A little less than a year ago I ran my first road race: The San Francisco Half Marathon! I have been updating my blog with reviews of my previous race experiences, and I saved the best for last. While I have loved every other marathon/half marathon experience, there is nothing quite like the first time you line up for a race!
Race Review: The San Francisco Marathon, 1st Half July 29, 2012
I no longer have the pictures from this event, but here is a super artsy collage I created on Instagram last year
I chose to run the first half of the San Francisco Marathon for my debut race. The course runs from the Bay Bridge, across the Golden Gate and back, and finally ends in Golden Gate Park. I was very prepared to run this race even though I didn’t know it at the time, but my ultimate goal was please, just finish! I had all of the normal first-race jitters: will I come in last place? when will I be able to walk again? how steep are the hills!? I’ve seen some pretty frightening hills in San Francisco!
Lombard St. (source: wikimedia commons)
I just knew the course was 13.1 miles of scary, twisted roads that I’m too afraid to drive on-let alone run up! All of the marathon veterans would be scoffing at the girl who called herself a “runner” as she was crawling across the finish line on all fours, long after the 3 hours of allotted time to finish the course had expired. And they would deny me my medal.
😦 <– so sad!
Lucky for me this was not my experience. I loved this course so much I ran it 2 years in a row! I’ve already written an account of the 2013 San Francisco Half Marathon, which you can find here. The course did not change from last year, so I will try not to repeat the same details!
Expo: 2012 The San Francisco Marathon expo took place at the Concourse Exhibition Center. The expo was very large, with lots of free samples (love) and vendors to pick up any last minute supplies. I bought my first true running-nerd supply: a small zipper pouch to clip on my shorts and carry my ID and banana chips in for the race. I did find one picture I took at the expo:
The colors of this picture do not do the tech shirt justice. This is easily the best quality and style shirt I have, so far. 2012 was the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge and the marathon swag reflected this celebration. Each tech shirt was marked with 13.1 or 26.2 miles to reflect your race. The medal had different designs of the Golden Gate bridge on each side and I thought they were really nice. I heard a few complaints about the size, but the full marathon finishers received a bigger version. The full is a beast and it’s more than fine by me if you get a bigger medal for finishing that course!
The race: My mom came to San Francisco for the weekend from Arizona to support me! Having her there and getting to play tour guide was a nice distraction from some of the nerves. Until it was time to sleep. I only managed about 45 minutes of actually sleep before the race, but when my 4:30 am alarm sounded I was ready to race!
I only live a couple miles from the start line so I underestimated traffic. My mom had to drop me off about a half a mile away so I could get to the start line on time. I jogged with all of the other late-arrivals to the start (so what I’m getting at is I actually ran 13.6 miles that day!), managed to check my bag, and had just enough time to to hop in to my corral. I was so excited by the crowd of thousands of people, as soon as I crossed the starting line I felt no fatigue.
Miles 1-4: I started off with a goal of running a pace of 10 min/mile throughout the duration of the race. I could hear someone around me discussing their pace, and I seemed to be running with people in that range to start. Since I was late to the start line I still needed to stretch, so I pulled over for a few minutes. I couldn’t stop long though, I was ready to run!
Miles 4-10: There are 2 big hills before the Golden Gate Bridge. I took the first one slow and steady; there were people lining this hill cheering and it really helped! The second one leads up to the Golden Gate Bridge. I think I was so excited to be running toward the show-stopping beauty of a bridge that I didn’t notice how tired I was. I kept thinking, “I’m running toward the Golden Gate Bridge! I’m running toward the Golden Gate Bridge!” So, it was relatively painless.
It was cold, damp and foggy over the bridge this day but such a memorable experience. I was taking pictures like crazy with my phone and tripped over a cone that divided the runners from traffic on the other side of the bridge. Close call!
Miles 10-13.1: I personally believe these are the most challenging miles of the half marathon as they are mostly uphill. There are still some amazing views of the ocean, and even in to Golden Gate Park, but the high of running the pretty bridge starts to wear off. Running through the Richmond district was the least scenic and most frustrating physically for me. I stopped running once or twice on a hill to walk. At this point, I was still in “I just want to finish” mode so I could have cared less about my time.
The last mile in Golden Gate Park was lined with people cheering! There was not a lot of crowd support until this moment, but it was so very welcome. I was ecstatic when I finally saw the finish line and sprinted to the end! My official finish time was 2:08 and I was very satisfied. It was under the 10 min/mile pace I had hoped to maintain AND it was a hilly course.
I’m on the phone with mom!
The finish line was extremely cold, and I stood freezing in a long line to pick up my sweats. There was quite an array of food and beverages provided to all of the finishers, so I feasted then made my way to the shuttles to take me back to the start line. The race organizers provide a limited number of shuttles to spectators from the start line to the finish for a fee, but I was too late buying a ticket for my mom. So she was waiting for me at the Bay Bridge this entire time!
“If it doesn’t challenge you , it doesn’t change you.”
The San Francisco Marathon is a memorable and beautiful event that I think almost any runner would enjoy. It has challenging moments, but it makes the finish feel like that much more of an accomplishment. The exceptional experience I had at this race motivated me to keep running. Since then I have completed 3 more half marathons and one full marathon in the last 11 months. Currently, my fall race line-up includes 3 more half marathons and my second full marathon. And I’m already looking at races in 2014. Participating in this event created a whole new set of goals for my life; there’s no looking back now!