The Amazing First Half of the San Francisco Marathon

Finally, the last post in my trilogy this week – the race itself! This marked my 3rd year running an SFM event. In 2011, I ran the San Francisco 1st Half Marathon and last year I ran the San Francisco 2nd Half Marathon. In 2011 I had a terrible, hard race. I wasn’t trained for the hills, I was dehydrated. Last year was a totally different experience – I ran a PR in a tutu! This year I had originally planned to run the full marathon and complete the 52.4 challenge but after L.A. I decided to run the 1st half for the second time. And this time was also my first time running SFM as an ambassador. Also, due to the America’s Cup, the race was held in June instead of July (a benefit for me since Santa Cruz’s Wharf to Wharf would have fallen on the same day this year and a benefit to all runners since June is not as foggy as July!).

Elise and I woke up around 3:45 and headed over to the start line around 4:15am. (Elise’s race didn’t start until 7:45 – she was an awesome friend for coming with me so early!) We rocked our SFM Ambassador singlets and sparkle skirts – twins again! We had planned to park in Embarcadero Plaza but strangely the parking lots were not open yet. However, we lucked out and found free parking just a block away. This year security had been heightened after the Boston bombings. Elise and I went through at least 3 security checks (we could have gone through just one but happened to go in and out of the race gates as we made our way to Perry’s). The ambassadors had been invited to be part of the VIP program. This meant we could hang out in Perry’s before and after our races. It had a real bathroom and some good pre-race food. I had half a bagel with a small spread of peanut butter and a little water. While in line in the bathroom, I chatted with one of the Thirty Birds runners. I have friends who know the owner, Verity, so I complimented the runner’s cute pink kit. She ended up being Anna Bretan, the winner of the race who also set a woman’s course record of 2:42:26!

Perry's Pre Race Breakfast

Perry’s Pre Race Breakfast

Wave 2 Runners Ready to Go!

Wave 2 Runners Ready to Go!

Just 10 minutes before my start time (5:32), I dropped off my gear at the gear check. (SFM has the BEST gear check! They bus your gear to the finish line at Golden Gate Park and it literally took me 5 seconds to drop it off and 5 seconds to pick it up again!) Then I headed in Wave 2 and before I knew it, I was off running. My running coach had given me a very helpful plan to approach this race, so I’ll organize my recap in the way that he planned my race.

Miles 1-5 Goal: stay conservative in the first mile but get on pace for what I could run a flat half in (no faster than 7:35 but aim for low 7:40s).
I really focused my energy on keeping my first couple miles slow-ish. Like many runners, I always start out too fast. Not this time! Go me! This is such a fun part of the course – running down the Embarcadero and through the Wharf. The little hill into Fort Mason allowed a nice climb and I felt very strong through it. This section ends as we finish through Crissy Field and into the Presido, beginning our climb to Golden Gate Bridge.
Mile times: 7:44, 7:55, 7:43, 7:40, 7:37 (love that I was brought down each mile’s time after the 2nd one).

Screen Shot 2013-06-19 at 8.33.08 AM

Miles 6-10 Goal: Hills, so try to maintain same effort as miles 1-5 but not to focus on the pace as much. On the “flat” sections, drop back to the pace.  Done and done! I felt really strong going up the hills and tried to let the downhills push me. After climbing up the bridge I just enjoyed that part of the race. We had beautiful weather and the view from GGB was BEAUTIFUL! I also had the chance on the bridge to see several other SFM ambassadors running as well as Pavement Runner. Soon enough I was off the bridge and heading back into the city. I felt really good during this portion of the race, strong going up the hills and ready to “race” the last 3 miles.
Miles: 8:33 (there’s that hill climb!), 7:50, 7:52, 8:01, 7:56

Running down mile 11

Running down mile 11

Miles 11-13 Goal: Push the downhill on mile 11 and dig in the last two miles. Check! I had so much fun flying down mile 11, it’s almost an entire mile down. I had so much fun! Then it was time to dig in – for reals. The last two miles are up, up, up with just small little recovery sections as we make our way towards Golden Gate Park. Every time I saw another climb, I got tired just thinking about it – but I pushed through. I wish I would have taken more advantage of those small recovery sections – but eh, such is life. Around mile 11, the pack of runners I was with got moved to the alternate course (something unique to SFM that allows traffic to move and keeps the course from getting too congested). This made me feel like I was at the front of the pack! Soon we were in the park and at the finish line.
Miles: 7:26, 8:21, 8:41. Last .3 of a mile I ran a 7:04 pace.

Finish!

Finish!

Finish time 1:45:29. I came in 23 in my age group, 54th women, and 1st finisher from Santa Cruz. I also finished 23 minutes faster than the first time I ran this course! Out of curiosity I  compared the top finishers times’ for the 1st and 2nd half marathons. The women runners for the 2nd half finished over 10 minutes faster than the 1st half – wow that really says something about the difficulty of this course! And that means I can consider my time 10 minutes faster, right? Haha!

finish time

After the race, I picked up my gear and my Irish coffee, yum! I boarded a bus back to the starting line where I went to find Elise. I just missed her finishing her 5k. We headed back to Perry’s where a breakfast and lunch buffet had been set up. At 8:15 I had my second breakfast! After that, we headed over to the marathon/2nd half finish line to see Keith, Chris K. and Chris M. finish! Chris M. set a sweet new PR! (Read his race recap here.) I hung out with several other ambassadors after the race but soon it was time to head back to Santa Cruz.

Post Race Refreshments

Post Race Refreshments

2nd Breakfast

2nd Breakfast

Post Race Twins!

Post Race Twins!

This was such a fun race! While I realize I might seem biased, being an ambassador for the race and all, but SFM puts on one of the best organized events/races around. It is always clear where you should be, there is great course support with volunteers passing out waters/electrolytes along the way and making sure you stay on course. I love how organized and regulated the start waves are and the finishing chute was a breeze to get through! Perhaps next year, I’ll finally run the full marathon!

Swag

Swag

So, will you be running SFM 2014? The race returns to its July date (7/27/2014) and registration is already open!! And you can also register for their new event, the Berkeley Half Marathon too!
Either way, I hope to see you there!

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9 thoughts on “The Amazing First Half of the San Francisco Marathon

  1. Yes the first half is so much harder – I say you can subtract that 10 mins. 🙂 Great job on the course, looking super cute in the outfit too. Wish I’d gotten to see you race day! It’s hard with the time differences of the races. Next year though – full marathon for me for the first time in SF!

  2. No way, girl, you are WAYYYY faster than me!! Don’t be ridic. And I would LOVE to take you on some trails… they are the best. 🙂 🙂 Great job this past weekend — the first half is a tough one! Was so nice to finally meet you. 🙂

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