First Marathon – San Fransisco 2016

The race started at 6 AM. Having come from New York City, I thought, piece of cake it’ll feel like it’s 9 AM. How much further from the truth could I have been? After being in San Fransisco for three days, waking up at 4 AM (West Coast Time) still felt like waking up at 4 AM in New York. After having ran my first half marathon almost two year prior to this race, I thought I was ready. Ready to tackle the distance, and ready for the adventure that San Fransisco would give me, and it did not disappoint.

The San Fransisco Marathon, is in a lot of the marathon bucket lists online, and my decision to run it, even though I knew my family and friends would be far away, was to discover a city that I fell in love with during a long weekend.

Traveling alone for a race can be daunting, but with today’s technology, my family and friends were still able to follow me, and to be honest, probably in a better and more comfortable way than they would have if they had been there during the race. I would get encouragement texts every 5K as I passed each check point, and while I did not look at my phone, the familiar phone buzzing on my arm still felt encouraging. Two of my friends living in San Fransisco at the time had told me that they would meet me at the finish line (6AM was way too early to be awake). The running community is also amazing, and being surrounded by half marathon and full marathon runners during the whole race meant never being alone. As always, each runner was there to further their goals, but also for each other.

The Course

Don’t let the scale on the elevation scheme trick you, the course is hilly (even though not going on the famous downtown hills was a blessing). The race is split up with two half marathons, starting at a staggered time, which meant always having fresh half marathon runners surrounding the full marathon runners.

The first half was amazing: starting at the Embarquadero, and crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, switching after the lookout at the end of the Bridge to get to the Botanical Garden.

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Golden Gate Bridge in the mist after the switch back

During the first half, I ended up pacing myself with a half marathon runner. I did not realize it until he would pop back next to me after each water station. After running next to each other for four or five miles, I decided to take off one of my headphones and introduce myself. He was a student from Germany, studying abroad for his masters at Berkley. This was his first half marathon and he was hoping to finish in two hours. When the course split up between the full and the first half marathon, he was well on his way to finishing in less than two hours. I learned later that he finished a bit over two hours, still proud.

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Hanging out with my half marathon friend before the course split

I continued my way onto finishing the first half, and my IT Band started hurting right as I crossed the 13.1 marker (just under two hours). Being stubborn, I decided that I was still going to run the second half and finish strong. My only goal was not to walk. Running within the second half course, the flow of half marathon runners for the second half. The route was scenic, going through different neighborhoods and finishing in the industrial zone before getting to the finish line where we had started. At mile 18, my knee still hurting but pushed to the back of my mind, I hit the wall pretty hard and slowed down. At that point I got passed by the 2 hour pacer for the second half marathon, and knew that my hopes of finishing my first half close to four hours was out of the question. I took one more nutrition gel (my favorite are the GU French Vanilla), and continued my way, counting miles down as I passed each marker. Passing the finish line was emotional, I had finally did it, a full 26.2 miles, and my friends got there as promised. My new friend from the first half marathon was also there to congratulate me. Both of us were emotional, and had finished with our main goals reached. I was also able to see all of my texts with kind words of encouragement and loved every single one of them. I had crossed my first full marathon off of my bucket list and could not wait to do an other one. Yes my knee was in pain but the race was so amazing, that I forgot about the pain (for a second).

Since this marathon, I haven’t found a running buddy during a race as encouraging and fun as my first half encounter, but I am still looking, and loving the running community more every race.

Tips

  1. Don’t let yourself get fooled (like I did), this course is hilly, but the scenery is beautiful.
  2. The weather conditions were almost perfect (low 70s and drizzling). Yes, even though this is a summer marathon, you might not suffer from the heat.
  3. Even if the weather is helpful, don’t forget to hydrate.
  4. Enjoy the waterfront scenery on the first half and the city scenery on the second half.
  5. Even if this course is not full of supporters on the sidelines, enjoy the runners company and support (who knows you might make a new friend, or having someone pacing you and vice versa).
  6. Enjoy yourself!

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