grabbed some freebies along the way.
Around 4 p.m., I started heading back to Union Square. First, I walked through Great Meadow Park over to Ghiradelli Square. Although it was beautiful and sunny, Karl the Fog was keeping the Golden Gate Bridge well under wraps. No pretty views of the bridge. Meh.
I enjoyed the view for a little while and then hiked up to Coit Tower via Greenwich Street on the West side. It’s the first time I’ve seen the tower without any construction going on, but there was a long line out the door, so I didn’t get to go up. I still enjoyed the view from the top of the hill.
Then I descended on the East side down the steps. It’s kinda cool because you have to walk in between houses and almost through peoples’ backyards.
I hung out at the piers for a while and then sat down on a bench to figure out what to do for dinner. I didn’t really feel like going out to a restaurant by myself, so I picked up a personal pizza at a little Italian place and made my way back to the hotel.
I talked with J, had my dinner, got my stuff ready for the next morning and then watched some Friends re-runs before I turned off the light.
My alarm was set for 4:45 am. I slept pretty well, even though I woke up a few times (always!).
I got dressed, had a protein bar and some water and made my way over to the Embarcadero start line at 5:45 a.m..
I had plenty of time to drop my bag off at gear check, use the port-a-potties and warm up a bit, before I made my way to the corral. It was a beautiful morning and we were granted a beautiful view of the sunrise over the Bay Bridge.
6:30 a.m. was go-time for us half-marathoners.
Since the marathoners had already left 45 minutes earlier, the start was much less crowded and the crowd dispersed much faster, which was great! I was off to a good start.
The first 5 miles are considered the ‘easy’ part of the course because they are mostly flat except for one relatively short hill in mile 3 and I was actually hitting my goal pace.
Mile 1: 9:13
Mile 2: 8:56
Mile 3: 9:07
Mile 4: 9:07
Mile 5: 9:06
It felt freakin’ fantastic and even better, when we entered the Marina District and the Golden Gate Bridge – in all its glory and without Karl, the fog obstructing it – came into view. I mean, how can this view not make you fly?
Of course, I knew it was going to be hard to keep that up with the second part of the race being so much hillier. And the hills happened soon. Mile 6 is where the inclines start.
Mile 6: 9:41
Mile 7: 10:19
As you might recall (or not) from last year’s review, the half marathon was changed and does not go over the bridge anymore (which is a bummer). Instead, we run up to and then under the bridge, along the California Coastal Trail and the Fort Scott Batteries in the Presidio and then down Lincoln Blvd along Baker Beach. It’s the steepest downhill of the course and where I – non-surprisingly – hit my fastest pace.
Mile 8: 8:26 (!!!)
Mile 9: 9:51
Then we took a turn into the Central Richmond Neighborhood, which is a moderate, but steady incline, and over to Golden Gate Park.
Once in Golden Gate Park, we had about 3 more miles to go, a loop through the park with some rolling hills before we reached the finish line.
Mile 10: 9:38
Mile 11: 9:11
Mile 12: 9:36
Mile 13: 9:50
last 0.25 Miles: 9:11
I remember feeling really good throughout the race and once again, I was able to run all the hills. That’s huge! It’s always nice to see the finish line though. Ha!
I shaved another 1:42 minutes off my previous course PR from last year and finished at 2:03:21. My Garmin watch was scarily accurate this time as well. I ran a nearly perfect race line and the time was off by only 2 seconds.
You can see the official photos here and I really wanted to buy this one photo where I actually smile (I am getting better at this race photo thing!), but $20 for a single image was a bit much.
I collected my medal, some water and a banana, and got in line for a finisher photo.Then I 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 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.
Kudos to you if you made it all the way down here (I know that was a long recap!) I am sure you can tell I really had a fantastic weekend and would do it again in a heartbeat.
Have you run in San Francisco? Join me next year?