A few days leading up to the race I began to question if I was running for the right reason. As you can tell by my site I love logos & medals. I’m also a sucker for any type of collectible and began to believe that I enjoyed the build up to the race more than the course itself. This actually stems from the terrible Run or Dye race where I was actually happy that the race was shorter than advertised. Would this race be any different?
The start was near Ghiraredlli square, with a 7 am start it was packed by the time I walked over at 6:15 am. I did my usual stretches while I waited for Angelo to join me. The night before my mind barely let me sleep more than 3 hours and yet now I could barely stand still.
Angelo showed up around 6:30 and we started talking about what to expect along the course. A woman at the expo mentioned to him that this was one of the most challenging race in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series. Internally I had a mini panic attack about my knee.
On the walk to the corrals, I could only think of punishment my knee was in for at the hands of the hills that lay ahead. While I wasn’t shooting for much of an improvement on my Rock ‘n’ Roll Pasadena time, I did want to finish ahead of the 2 hour 30 minute pacer that was in our corral.
From the get-go we were at a steady 6 mph pace. I had set the Endomondo app to give us a 10 min interval at the start, this allowed us to put some good distance between us and the rest of the corral.
The first two miles were a nice flat and wide street portion. We ran by some beautiful houses along the waterfront… which all had signs protesting a proposed restaurant on the open green. Ah SF, where even the rich are activists.
The guy above greeted us as we entered Crissy Field. This is one of my favorite spots in SF. Just beautiful open land with plenty of history. Old hangers converted into businesses. Miles of beaches just a stones throw away. Historical buildings are all over the place with plaques detailing how the air field was an important step in west coast aviation history. It also has a great path that leads to the miles of trails in the Presidio, including one that leads to the Golden Gate. Speaking of…
At the 5k mark we finally got a nice view of the bridge. Just seeing the Golden Gate made me run a little faster…. but those hills made me walk. My knee wasn’t complaining yet but I still wanted to take it easy on hills. I hope next year I can charge up them like most of my fellow runners.
We ran (well… power walked) past several more historical sites, including the somber Presidio Pet Cemetery. A half-naked man, who I think was the flag runner at RnR Pasadena, ran past me and gave me a Pacer shout out. He did not motivate me to run any faster but the girls around us quickened their pace.
And then something happened that I had never experienced during a run… I had to go… and bad. Every step I took felt like it was shaking my bladder. I knew I couldn’t hold it until the end. Hell we weren’t even at the half way mark! Thankfully there was a porta potty near the top. We lost a few minutes standing in line but I felt so much better and made it a point to ignore the next two walk intervals.
I have more shots of the bridge in the photo gallery at end of this post. Naturally we zoomed past a good chunk of people at this part. The road was wide since we were running on the bike path side. The views on the bridge were amazing so I had no hard feelings towards the walkers and photo takers.
By this point I had found my zone. Sure I felt tired but at no point did I think about quitting or coming to a complete halt. Well… we did stop for more photos but did I mention the amazing view? No, well see below.
At the turn around we ran into the first band on the course. I don’t remember who it was as the course took precedent over the music. While I had enjoyed the bands spread throughout RnR Pasadena, I was glad they didn’t try to squeeze too many into this one. The stages would have killed the greats views. And despite the limited spaces on the course, their were plenty of aid stations along the route.
I finished off another bottle of water and ripped open a bag of chomps to fuel up for the last 6 miles. A downhill kept me from running through this part since my knee hates those with a passion so I took in the view once again.
Yet another hill greeted us as we went under the bridge for the loop back. I ran up it but that was a very dumb idea since it drained quite a bit of energy. Again we ran across the entire length of the bridge. Passing people on this side was difficult since it was a narrow pedestrian only lane. Now we had the Pacific Ocean to look at and my was it a sight.
Once we got back across the bridge we started the slow descend back down to Crissy Field. This time we took a shortcut through the Battery trail. Getting off the tough concrete was a welcomed change.
Fort Point, another awesome historical site along the route, was the 10 mile marker and the last out-and-back. All that was left was a 3 mile run along the waterfront. Easy right?
The course switched back to trails along the beach and again the views were amazing. Angelo and I figured we could catch up the 2 hr 30 min pacer if we ran the rest of the course. We could see her up in the distance (she passed us during my pee break) and kicked it into high gear.
At this point, we rushed passed plenty of walkers and joggers running in the opposite direction. I guess you can’t shut trails for too long. Thankfully the trail was wide enough to handle everyone.
We eventually came to the last hill and, of course, I had to walk it. My knee wasn’t in pain but it definitely fatigued. This is where we also saw the 2 hr 30 min pacer so I power walked up that hill to pass her.
Though it also brought us to an unfortunate scene. A woman ahead of us was receiving medical treatment as she laid on the side of the path. According to the that Angelo found later in the week:
The woman was in cardiac arrest but was revived by paramedics and taken to a hospital in serious condition, the dispatcher said.
Later in the week the Rock and Roll Marathon series reached out to her and posted on theirRnR SF Facebook page:
Thank you guys for your concern. We are glad to report that the runner is recovering and still in the hospital. The family asked for privacy during this stage of recovery.
I hope she recovered from that. She was just one hill away from the finish.
I sprinted down the hill and around the bend to the start… only to realize the finish was actually about a quarter-mile from there. It took everything I had to finish that last leg.
I couldn’t spot Meghann in the crowd but the grandstands were full of people cheering and that was enough for me. I love races for their spirit. Sure they might come off as a “You’re all winners!” type of event but finishing IS a huge personal accomplishment. I was hungry, thirsty, dead tired… and I couldn’t help but smile. I chugged a bag of chocolate milk and ate a few bananas while I sat near the finish. I had just finished my second half marathon and was already looking forward to my third.
I love the medal, shirt, pint glass and all the other souvenirs I picked up that weekend but the parts that will always stay with me are ones that I can’t share. Like the cool breeze along the bridge while running at full speed. After running this beautiful and challenging course I can safely say that I love the sport.
Post Race Comments
The course was so amazing that I signed up for the 2014 edition. With a racer cap of a few thousand and a $20 discount, early registration was a no-brainer. I loved every part of the course, yes even the hills, and really hope they don’t change it too much for next year. It had just the right amount of bands, aid stations, and cheer squads. They were there when you needed them and faded away in time to take in the sights.
Speaking of sights, this weekend totally changed my view of the city! I had only been to San Francisco once before and it was less than ideal. Meghann and I went during a holiday weekend and the areas we visited were all tourist traps that were well over capacity. Thankfully this time around we decided to check out the other parts of the city. The day before we hiked around the Presidio of San Francisco and got a nice course preview. As you can tell from the course map above, this race took place on the northern coast of the city which lead to a nice long run along the waterfront. It was a welcomed escape from the touristy part of SF.