The San Francisco 2nd Half Marathon

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.

Andy missed the starting pistol!
Andy missed the starting pistol!

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.

Race 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’!

Ready to run…

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 😉

Looking hot! Well…warm, anyway!
Just me running, then.
Which one shall I start with?

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.

Gazelles – the first two men
Ready to run, please!
Pre-race selfie Photo by Jen
Pre-race selfie
Photo by Jen

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 finisher’s medal.
My Half It All medal. Side 1 for the 1st half over the bridge
And side 2 for the city.
And side 2 for the city.

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.

Rich SF
Love this – Andy and the Husband at their finish line!
Photo stolen from Andy

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.

finish 3
This photo kind of makes me giggle
finish line 5
Four half-marathoners! Big grins.

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.

35 Comments Add yours

  1. Liz says:

    Hi that was absolutely brilliant – well done you! Have you come down off the high yet? I totally admire you’re ability to run. I have a question how do you not get bored?? sorry but I manage it twice a week on average but can only do about 3-4miles as I just get really bored. Probably if I had SF bay to run by that would help rather than the rather mundane streets of Lincoln! but any advice would be good as I’d like to go longer and a bit faster too. Don’t think I’ll ever manage 2 hour long runs with work and family I just don’t have that kind of spare time in my week…:-( Give my congrats to Rich and Andy too – absolutely brilliant. XXX

    1. Cathryn says:

      No, still buzzing. Thank you for your support, it was so lovely to know you were rooting for me.

      Awesome question about getting bored. Going to do a blog post on it later this week. Filled with ideas for you 🙂


  2. Catw says:

    CONGRATULATIONS!!!! I just knew you were going to smash your PR with all that good training!

    1. Cathryn says:

      Thank you SO much! Congrats on your fantastic race as well! Enjoy your summer break!

  3. Madeleine says:

    Congratulations!! Awesome time. You must be so thrilled. Well done 🙂

    1. Cathryn says:

      Hey!! Thank you – yes, I’m still grinning (and aching)! You running?

  4. alyssa says:

    Very well done!

    1. Cathryn says:

      Thank you so much. Congrats on your great race as well!

  5. Nic J says:

    I can say no more! 🙂

    1. Cathryn says:

      Thanks, lovely! x

  6. Cheryl says:

    Woohoo! Great to “meet” you and so excited you got your PR! (I got one too since, well…it was my first marathon. Instant PR, right?) What’s your next race?

    1. Cathryn says:

      Yep, instant PR for you. I am in awe – I’ve run one marathon but I knew very clearly on Sunday that I could never manage the full SF marathon, you’re an absolute rock star! Were you pleased with your time? My next race is a trail half in August – just for fun!!

      1. Cheryl says:

        I came in at 4:41 and change — I was pretty happy and I didn’t totally destroy myself, so that felt great! (That said, if I do another it will be something involving fewer hills…haha)

      2. Cathryn says:

        That’s an amazing time on that course – it’s a killer! Well done. Your next one needs to be flat!!

  7. Jen says:

    Loved the recap and reading about what you were experiencing throughout the race. I do think it was a wise idea not to have your Nike+ in those early miles particularly — it could’ve have been disheartening/distracting. Congrats again and can’t wait to run with you soon! xo

    1. Cathryn says:

      Thank you! See you soon xxx

  8. Bean says:

    So excited for you! Such a great recap and a fabulous time. Congrats to the hubs and friend as well. And Jen! Sounds like you all did great! I ran today without the Garmin and though it was really nice to not have the pressure of keeping a certain pace- fast or slow. Maybe you are on to something.

    1. Cathryn says:

      Thanks Bean! I def think that for the race it helped me. I knew I was running the best I could, knowing I was too slow wouldn’t have helped me and knowing I was running too fast would have freaked me out. SO excited for HMB…signing up today!

  9. Juli Bronzini says:

    Yeah for YOU and yeah for HMB!!!! Can’t wait! I LOVE Richard’s grin! It makes me so happy (and slightly envious!) to see your post race photos! Very much looking forward to our trail run on Saturday! Fabulous effort- glad your training paid off!

    1. Cathryn says:

      Thank you, lovely girl! Really looking forward to Saturday, will email you. x

  10. Brianna says:

    Congrats Cathryn!!! So happy to hear about your PR. Totally inspired me to push a like harder during my tempo run this morning! Can’t wait to hear about the next race 🙂

    1. Cathryn says:

      So glad the inspiration was mutual…your thoughts on strategy were perfect!! Really grateful.

  11. Christine Thompson says:

    What super stars you all are and love your sense of humour.
    Well done to you all and a big hug to Andrew when we see him and Rachel for her support.
    Love Anrews mum xx

    1. Cathryn says:

      Thanks, Andrew’s mum. Didn’t you strike gold with your son and daughter-in-law!!! x

  12. Angela says:

    So happy for you!! I knew you were going to have a great race. 😉

    (Sorry I missed you, though — maybe you were going so fast you were just a blur!)

    1. Cathryn says:

      Thanks for reading the recap – I would have been tempted to skip them all in your position!! Heal quickly, hip!!

  13. Awesome!!! Congrats! So happy for you and your accomplishment. I hope you are still wearing both the medals and basking in the goal reached.

  14. Cathryn says:

    Thank you so much! The medal was too heavy to wear for long, but I still keep grinning at red lights when I think about it! 🙂

  15. Rockstar!!!! That is so awesome. So that’s really interesting that they have two half marathons starting at different times.

    Other things:
    1. Those medals are giant and cool.
    2. Love your shorts!
    3. Stealing the “baby or warrior” mantra.

    1. Cathryn says:

      Thank you!!! Still so excited about it! You can basically run the first half (miles 1 – 13) with the marathoners which goes along the waterfront, over the Golden Gate Bridge and back and finishes in GG Park or you can run the second half (miles 13 – 26) through GG Park,through the houses, past the baseball stadium and back to the Ferry Building. It’s a great option!

      You should check out Page’s blog ‘Twenty Six and then some’ which is where i nicked ‘baby or warrior’ from – she’s doing an ironman this weekend and she’s going to be amazing.

      And finally…I saw a guy wearing a Tshirt saying ‘Battle Mode’ which I LOVED and channelled a lot during the race. Clearly this mild-mannered girl likes WAR CRIES when she runs!! 🙂

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