I ran my first marathon in December of 2010. My right IT band was pulled and I was suffering from severe shin splints. My training was very minimal and finishing that race was a big accomplishment for me because I wasn’t sure I could do it. In 2011 I was training to seek marathon redemption but I ended up with a stress fracture and a DNS. Needless to say … I had high hopes for SFM.
I (we – me, the husband, and Kat & Kelly) traveled down to SF the day before the race to go to the expo and we stayed overnight within walking distance to the race start/finish. Race morning came quickly and after getting ready and checking out of our hotel we made our way down to the starting line area where we met up with another friend, Leo. We were in Wave 8 and the five of us were standing in line for the port-o-potties right under the Bay Bridge as our starting time approached. Once everyone had the chance to use the facilities we jogged our way up to the starting line and off we went.
The first couple of miles were flat and our race strategy was to “bank” some time during the first 5 miles (before getting on to The Golden Gate Bridge). It was very crowded as we ran along the Embarcadero. The first HILL is at mile 2.5 and I powered up it pumping my arms and staying on my toes and felt GREAT. Around mile 3 Kat pulled off to use the restroom and told us to go ahead and that she’d catch up. This worried me, big time. But we trekked onward. For the next several miles I was constantly checking behind me to see if Kat was approaching and contemplating stopping, or going back, to find her. The views, oh the views, were amazing – even in the fog. I couldn’t wait to run across The Golden Gate. THANKFULLY, Kat caught up to us before we were even half way across the bridge. Let me just say, running across The Golden Gate was AMAZING. A-MAZ-ING.
Once we got across the bridge, Kelly pulled off to use the restroom as the rest of us continued back across the bridge. Coming off the bridge you get to go downhill (yes) then UP (of course) and then DOWN, DOWN, DOWN a long steep hill along the coast. Gorgeous views. Hellish hill. I FLEW down this hill (most of the way) which I’m now sure caused a large majority of my post race back pain (that is STILL lingering).
Around mile 10 the husband pulled off to use the bathroom. Three of us (me, Leo, Kat) kept going. We entered an area with a series of uphill's with some flat sections (intersections) before entering Golden Gate Park (around the halfway point). Right before entering the park the first half marathoners split from the full marathoners. I knew this was my chance to pull off for a bathroom break since it wouldn’t be as crowded and I was right … right after the split there was a row of restrooms with NO LINES. I stopped, Leo continued on, and Kat stopped too (though I didn’t know that at the time). Once I exited the bathroom and started running again I saw the husband & Kelly up ahead. I picked up the pace (thankfully it was a downhill portion) to catch them. Once I caught up we fell into a groove and worked to catch Leo (once we caught him is when I discovered Kat stopped at the same restrooms I did). Eventually we all were together again.
Running through Golden Gate Park was BEAUTIFUL. It was still foggy, and misty, and AMAZING. We all stuck together, for the most part, all the way through the park. People would surge ahead, or walk hills, or fall behind … but we all ended up catching each other over and over again. (I just realized didn’t take any photos while we were running through the park. Fail.) Around mile 18 I started to have some stomach distress and I thought I was going to puke. In fact, I really tried to because I figured I would feel better if I did, but it didn’t happen. There was a lot of walking and I was starting to get tired. I ran the first half of the race HARD and the fatigue was catching up with me.
We exited the park around mile 20 and started the steep downhill section back towards the bay. Though it wasn’t all downhill. This section KILLED me. I was already fatigued, my stomach was doing flip flops and I didn’t want any fuel, my back was killing me, and I just wanted to walk. And walking is what I did. A lot of it. I’d walk until the 5:15 pacer would catch up, then I’d run again. My Garmin had died before even the half way point so I was relying on the husband to tell me our overall time and our current pace. I know I was walking slow and when I’d run I felt like I was moving at a snail pace … and then the husband would yell out that we were running a 10:00 pace. I was out of it. Everyone split up during this section and ran their own races at the paces that were best for them at this point in the race. Kat surged ahead and we lost her for a while at a “traffic” break. Leo fell behind and we lost him at another “traffic” break. Kelly was somewhere between Kat and me and the husband. We caught her for a while but she went ahead. The last few miles are a blur for me. I was so done. I ran when I could and walked when I couldn’t. I was so tired. I am so, so, so thankful that I had Jon by my side otherwise I’m sure I would have walked the last few miles. I really pushed and gave it all I had … I just didn’t have any left to give. Once we came around the back side of AT&T Ballpark I knew we were FINALLY almost there. With the finish line in sight, and while holding my husband’s hand, I crossed the finish line in 5:14:34!
The San Francisco Marathon is amazing. And its a wonderful way to see the city. I definitely recommend running it … but be warned, it’s no “walk in the park”. It’s hilly and it’s hard. I want to run both the half’s though I doubt I would run the full again.