San Francisco 1st Half Marathon

4.30am. Alarm goes off. I didn’t want to get out of bed. I definitely didn’t want to get up and run 13.1 miles in the darkness of a San Francisco morning. But I did.

We had spent the night at the home of some British friends, Erica and Mark, who live in the Haight. They have a toddler and a brand new baby, so I took lasagne, salad, watermelon and wine and we had a lovely evening laughing and talking. But in the early hours, I woke my sleeping Husband and we snuck out the house, leaving the Dude still asleep in our bed. There was a homeless guy asleep on the pavement next to my car – it struck me what a strange and pointless thing it is to run 13 miles, when people lack even the most basic facilities. It was a good sense- check.

It was cold, damp and foggy by the time the Husband dropped me at the Ferry Building, but the streets were buzzing with energy and activity. I used the porto-loos, frankly grateful that it was so dark I couldn’t see what was going on inside them, and popped two Immodium so that my stomach wouldn’t erupt during the run. Whilst I queued, the San Francisco Boys’ Choir gave a beautiful, sweet rendition of the National Anthem. Next up…hair.  I’d left my hair elastic in the car, so asked a lady at a sponsor stand if they had an elastic band, and was so touched when she pulled the elastic off her wrist and gave it to me. So kind. Then I joined the hundreds of strangers in my corral, vacillated about whether or not to leave my cotton long-sleeved top on, ended up taking it off and leaving it on the side of the street for the charity collection…and we were off.

I got a tall person to take this photo of Wave 4 starting
Ready to run!!!

Mile 1 & 2…. Flew by. Fast and flat. The only problem was finding space to run at my pace, it was crowded and I lost the 2-Hour pacers in the first mile simply because I couldn’t geographically keep up with them. And I had music issues – my Shuffle had recorded strangely so I could hear the backing track but not the singing. Kind of like being backstage at a concert. Never mind…I could live with that.

Mile 3…The first hill at Fort Mason. Short but steep. I thought I would be Queen of the Hill with my hill training but people who looked less fit than I did seriously shot past me. Slightly disheartening but I kept thinking about running my own race and just kept running on. Once on the flat of Marina Drive it became easier to find my own space.

Mile 4….Flat along Chrissy Field, enlivened by three things. Our first glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge totally shrouded in fog, just its feet peeping through. Then, the Cheering Squad at Sports Basement. We heard them before we saw them due to the fog, but they were there at some ungodly hour cheering us on. And then a very beautiful line of 20 or 30 BIG American flags, and the photos of some soldiers who had died in the field. All the Americans cheered when they got to the flags. I just cried a bit, which made it hard to breathe and very hard to down my first Gu. Note to self…do not cry whilst running.

Sports Basement cheering squad
Photo taken from the SF Marathon FB page

Mile 5… The first serious hill up to Golden Gate Bridge. I just worked my way quietly up. People were walking at this point, I didn’t walk and took great comfort in that.

Miles 6 to 9 1/2…Golden Gate Bridge. Basically we ran out over the bridge to Marin, turned around and ran back.  I’d been so excited about this part of the run but actually I didn’t enjoy it much. It was cold, very foggy and very crowded which meant it was nigh on impossible to run at my own pace. I expected goosebumps from the atmosphere but they never came. Instead came the uphill and downhill over the bridge, the uphill to the turnaround and the same on the way back. We had the faster runners passing us on their way back, but I found that a little depressing, they looked so much faster and stronger than I felt. And yet there were magic moments. The elderly, blind gentleman at the side with his white stick. The girl running with the t-shirt which celebrated the ‘victory dance’ of a little girl who died this year aged just 10. Note to self again: do not cry when running.

There is a small chance I’m in this photo – on the right, to the right of the tall girl in the pink top. I’m the small one, dark ponytail, coral top. Photo taken from the SF Marathon FB page

Mile 9 1/2 – 10…. Off the bridge and up the last significant hill. I was so tired here I felt like I was crawling up the hill. Seriously crawling, like an ant. There was too much fog to see the fantastic ocean views from last week’s run but the downhill was just what I needed. I stretched my legs and ran a smidgen faster. And my iPod shuffle died a death. No more music. No Eminem. No Florence. Just the sound of my breathing. Grrreeat.

Miles 11 – 13…Through the residential neighbourhood of the Richmond. Rolling hills that just kept coming. Nothing big but just endless. I don’t remember those AT ALL from last week’s recce. My legs were so tired I wanted to walk, but I didn’t, I just kept saying ‘Push, push, push’ and thinking how hard I’d worked to get here. And then finally into Golden Gate Park (uphill, natch). At about mile 12 1/2, we split off from the full marathon runners. They went right, we went left. I honestly don’t know how they did it. I had nothing left in my legs, there was no way I could have run 26.2 miles on this course!!

Mile 13

It got quieter, having left the marathoners. We headed into the park, up another little hill. And then, in the distance, I could see the finish line through the trees and the road mercifully dropped for the downhill finish. I sped up (ie…moved faster, not moved fast) and pushed for that final finish. As I headed into the chute, I heard a ‘Cat, Cat’ and saw the Husband and the Dude on the right, waving furiously. And then I’d crossed the line!!! I stopped my watch and saw 2.04.43. Happy with that! Very happy, thank you.

A vision in coral, don’t you think?

It was FREEZING at the finish…we were all wet from the fog and the drizzle and it was cold. I lined up for my medal (so pretty, maybe a little girly?) and then gratefully for my space blanket. Oh that made me warmer. I posed for my official finishing photo (it’s going to be a shocker but I was so happy) and then met my boys for hugs. I could have got an Irish Coffee but I seem to be losing my ability to eat copiously and drink alcohol immediately after a long run. This is most distressing…especially the eating. Is this part of getting old?

Looking like a proper hard-core runner
Extra body warmth
A quick photo sans space blanket!
My cheering squad

We walked back to Erica and Mark’s…I needed the mile or so to loosen up. The Husband had borrowed Mark’s bike with its toddler seat on the back. It was the first time The Dude had been on a bike seat (we have a trailer) and he ADORED it!!!! Need to look into this. A quick cup of tea and we were heading home for our usual Skyping Sunday session.

Me and my shiny new medal

So…all in all…a great race. I’m not sad I didn’t go sub-two. It was a big stretch and I realised quickly that on such a hilly and crowded course it wasn’t going to happen. My main goal was to take some time off my Kaiser time, which I did, and I’m really happy with that. My only concern is that the official time currently puts me at 2.28 which was the time on the clock when I finished…I started 20 mins or so after the clock started so I’m waiting for them to adjust the timings but there’s a part of me that’s worried my watch let me down and that I really ran much slower than I’d expected. But we’ll see. For tonight at least, I ran 2.04.43!!

Me and my new shirt….note the Bridge on it.
Sorry about the mess, we have a toddler!
Eye eye, guess who got a medal?

The race was excellently organised, I really enjoyed it. I loved the Hells Angels who manned the course…although having seen Sons of Anarchy I was a little nervous around them!!! I thought the race organisers did a fantastic job using social media – this is the first big race I’ve done since Facebook came into being so I don’t know if they did an exceptional job or if this standard, but I was really impressed.

The rest of the day was about sleeping, eating and trying not to seize up.  I veered between ravenous and nauseous.  We hit the pool for a bit and then went out for burgers with Erica and Mark. ‘Let’s go out for a burger’ are six words I seriously NEVER utter…but today it was all I wanted.

Celebratory ice-cream
Turkey burger!

It was a good day and a good run. And I’m shattered!!

14 Comments Add yours

  1. Dana says:

    I am totally inspired!!!! YOU ROCK!!!

    1. Cathryn says:

      Thank you!! Hope your day got better 😉

  2. I loved reading this race recap! Great job. I know you’ll go sub-2 very son!

    1. Cathryn says:

      Thanks! I hope so. I need to buckle down and do some extra work but I really want it now!

  3. TJ says:

    oh gosh, congrats girl! this all looks fabulous! love that shot of the golden gate bridge.
    xo TJ

    1. Cathryn says:

      Thanks!! It’s not my shot, I got it from the organizers’ FB page, but it’s fantastic isn’t it! It was cold on the bridge though.

  4. Great, great run! It is hard to go super fast in crowded races, but the experience is usual memorable. A good trade! And I shed a tear watching men’s gymnastics tonight. Did you watch?

    1. Cathryn says:

      I didn’t watch but I heard the news. SO sad for us…but just getting a medal is ground breaking for the UK so we were glad. Not speaking to Japan any more though. No more sushi 😉

      I think you’re right about big races…smaller races for good times, bigger races for the experience.

  5. Jen says:

    I’m also looking to get a sub-2 half this year, but I wouldn’t have tried it for the San Francisco Half — too many hills! As for not being hungry — I’ve also gone from being ravenous after my first half marathon to not wanting to eat after races. I’ve heard that the harder you run, the less you want to eat right away. Your body is still thinking “flight” instead of “rest and eat and relax.” Seems to make sense to me.

    1. Cathryn says:

      I think you’re right!! So at least there’s comfort in knowing I ran my hardest! And I managed to eat very well later 😉

  6. Nicola j says:

    Well done you! You should be rightly proud of that achievement! I remember the crowds when we did the Great North Run and there is no way you can fight through that and maintain your rhythm. Hope you’re about recovered by now, and enjoying the the Olympic dramas we’re being treated to. Just tched the medal ceremony for the equestrian team event. Lovely touch to have former Olympian Princess Anne presenting the medal to her daughter! Go Team GB!

    1. Cathryn says:

      I thought of the GNR as I tried to find my feet some space in the first few miles.We do big races for the experience rather than the PRs don’t we. Loving the ‘lympics….haven’t seen the eventing yet (although i knew the results). We sobbed our way through Tom Daley and his mate not winning a medal last night.

  7. Kristen says:

    Ahh, I have been behind on my blogs so I didn’t know you ran this. I would have loved to meet you.

    Awesome job though – you totally kicked butt. That was a hilly course.

    I totally forgot to mention the American Flags in my recap. That was pretty cool.

    I am an SOA fan too! 🙂

    1. Cathryn says:

      I loved the flags though, even if flag-sobbing is incompatible with GU swallowing. Hope to meet you at another race!!!

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