Blame the late post on vaycay. At least I remembered to write a race recap, albeit about a week late.
The San Francisco Marathon (the ‘the’ is important here, folks… think The Ohio State University) was going to be my tenth state—and thus, get me into the 50 States Club—and my fifteenth marathon. I was pretty floored by that latter distinction, and on some of my final pre-marathon runs, I went through all my marathons in chronological order to make sure that SF was, in fact, number 15. Sure was!!
Anyway, getting to the race was a bit of a ruckus, thanks to wild and thunderstorm-y weather at Midway, but once I got there (a day late and by way of San Diego), it rocked. I spent hardly any time at the expo, since it was pretty crowded on Saturday morning and smelled like a barn (not sure why). I got to meet up with a college friend and her family (hi, Cecy!), go out on their boat for a bit on Saturday night, and walked about 15 minutes to the race start, at the Embarcadero, on Sunday morning before my 5:45 a.m. Race take-off.
You read that correctly… 5:45. It was dark while we were waiting for the race to start, and the temps were a much-welcome change from the holy humidity of Chicago.
To summarize the race in a quick phrase, it was super. Seriously. People made this race out to be something larger than life– “ohmygosh, you’re running on THOSE hills????” – when, in reality, I’m sure the RD spared us the worst of SF’s acclaimed hills. For the first few miles, we ran alongside the Embarcadero and the bay, then jutted over to Fort Mason, went through a little park-y area, then climbed up to, and went over, the Golden Gate bridge not once, but TWICE! By this time, it was still pretty early (maybe around 7am?), and the fog was thick, so I didn’t get the luxury of taking in any SF cityscapes from the bridge. Just running over it was BA enough though. After the bridge, we made our way over to another section of the city where we had some serious potentially quad-killing downhills, then spent a good portion of the second half (miles 12/13-19ish) over in Golden Gate state park. I wasn’t expecting to encounter any wild buffalo in my treks through SF, so you can imagine my plesant surprise when I did 🙂 After the park, we traversed over some more major downhills on Haight St. before jutting east (I think) for a bit, and then finishing our final miles along the water and over by the Giants’ ballpark, putting us right back where we started earlier that morning. It was a very efficient way to discover SF on foot, suffice it to say!
The RD really did a nice job of taking care of the runners on this marathon adventure. The shirts were nice (a very cool tech shirt), the medals were enormous (not necessary, but always a nice touch), and the fluid stations were strategically placed every 2 miles, which was fine considering the very mild temps of the course (50s, perhaps, with virtually no humidity to speak of… at least nothing like the humidity of the midwest at this time in the summer). The volunteers were chipper and cheery, and though the spectators were a bit sparse, I was always in the company of other runners, many of whom were doing either the first or second half. The finish line area had a TON of food for the participants, and picking up my gear and heat-sheet was a breeze. I think I paid about $110 or so for my race entry, and I think it was a good investment, especially for someone who had never been to SF before and wanted to see as much as possible in the short time I was there.
Were the hills as fearsome as the WSJ made it out to be? Ehhhhh… not really. This course really made me think of Boston, in that the hills, themselves, aren’t necessarily killer; it’s just their placement. I think people may have a guaranteed fear of a SF road race going into it because they think they’ll be running up the cable-car hills featured on the rice-a-roni commercials. None of ’em were THAT dramatic. They were challenging, but for the most part, they were short, and once you just hunkered down to conquer them, they were over. Really.
Now don’t get me wrong, I won’t claim the SF course was easy, but it was very fair. Had I not done any hillwork this spring, leading up to my Boston race, or this summer, leading up to this race, I surely would have suffered. The same thing goes for speedwork. The second half of the course was remarkably fast—so fast, as I explained to C and my in-laws over vacation this past week, that I was genuinely surprised that I didn’t trip over my feet and wind up rolling down Haight St. (or others). I could definitely see why people would come to run a PR on the second half’s course.
I’m very pleased with my 3:53 finish, especially since I was aiming for a 4-4:30 and because I didn’t really know what to expect, having never done the course before. Immediately after the race, I met C and my in-laws down in SoCal to vacation in Orange County for a week, so thanks to a 13-hour day on my feet at Disneyland, I have recovered remarkably well, and fast, from this marathon. It’s Sunday, and my legs feel like they ran a race a MONTH ago, not just a week.
Bank on the SF race. You won’t be disappointed.