“The real contest is within. The real trophy is the self” – George Sheehan
I arrived at the race start in the heart of Union Square in SF at about 6:30 a.m. The race would begin at 7:00 a.m. The streets in and around Union Square were at full capacity and BUZZING in the Sunday morning darkness. I walked around smiling, so happy to be in the race atmosphere once again. Glittering lights surrounded us and music boomed through the city streets. Electric. The crowd of 25,000 runners quieted long enough for us to hear the beautiful voice of a 16 year old girl sing the National Anthem for us. AHHHHH……what a moment!
Soon enough, we got moving and I crossed the starting line, feeling loose and ready to go! We were off and running and within a block, into the Financial District, that area normally reserved for the suit wearing professionals, but today, was reserved for us Runners. This Mid-October Sunday that held much promise and possibility for us all. We passed the towering Transamerica building, home to the first professional job I ever had and where I would begin my financial career. Memories…
The route then took us along the Embarcadero and with the Bay to my right, I kept trying to find my stride. This proved difficult for the first 3 miles, at least, as it was VERY CROWDED. Lots of weaving in and out of fellow runners and walkers. We ran by Fisherman’s Wharf, the Marina Green and Chrissy Field. Along this stretch, I kept looking out onto the Bay…awesome views even on a foggy/overcast morning. I looked out to Alcatraz and the famed place was shrouded in fog except for a one light peeking out. Fantastic views of The Golden Gate in her early morning hour, still stunningly beautiful in her sleepy state. We, runners, very much awake as we tackled our 1st and steepest hill of the day. The was at Mile 6 as we made our way up into the Presidio area. I purposely paused my iPOD here so I could just listen to the group of us as we made our climb. I just think there is something beautiful about these moments…all together, but on our own separate journey; each with our own private thoughts and personal goals for the day…Top of the hill, iPOD back on.
The temperatures felt a little cooler up here but also felt awesome. Refreshing. Delicious aromas in the air from all the nearby Eucalyptus trees. I was on good pace — better than I had anticipated. Body was feeling good. Soon, we had a lengthy, fantastic downhill section. I took full advantage and stormed downhill. I had a small thought that maybe I should take it easier, but I just didn’t. I went for it and tried to make up some time in case I needed it later. Time in the bank, so to speak.
Soon enough, the Cliff House and The Pacific Ocean came into full view. AHHHHH…..
As we turned onto the Great Highway, I caught my 1st glance of Sharon, who was there at about mile 11. Gave her a quick hug and kept chugging along. I was happy to see her because we really didn’t plan it out well as to where we would see each other. She had her bike and was going to catch me at different mile markers, but we totally missed our specific details! As I left, I said, “meet me in the park”. That’s pretty specific, huh!
At this point, the crowd was pretty heavy. We entered Golden Gate Park from the ocean side and headed west for about 1.5 miles. This was also where the Half Marathoners split off and us Marathons continued on. Amazing how the running crowd totally thinned out. Out of 25,000 total runners, only about 5000 ran the FULL MARATHON. (Bragging here!!
I had taken about 6 Gels with me at the start and by mile 15-16, I only had 2 left so when i saw Sharon again, I was hoping she had some with her. We saw each other around mile 16 and she didn’t have them and would have to ride back to the car to get them. Then, I said, “ok. meet me at the lake.” THE Lake would be Lake Merced and its about a 3 miles loop. So, another example of no specifics. I don’t know what i was thinking. Apparently, I wasn’t. HA!
So, I had 2 Gels left with 10 miles to go and I was a little worried I would need more. and nervous we would not meet up again. I started drinking the NUUN Electrolyte cups they had at the aid stations. I had never had it before, but figured it was safe enough for my system. And, I did find it to be helpful. So, basically, I was drinking water at every aid station and in the later miles, added the Nuun. Thankfully, somewhere around Mile 20, they had some Clif Bloks so I grabbed some of those too, just in case. Let me backtrack for a minute…at Mile 13, I remember thinking, “wow, 13 miles already? I’m glad I’m not done yet. I still feel like running.” And even after this, I felt the miles were passing by quickly. Let me tell you, when you are running a marathon, having THAT feeling…that miles are passing QUICKLY, is an awesome thought/feeling to have!
Miles 17-Finish are along the Great Highway to Lake Merced and then back along the Great Highway to the finish line. I was feeling good and actually on pace for a personal best until about Mile 22. I was very surprised by this, given my longest run during training had only been 16 miles. Surprised and happy…but I just couldn’t keep up that pace for the remaining miles. Legs were getting super heavy. I saw Sharon at mile 23 and she gave me more Gels, which I was still needing. Seeing her gave me a big boost at just the right time. I knew all I had to do was make the final stretch along the lake, go up the hill and I was back on the Great Highway and heading home! I know it might sound crazy, but I consciously thought, “embrace the pain…embrace the pain…you only have a few more miles to go..” By mile 23, I knew I would definitely not PR, so I just focused on giving my best effort, keep going as best I can. I knew my finish time would still be decent. Sharon was nearby on her bike and told me another friend of ours was at the finish line. YAY! A Surprise! So cool! During the last mile, the spectators became quite numerous and loud and it was such a neat feeling…the thunderous cheering for all the runners! I tried to pick up my legs, move them as fast as I could and finish strong that last mile. Within a few short strides, I was done with my 8th Marathon.
Finish time: 4 hours, 24 minutes, 34 seconds.
As always, I run to find the better me. On Sunday, I did.
Massive THANK YOU to Sharon,who was my total wing woman, supporter, cheerleader! And, THANK YOU to all my friends near and far who continuously cheer me on. These adventures of mine would not be quite the same if I could not share them with you. THANK YOU for being there in person or in spirit!!