The morning of June 16 started like almost any other race morning – I set the alarm for an obscenely early time (in this case, 4 AM) and like clockwork, I woke up each hour, on the hour, before it was time to really get up. No worries, since we were staying at the host hotel (the Hyatt Regency – Embarcadero) and the start was about 3 minutes away!
- It was inside a building! Warm, with real bathrooms and comfortable places to sit
- Cool opportunity to hang out with my fellow Ambassadors
- Celebrity sightings – of all sorts! Saw both Sean Astin and Anne Bretan (female winner of the race)
- Nice spread of foods (I had a bagel with PB – toasted, and banana)
- VIP bag check
Before long, however, it was time to head to our corrals! I was in Wave 3, which had a 5:42 AM start. It was exciting to see the Bay Bridge and the last glimmers of the night there as we waited to begin the race.
Once the gun went off, the course started through some familiar territory, as we had walked part of the path the day before when we were sightseeing: up the Embarcadero toward the Piers, the Fisherman’s Wharf, a section of the Presidio and eventually, the Golden Gate Bridge!
Now, I have to admit – it being my first visit to San Francisco, I was more than just a little excited to run on the bridge…and let me tell you, the experience was even more amazing than I could have ever imagined.
The bridge starts a little before Mile 6 of the course, then you run across, hitting Mile 7, running a scenic turnaround area (as seen in the photo above) and then back across, as you pass Mile 8 and 9. I took a quick glance at my splits after the race and saw that some of my best times were at this point in the race because seriously…you feel like you are FLOATING across this bridge. There is some wind, but it’s more of a magical breeze that transports you! It was the best running moment EVER.
As we headed out of that zone, it was a nice downhill section through the Presidio toward the Sea Cliff area, and eventually, Golden Gate Park. Golden Gate Park is where the First Half ends, the course splits up, and the Second Halfers blend in…this was orchestrated nicely and I enjoyed the rolling hills of this section.
Around Mile 19, you’re out of the park and into the Haight Ashbury area, then The Mission. This part was a bit more challenging mentally, as it was strictly city running with some pretty steep hills. What WAS awesome was the way that the course alternates on certain city roads to alleviate traffic congestion, so there would be parts that runners would be directed onto different streets, only to funnel back in to main courses once we rounded out back near the bay.
The last stop on our scenic tour was the AT&T Ballpark, which was a neat sight as well. The walkway was nice and wide, and then we poured back onto the Embarcadero, bringing it home.
I have to admit, that last mile was hard! I couldn’t figure out why we weren’t at the finish yet (I obviously overran the course, because when I passed the finish line, was at 26.67) and was ready for some ice cold water! Those slightly negative thoughts melted away though, as I saw the familiar signage and those magical words: FINISH.
For a split second, I wished I hadn’t walked as much (through every water station and up a few hills in the Mission area) or that I hadn’t gone to the bathroom (I had drank water at every said water stop) or taken pictures along the way, but then I remembered the post I had recently written about my goals for this race and couldn’t be upset anymore…after all, I had done what I had come to do: enjoy the race and the day! I went into this race with minimal speed work and just one 19-mile run: this was certainly a testament to my own fitness level and renewed my drive to reach toward a FAST race in the fall.
Striding through the finisher’s chute, I had the hugest grin and I just couldn’t wipe it off my face as I was handed all kinds of goodies: Panera scones, Hawaiian rolls, chocolate milk, coconut water…heaven! After picking up my bag from Perry’s, I called hubs to see how he did (he ran the first half) and then headed back to the room to freshen up and explore on our last day in San Francisco.
I couldn’t have asked for a better day – from the course itself, to the organization…and OH MY GOODNESS the volunteers! There was a massive contingent of amazing, helpful and friendly volunteers, from the water/aid stations, to the course marshals (the Harley Davidson volunteers were THE BEST) and our fearless SFM Ambassador team, it was a weekend I will not soon forget.
I’d recommend this race to ANYONE and would love to answer any questions you might have about it – and if you ran it…leave me a comment and let me know how you did!
* Pictures are still being uploaded on marathonfoto.com – I just pulled these to start with because I was so darn excited to share 😉 I WILL be buying that last photo, I can promise that! 😀