Originally, I had planned on this being a goal race. I thought running a 1:45 half-marathon was an aggressive, but achievable, goal. I ran a 1:51 in March not really training so I thought if I focused on speed work and was a little brave, I could run sub 8-minute miles.
The San Francisco Marathon is broken into two half-marathons for those who don’t want to take on the whole 26.2 miles. You can run the first half which takes you from the Ferry Building down the Embarcadero, down Fisherman’s Wharf, through the Marina, into the Presidio and across the Golden Gate Bridge, through the Presidio and into the Inner Richmond then into Golden Gate Park where the first half of the marathon ends.
After running the Pittsburgh Marathon, I considered signing up for the full San Fransisco Marathon but realized I wanted to take a break from full marathon training and didn’t really want to run all the hills in the SF Marathon. I heard the 2nd half-marathon was faster, flatter and less crowded. Also it begins at 8:15 a.m. as opposed to 6:00 a.m. and I’m all about two extra hours to sleep.
Friday when I went to pick up my bib I texted Chrissy telling her I had full-marathon FOMO. She told me she had half-marathon FOMO and knowing Kay wasn’t planning on running anymore, I coordinated getting Chrissy to pick up her bib so she could run with me. It also gave us an excuse to eat lots of carbs like acai bowls and sourdough polenta bread and Delarosa pizza together the day before.
This is a margarita pizza with Burrata and it was totally worth it.
Sunday morning Chrissy came over to my place and we took an Uber to the start at Golden Gate Park. We got there really early which was nice. I’m usually at the start line like 5 minutes before the start so it was good to be able to relax, hang out a little bit and not feel rushed and stressed. I got into my corral for Wave 2 (which is actually everyone who is a sub 9-minute mile pace who isn’t a seeded athlete) and saw the 1:45 pace group. I stood with them for a couple moments, looking at the others in the group.
Chrissy and I pre-race.
This is where I get a little real. I’m going to preface the rest of this post with saying I’m really hard on myself. Really hard. Like the fact I ran a PR then cried because it wasn’t good enough for me. I had dinner with my ex a couple weeks ago when he was in town (albeit after he showed up unannounced) and he looked across the table at me and told me to stop being so hard on myself.
I thought about the number I saw on the scale that morning. I thought about how frustrated I’ve been with myself lately – not training hard enough, drinking and eating out more than I would like to, and the fact I’ve gained a couple “San Francisco pounds”. Yeah, all my clothes still fit and I’m still a size zero but I just felt terrible about my ability to run sub 8-minute miles in that moment. So I decided a 1:50 was still a PR and if I felt good after the first eight miles, I would leave that pace group.
The best thing about the 2nd half-marathon is that it is much smaller than the beginning of the full marathon and first half-marathon – around 5,000 runners as opposed to 30,000+. The beginning wasn’t as crowded as the last several races I have ran. You start out and soon after, the full-marathoners are running along side of you.
The course splits right away – the full marathoners stay to the left and the half-marathons stay to the right. I was looking at the signs and trying to get over to the right because I understood why the course was splitting – the full marathoners had already ran 13 miles, were in the zone and the half-marathoners were fresh. Being a respectful runner (post on that coming soon), I tried to get over to the right… and in the process, hit a traffic cone separating the two sides.
Before I knew it, I was on the ground. Both knees, head, left elbow and my right hand all made contact with the pavement. “I guess I’m done” was the first thought that went through my head. The second thought was that I ate pizza for dinner the night before, toast for breakfast that day and I had to run all of that off. I picked myself up, felt my elbow and decided I was just going to keep running. My knee hurt and was a little stiff and I decided I just wasn’t going to look down at it because I didn’t want to know how badly I had scraped it.
I stayed with the 1:50 pace group the first three miles and realized their pace was kind of all over the place, not a steady 8:24. This is where I say my friend Lesley is the best pacer ever. I also asked Emily if I was right in my thinking and that pacers should be running even splits (she agreed). I decided I needed to run my race, not anyone else’s and left them.
I saw one of the pace group leaders from San Francisco Road Runners in Golden Gate Park cheering on the runners. He either told me I looked strong or told me I looked covered in blood (TBD on that one) and in that moment, I really felt like I was home. I struggled all winter and spring to feel like San Francisco was home and I can’t even explain how happy I was to be running in the city in that moment. I rode that high the next few miles.
Around mile 9 or 10 I started to feel vaguely annoyed for a couple of miles. I was disappointed in the San Francisco community for not coming out and cheering on the runners. In Pittsburgh, a city full of obesity and whatever, there are people cheering basically every inch of that course. Yes, there are a few dead zones but for the most part, people are out and cheering and excited. There wasn’t much difference in running during the SF Marathon and running on a Saturday morning.
I was also super annoyed at the water stop volunteers. I know they are volunteers and I am so thankful they gave up their Sunday morning to be there, but they were not concerned with giving people water. They kind of just stood there or were talking and took forever to grab waters off the table. I decided in this moment that I really need to not run a race in SF and volunteer at a race to give back to the community.
A couple notes about this course – it isn’t flat. It’s flat for San Francisco but there’s a hill going into the Haight and then 16th Street has another much more brutal hill that takes you to Potrero Hill. From there, you have another hill that takes you into the Dogwatch and Mission Bay. We ran past my office and lots of people tailgating for the Oakland A’s/Giants game. Nothing like smelling hot dogs during mile 11-12 of a race.
Once we got to my office in Mission Bay, I knew there was about a mile and half left until the Ferry Building. I ran this part of the course a lot during marathon training. I kept telling myself the faster I ran the faster I could get medical attention for my knee. Other thoughts during this time were “my feet hurt and I forgot to put flip-flops in my gear check bag”.
I had been trying not to look at my watch and just run by how I was feeling but looked down and I had a little less than a mile left and my time was 1:43. I had thought I was going to hit sub 1:50 until about that moment. I crossed the finish line at 1:50:42 and the only thing I could think was, “where the f*** is the medical tent?”. I realized as everyone looked at me that I probably looked pretty gnarly and looked down at my leg that was essentially, covered in blood.
I think I have really bad-ass tendencies when it comes to injuries. I used to be a total baby and would cry and have someone patch me up but as I started doing more sports in which I get injured and beat up (surfing, particularly), I started caring way less. The only time I was really upset by falling in recent history was in Nicaragua because it happened 30 seconds into my run, I ripped my headphones and knew salt water was not going to feel good in my wounds and then last spring when I tripped and got a black eye. But I was totally self-concious of my bloody leg. I grabbed a heat blanket to try and cover it up so people wouldn’t look at me or ask what happened. I was just thinking “you finished a race not like some battle this isn’t normal”.
Ferry Building finish line from the Lululemon after party.
Here is another qualm with the organization of the race – the finish chute was long but directly after, people were just congregating. There needs to be a family reunion area like there is in Pittsburgh so runners can actually get out of the chute. Medical tent was still nowhere in sight, I was pissed off by my time and I had a ton of things in my hands (races, please be like Nike and give out bags!) and just wanted someone to clean out my wounds and to call my dad and cry over how disappointed I was in myself.
Finally I found the medical tent after grabbing my bag from gear check. Some nice doctors from UCSF assured me I might not scar and I wasn’t the first person who had fallen running. Some lady who was sitting with her husband asked if I had falling running and I said yes, in the first tenth of a mile and she told me I was strong and brave. YOU’RE RIGHT, I AM. I told her thank you and continued to feel like a bad ass.
Afterwards, I decided to head over to the Lululemon After Party to meet Chrissy. This is where I say I am so lucky to be a part of this community in SF and to be friends with the wonderful Kristine who is killing it in her new role on the Community Team at Lulu. They were doing screen printing at the expo, had a mindful mediation set-up and then an awesome VIP after party right on the Embarcadero, steps from the finish line. I was able to use a real bathroom to clean up and change into my new Lululemon SF Marathon screen printed shirt. They also had a super great swag bag, lots of drinks (including tons of coconut water), food, massages, stretching stations and more. I stretched out for a few and ate some smoked salmon and drank a Vega recovery shake since I knew we were getting brunch with Kay afterwards.
My first ever flash tat at the Lululemon after-party which then turned into a discussion about favorite SoulCycle instructors and eating Blue Barn/Rustic Bakery after.
As the Lululemon party started wrapping up around noon, Chrissy and I decided to walk the 1.5 miles to Huxley, a super small, super talked about restaurant in the Trendyloin. They are known for the avocado toast with uni so I figured no time like after running 13+ miles to make reservations to indulge. The three of us split the housemade yogurt with fruit and granola (amaze), baked eggs and avocado toast with uni (obvi).
Will run for avocado toast.
All in all – this is the first race (other than the Montour Run Half-Marathon) that I’m not sure I would recommend to people. I don’t think it was very organized for a big city marathon. I think I might volunteer next year rather than running either the full or the half.
Overall: 1:50:42 (8:27/min pace – but my watch told me 8:17 and 13.3 miles so….), top 16% overall, top 8% of women (you really realize you’re racing with a lot of guys at this pace), top 10% of my age group. Things I should be proud of, I know, but still, so disappointed because I know if I just get a little bit of guts and a little bit more work ethic, I have faster miles in me. There’s always Seawheeze next month…
Chat with me:
What’s the most badass thing you’ve done recently? Are you too hard on yourself? What races would you recommend/not recommend?