Where do I start? Amazing day.
Let’s start with the short version. 1.53.57. Over. The.Moon.
And here’s the long version. Very long.
There were three in our household running the SF Half. The Husband and our British friend Andy were running the first half, I was running the second half. So on Saturday, we hit the Expo along with our long-suffering son and Andy’s incredibly patient wife Rachel. It was busy and flipping exciting actually, it really got us excited for the race. Number pick-up and shirt pick-up was really smooth and took very little time. Unfortunately there was a disaster with the shirts…they were all waaay too small. I went up to a medium but the fit isn’t as good as last year’s blinder of a shirt. Andy, who is skinny as a rake, fitted an XL and the Husband got XXL and his arms poke out the end like he’s wearing arm capris. It was a real shame because the design is lovely. I heard a lot of people moaning, which I sympathise with, but also think ‘oh come on!’. We managed to feed the Dude lunch out of samples at the Expo and got away with only buying KT tape for the Husband’s achilles. We have no idea if KT tape is genuinely magical or a total con, but we thought we’d try it.
I wanted to go to the blogger meet-up at the Expo so left our group for a while. I’d bumped into local blogger Layla at the shirt pick-up and met her for the first time, but when I got to the meet-up I was struck with very uncharacteristic shyness and ended up sneaking off. Slightly embarrassed about that!
We then went to the zoo. This merits inclusion in a race recap simply because we finally saw the baby tiger and she is so utterly wonderful that a photo needs to be included.
In the evening, we watched the Desert Marathon episode of Biggest Loser. It was very moving and very inspirational and we all went to bed determined to run our socks off the next day.
The downside of having people in the first half marathon is that you have to get them there for the ridiculously early drop off. So we were up at 4am and left the house at 5am, along with a wide awake, very excited Dude. It was chilly when we dropped the boys near their start line so we brought out their expensive ‘disposable layers’!
From there, we had a surprisingly easy drive through the city to my start line in Golden Gate Park. I had been very nervous about finding a car park space there as the neighbourhood is notoriously bad for parking. But when you arrive at 6am, there are plenty of nearby spaces to be found. So we parked up, wrapped up in bin-bags and got to Spreckles Lake, my start point.
I was the first runner there. For about twenty minutes. I had my choice of porta-loos. I used most of them
We even got to watch the marathon elites run past. They were incredible, like gazelles. Watching the full marathoners run through was really exciting, we cheered a lot! I met Layla again and Kristin, whose blog I’ve read for ages, so it was lovely to see them! And then Rachel very sweetly took the Dude away and they walked up to the 1st Half Marathon finish line, a mile or so up the park. I had some time to get my head straight. Half excited, half nervous. And then I found Jen (yay)..and before we knew it, it was start time.
Mile 1. Amazing. So exciting. Downhill. Madonna loud on the headphones. BIG endorphin grins. Really inspired to be part of this. I wanted to run hard for the first downhill section. My ‘strategy’ was to push every downhill to make up for the uphills, so I blitzed it down the hill and then slowed naturally to a more realistic speed as we flattened out.
Miles 2 -6. Lovely miles in Golden Gate Park. Not as hilly as I remembered from my rehearsal run. Music was fab, I felt good. I tried to run a do-able but hard pace as blog-reader Brianna had advised and it worked. I loved this part of the run so much, I felt really good and the world was happy. Running down from Stow Lake onto JFK was incredible, I had this massive grin on my face the whole time. Just then, someone touched my arm and it was Cheryl who reads my blog and said hi! I felt like a rock-star, so Cheryl, thank you, you made my day and also encouraged me to run on harder!!!
The Husband had the iPhone today (with Nike Plus for mile split info). I ran with my basic watch and our iPod shuffle for music. I loved this – there was no constant update with my pace and the resulting pressure. I had written my goal times for miles 3, 7 and 10. I ran the best I could and checked in now and again. I knew I couldn’t run any faster at this point and felt relieved of the obligation to do so. It worked really well for me.
Miles 7 – 10 Out the park into the Haight. Once again, I feel like I’d over-estimated the hill here, if anything it was downhill…ooops. I was relieved to hit the downhill and pushed it along through some lovely houses. We entered the Mission and I looked out for Angela, out to cheer, but didn’t spot her. I was tiring a little but feeling okay even though it was getting warm! Gel at mile 8. All good.
Miles 10 – 13. Yeah, those final miles are hard. There were a surprising number of hills in those miles – especially in the mile I missed out in my rehearsal run. They took their toll on tired legs. I was slowing down but felt mentally pretty strong for a while, determined not to waste all the hard work. I kept asking myself ‘Baby or Warrior’ and every time, I’d push a little harder. The final miles go along the waterfront. I hit 11 miles and knew I was on track for 1.54 but wanted to push on and not take anything for granted.
My body was tiring now – I stumbled a couple of times and I found my body just wanting to walk, to stop running. My heart felt fine, my legs felt okay, I was just tired and wanted to stop, if that makes sense. But this voice kept coming in my head. Every time my body said ‘walk’ my head literally said ‘NO. This is NOT that day’. And I kept running. I also promised myself I never needed to run a half marathon again. (Already changed my mind about that!)
The Bay Bridge grew ever closer…and then it was mile 13 and I had 0.2 LONG, ENDLESS miles to go. My watch said 1.52 at mile 13 and I knew I had it. And eventually, I crossed the mat and my watch said 1.54.
BIG. CHEESY. GRINS. For about twenty minutes, I didn’t stop grinning.
I also stopped every race photographer, asked them to take my photo and grinned my endorphin-filled grin at them. So modest.
Because I ran the first half marathon last year and the 2nd this year, I got an extra medal – the Half It All medal. Oh my word, it’s amazing. Enormous, shiny, swivelly and blingtastic. In love.
My crew met me about twenty minutes later. Andy (who trained by running once a week) crushed his first half marathon in 1.58. The Husband (who trained by walking and cycling and running once) did astonishingly well by running the whole thing and finishing in 2.20. As such, they were grinning from ear to ear. We were high on endorphins. The Husband looked at my Half It All neck-breaker and then and there committed to getting one next year.
We saw Jen and her boyfriend by the waterfront. Jen ran a very smart, negative-splitting race in 2.01 (flipping hills). We hung out for a bit and took more photos before getting ice-cream and staggering back to the car to come home.
When I got home, I got a big surprise. My official time was 1.53.57. Seriously happy with that! Average pace of 8.43. How did I do that?
So that was it. Thank you ALL for your support and comments and confidence in me. Thank you Cheryl for saying hi! It was fab!
We wrapped the day up with champagne and burgers As you do.