San Francisco Marathon Race Recap

The alarm went off at 4:00 but strangely, neither my mom nor I remember hearing it go off. But we were both awake. I braided my hair and then ate half a bagel with peanut butter. I did some yoga to wake my body up and then got dressed. My bib proved a little more difficult to pin on straight than I anticipated. Nevertheless, by 5:00 we were ready to go and headed down to wait for Lyft. I ate the second half of my bagel while we waited. There were quite a few other people awake and headed to the marathon, which I found encouraging.

Our Lyft driver dropped us off about two blocks from Embarcadero and we joined the trickle of runners making their way toward the start. We made a pit-stop at the porta potties, which did have a pretty long line but we were there about 45 minutes before my wave was set to start, so it wasn’t too big a deal to wait ten-ish minutes. I’m so glad we did because this prevented any bathroom stops during the race.

My mom was in Wave 7 so we said goodbye at the gate for Wave 6.

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Last selfie before the race!

I sipped water and watching the sun come up behind the Bay Bridge. I got one decent picture:

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but my mom got a great one:

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Yes, my mom really took this on her iPhone 5. What a world we live in.

Wave 6 waited at Folsom Street, which was right in front of the finish line:

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Once it was our turn, we moved about two blocks west to the starting line and started at about 6:10. Instead of a gun, they rang a cable car bell which I thought was great. Bells are better than guns. Less startling.

The first mile I remember thinking This is it! about ten million times so it felt like it took quite a while. At some point, I ditched my throwaway jacket because it felt pretty warm. We ran past the Ferry Building, past Pier 39, and then past Fisherman’s Wharf (which is close to Ghirardelli Square.) Mile 2 passed much more quickly than Mile 1 and we were running right along the beach, which was beautiful. It was also starting to get pretty foggy and I couldn’t see the Golden Gate Bridge at all. The first aid station was around mile 2.5 but I didn’t stop. Right after the aid station was the first hill. It was steep but short and I had no problem powering up it. We were running through a small park that had beautiful trees all around us. I was enjoying the sight and then saw, up on the hill above us, someone dressed up as a clown. Yes, a clown. I said “Oh, that’s nice.” The people nearby smiled and nodded so I explained, “No, there’s a clown up there.” We decided that we could probably stampede him to death or just outrun him but it was a funny moment.

It kept getting foggier as we ran along the water so I couldn’t really see much. But I was having such a good time. My playlist kept giving me songs I hadn’t heard in a while and I had to keep reminding myself not to go too fast. The next hill was longer but it still wasn’t that steep, at least not to me. I passed quite a few people and passed Mile 5 not long after. I knew from the map that we’d be on the Golden Gate Bridge soon but my dreams of a beautiful sunrise view were dashed by the thick fog all around us. This was also around when I ate 2 Gatorade chews for my first mid-run fuel.

That being said, there is something incredible about seeing the red towers of the Golden Gate emerge from the fog. It makes you feel so small and it just keeps going. This part of the course was an out and back so people from waves 3 and 4 were running the other direction. And I’ll say this: it was really freaking cool to run on the bridge. Every once in a while, a fog horn would play from below, reminding me where I was. The bridge itself was about 2, 2.25 miles long, I think, so I passed Mile 7 right before I got off the bridge. But right before I did, there was this moment when the sun shone strong enough to break through the fog and turned everything golden. It was one of those transcendent moments we talk about in poetry, where the world lines up just perfectly and you’re lucky to witness it. I ate my second round of mid-run fuel (3 Gatorade chews) at mile 9.

After the bridge, we ran onto a little park/rest area where they had another aid station. I took water at this one. I knew better than to try to drink and run so I stopped to gulp water. Then we ran back around and headed back across the bridge for miles 7-9 (approximately). I saw my mom and yelled at her just in time for her to see me, which made me really happy. At this point, I was in a state of disbelief that I was already at mile 9—almost halfway!

Once we got off the bridge, we ran through the Presidio which I’m sure is really cool but I didn’t see much of it because of the fog. Big, beautiful trees but that’s all I could see. I did see two guys walking with takeout pizzas up the middle of the marathon. I wonder where they were going and if they were getting paid to walk up a hill.

After the Mile 10 marker, my Garmin was off by 0.2 so I was trying to not to weave around people but then we hit a downhill and I couldn’t help myself. I take my downhill running form very seriously and I knew better than to try to hold back so I just tried to keep myself perpendicular to the hill. This, unsurprisingly, was my fastest mile: 9:06. I tried to take water at the aid station but accidently got the Nuun they were giving out. It wasn’t what I wanted so I threw it out after one sip.

We started climbing up through a neighborhood I don’t know the name of. The houses were exactly what you expect when you think of a San Francisco neighborhood. I saw lots of people walking on these hills but they didn’t feel too bad to me and I was still feeling good. But after passing Mile 12, it felt like the next mile took forever. This was the point we entered Golden Gate Park and the first half runners split off. Golden Gate Park is gorgeous: I’m glad we got to run in it for as long as we did. Mile 13-14 were the only time, I think, when it was just the full marathon runners and I liked the diminished crowds. The fog wasn’t as concentrated as it had been in the Presidio so I could see more of my surroundings and it was gorgeous.

After I passed the halfway point, I started to feel it a little. I expected it and I was able to ignore it pretty well. There was some confusion at one point between where the first half runners were supposed to go versus where the second half and full runners were supposed to go. There was a girl running to my right, a few steps ahead, who realized too late she was supposed to be way on the other side of the road. She cut in front of me and I caught the back of her shoe. I immediately said “Sorry!” and she gave me this glare and said, “Watch where you’re going.” I decided she was probably in pain and I shouldn’t take it personally.

We kept running through Golden Gate Park through miles 13-16. Around Mile 17, we passed the first half finish and it was a nice burst of motivation to see all those people finishing their race. Plus, it’s hard to be too upset when there are so many people cheering. Right before this, I was running up a little hill and there were three girls my age running but they weren’t really paying attention to what was going on around them: cutting back and forth, drifting together and then apart. And they were so excited because they were on mile 3 of the second half. In hindsight, I can appreciate their excitement but I was on Mile 16 and kind of hated them.

We finally left Golden Gate Park around Mile 19 and headed into Haight-Ashbury. To be honest, I had low expectations for this part because I’d heard Haight-Ashbury was kinda gritty, which it was. But there were also a lot of people out cheering and the neighborhood itself was also funky and cool. In any other situation, I would not be cool enough to set foot there but running a marathon it felt just right. This was also when I got my second wind and a good song came on (‘Problem’ by Natalia Kills) so I was cruising for the miles we were on Haight. I also saw my two favorite signs. One said “Toenails are for 5k runners” and the other said “Pain is temporary. Social media brags are forever.”

My second wind lasted until about Mile 21, when we left Haight and were just running through part of the city. It wasn’t a great part. Lots of construction, not a lot of people around, and it was hot. There wasn’t a lot of shade. I stopped at every aid station to chug water and at Mile 22.5 I ate my last three chews. By this point, my Garmin was about 0.4 ahead of the actual course and I knew I’d be running a little more than 26.2 miles but I also didn’t care because I was so close.

It was also in this section that a car somehow appeared on the course. I have no idea how he got onto the course but he did and the runners just sort of ignored him because we were all suffering various degrees of pain. And then, finally I saw the Mile 24 marker and we were running right by the water again. And I saw the Bay Bridge—I knew the finish line was just a little past it.

I expected Mile 24 to stretch on forever but it went by pretty quickly. Once I saw Mile 25, I started to speed up. I almost choked up because I knew I was going to finish now but crying makes it hard to breathe so I reined it in. I wanted to be done and I wanted my last mile to be my fastest for no other reason than that’s what happened on my 18 and 20 mile long training runs. I skipped the last aid station because we were so close to the finish line and there would be water there. Finally, finally, finally I saw the blue arch and my watch buzzed for 26 miles. The full runners went to the right, the second half runners went to the left and I came as close to sprinting as my poor legs could manage. And I crossed the finish line. The guy who finished right next to me started shouting “YEAH!” I wanted to agree but I was too out of breath. My final time was 4:17:56. According to my Garmin, I ran 26.59 miles.

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I DID IT!

I got my medal, my water bottle, and my free banana. Some people got those foil blankets but I was really hot so I skipped them. My mom found me and she had brought me a Gatorade from the hotel and it might be the best thing I’ve ever tasted. I sat in the shade for a few minutes, snapped some selfies and then we got a Lyft back to the hotel. I felt so bad for getting in that guy’s car as sweaty and salty as I was but I was not capable of walking half a mile back to the hotel.

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So thankful for shade and high on running endorphins.

I took a shower and my mom got us food from Starbucks. I ate a bacon and egg sandwich, drank my Gatorade, sat with my legs up, and then took a nap. My legs were tired, my knees and ankles hurt, but I was so freaking happy.

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The hills were not as bad as I was expecting. Everyone else seemed to disagree. I heard a lot about ‘hills on hills’ but I honestly didn’t think they were that bad but I think that’s because the hills I ran in training would be considered mountains by anyone who isn’t from Boise. So I’m thankful for that because I truly believe that is what saved my legs. The course itself was well marked and anytime there was a turn that had the potential to be confusing, they had Event Monitor people to direct us. The volunteers were awesome. San Francisco is an amazing city and the San Francisco Marathon is incredible.

I’ll also do a general recap of our trip and then later this week, my future running plans.

Until next time, fellow humans,

Elizabeth

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