Where to begin?! My time in San Francisco was special. This marathon gave me a new appreciation of the city and I loved being able to experience it as a marathoner. Never before have I run a race that truly represented the host city so well. Often I tend to get in the zone and block out everything around me but this was impossible in SF. The view was always changing and I never knew what was around the corner. Was it an uphill, a downhill? Was it a view of the water, skyscraper, city streets, park?
I’ve had this race on my bucket list for years. John and I met and were married outside San Francisco in the summer of 2001. In fact, our wedding pictures were taken in Golden Gate park and beach area.
We moved away from the city to Arkansas a few months after we were married but we still have family in the area so every couple of years we return to visit. This summer was our 15th year anniversary. We had originally planned for a beach vacation but once my husband suggested San Francisco I was sold! I immediately applied for elite entry using my Chicago, 2015 marathon time of 2:58. Within two weeks I heard back that I was granted elite status so we bought plane tickets and reserved our hotel.
We arrived in San Francisco Friday afternoon. I love visiting big cities but being there for a couple days is always long enough. The traffic and time it takes to get anywhere is much more than we’re used to. From my house I can go almost anywhere in my town in about 4 or 5 minutes including work, kids school, grocery store, church, my running trail, etc. That’s small town Arkansas for you!
We were staying at the Hyatt Regency in San Francisco which was the host hotel. I would definitely recommend this to anyone running the San Francisco Marathon. It was in a very convenient location right next to the start and finish line. The race also offered complimentary shuttle travel from the hotel to and from the expo.
Friday night we walked around the Embarcadero and explored around the hotel a little. Saturday morning we had breakfast and then rode the shuttle to the expo which was at Fort Mason. It was a smaller expo than many of the bigger city marathons I’ve been to but it had a very unique atmosphere.
We decided to walk down to Fisherman’s Wharf which was near Fort Mason. On our way we went down a long hill. I joked with John that I hoped this wasn’t part of the course. I found out the next morning, sure enough it was!
At Fisherman’s Wharf we had lunch and did a little shopping. We walked a little further to Pier 39. There was a lot to do and see there but by noon we decided to head back to our hotel. Fortunately we found a cable bus going to the Embarcadero so we were able to get a ride from there. (I was trying to keep an eye on how much walking I did the day before and didn’t want to overdo it the way I did once in New Orleans the day before a race.)
Saturday afternoon I continued to drink a lot of water and put my feet up while I relaxed. We decided to eat dinner at the hotel restaurant Saturday evening to minimize walking and time. I needed to go to bed early since the race started at 5:30.
I woke up at 4:00 so I could eat something and drink some water. John went down to the lobby to get me oatmeal at 4:15. I ate as much oatmeal as I could which was about half a bowl. I also had about half of a banana. I don’t seem to have any trouble scarfing down food at any time except before a race. We left our hotel around 4:45 to head over to the start area. I waited about 10 minutes for a port-a-potty and then headed to the start. From there I said goodbye to John. He was planning to try to see me at the Golden Gate Bridge.
(*All race pics provided by Saucony. I’m at the start in the hot pink on the right.)
6:53, 6:51, 6:52, 6:45, 6:50
My goal for the race was to run around 6:40-6:50 pace. This would get me a sub 3 and possibly beat my PR of 2:58. I knew the elevation would make things interesting but I felt confident with my training cycle that this should be realistic. My coach had recommended easing into the start with 6:50’s for the first 2 miles before dropping into the 6:40’s for the remainder of the race. Typically in a race I have a hard time “easing” into it but not this time. I knew I needed to start this course conservative. The first mile was very flat along the Embarcadero. We ran past Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf. The first big incline was just after the mile 2 marker and sure enough it was going up the hill past Fort Mason- the one we walked down after the expo. Then we continued up along Crissy Field onto Fort Point. Mile 5 had a huge incline as we ran up to the base of the Golden Gate Bridge.
7:16, 6:42, 6:40, 6:53, 6:56
The next 4.5 miles were over the Golden Gate Bridge. It was almost 2 miles across the bridge and once we were completely across the bridge we ran towards a turnaround and then back across the bridge again. I saw John just as I was leaving the bridge (around mile 9.5) and waved to him quickly. I knew that would most likely be the last time I’d see him during the race and it was.
The second half of mile 9 had another big incline. This may have been the hardest one of the race. It was during this mile I realized the hillier miles were taking more out of me and I didn’t know if I was going to be able to make up my time from these miles.
6:50, 7:14, 6:57, 6:42, 7:02
The next section went through the Presidio and Golden Gate Park. Mile 12 was along the rolling neighborhood hills of 27th Avenue. I went through the half around 1:31:30 and I knew sub 3 was not going to happen. Maintaining a sub 6:50 pace was proving to be too difficult with all the incline. I decided I needed to make a slight goal pace adjustment and shoot for sub 7 pace. If I stayed focused and kept my head in it I could make it under 3:05.
7:04, 7:18, 6:57, 7:10, 6:54
We continued running through Golden Gate Park and then Strawberry Hill. Mile 18 was along the Conservatory of Flowers and Hippie Hill. At mile 20 we entered Haight St. There was a HUGE descent from 20-21 that could not have come at a better time. Instead of “hitting the wall” this stretch gave me an extra boost of energy and confidence. At that moment I loved running and I loved being a marathon runner. I thanked God for getting me to this part of the race and prayed that He would get me through the last 10k. I was feeling good and told myself I could do this.
6:45, 7:09, 7:20, 7:06, 6:59, 6:57, 3:17 (6:28 avg.) for last 0.51.
Once the big descent leveled out I had one more big climb on 16th St. around mile 22. After that the course was fairly flat (compared to everything else). I kept talking myself through each mile and I stayed postive. My favorite mile of the race was at 25 when I ran on the Embarcadero next to the bay behind AT&T park. It was so serene and peaceful. It was another one of those “I love running” moments. I generally don’t have these thoughts during the last 10k of a marathon but the last 10k of SFM was special.
I actually passed two ladies (they may have been doing the 2nd half marathon) and a couple guys. I felt strong and knew I was almost done. My last half mile was just under a 6:30 pace. When I saw the clock was in the 3:04’s I was happy.
Official Finish Time: 3:04:30. 8th Female Overall/ 1st AG.
Weather was in mid to upper 50’s, overcast, with 7-8 mph winds. Basically it was perfect running weather for someone who had been training in insane warm summer temps!
As far as fuel I had 4 gels throughout the race around miles 6, 12, 17 & 22. I tried to drink a few sips of water with the gel so I would try to time opening my gel with seeing a water station. I also had some Nuun on other miles when I didn’t have a gel. This race provided Nuun instead of Gatorade. I’m not a huge Nuun fan but some flavors are more tolerable than others.
Once I crossed the finish line it only took a few minutes to find John. He had been worried because the race tracking site was not giving him any updates. I went over every checkpoint and had my tracker on the entire time so I’m not sure what happened. The results table had my 23 mile time and finish time but that was it. None of my other splits were recorded.
John thought I would be disappointed that I didn’t make it sub 3. Of course a sub 3 would have been great but I was actually very happy and content with this 3:04. I worked hard for it and didn’t give up physically or mentally. In the past 9 months I’ve run 6 marathons- 2:58, 3:02, 3:03, 3:00, 3:10, and now 3:04. The only two marathons I had a positive last 10k experience was the 3:00 in March (Little Rock Marathon) and this 3:04 in San Francisco. To me, staying positive and strong mentally in the last 10k is huge. I will go sub 3 again but I know weather and course are two factors I need to have on my side.
After the race we went back to our hotel to shower and clean up before we went to the Giants game at AT & T park.
Long trip home but so good to see this bunch again!
Marathon recovery and jumping into a 4-Mile race. I’m curious how that ones going to turn out myself! We’ll find out tomorrow!