About a year ago this month, I signed up for my first half marathon.
Who knew that a year later, I would be running my second half marathon in one of the best cities in the country?
My morning started at 3:55 AM. I literally had about four hours of sleep since I had a closing shift at work the night before.
I had some tea and double-checked my packing list before leaving. Since caffeine had no effect on me, I was able to sleep during the hour car ride. I woke up once were in the city, since the abrupt stops were enough to jolt me awake (the city never ceases to have traffic…even at 4 AM on a SUNDAY morning). My Dad had packed some banana bread, and I ended up having that before being dropped off near Union Square.
After a quick power walk down the block, I found my corral group and paced from side-to-side to keep warm. I wore an old t-shirt and old green jacket as my layer, with some short jersey shorts. I saw some savvy runners cozy and warm with garbage bags as their layer, which gave me some great ideas for upcoming races .
It was about a 45 minute wait before the “official” 6:30 AM start, even then, our 10:00-10:59/mi corral did not leave until ~15 minutes after that. I was getting absolutely annoyed with the announcer guy who would keep reiterating the same speech every five minutes: “You are making history today…”. By about the tenth time he said it, I felt like shouting, “We were making history 45 minutes ago!!!”
Once we did pass the Start line though, I immediately clicked start on my Garmin and kept Mile 1 slow enough to conserve energy for the journey ahead. We were running through the city streets through the early morning SF fog. It was cold enough that I had my arms crossed across my chest for the first 0.7 miles, but it was the perfect weather to start a run in!
At around Mile 2, we were running in front of the different Piers, as noted by the stench of fish. I had noticed the Exploratorium, a well-known science museum in the Bay, had moved to a pier, and we also passed by the TCHO chocolate factory. It might have been cool if they were giving out chocolate :9!!
I also gave up my light zip-up jacket for donation, since I was (finally) starting to warm up. I am so glad they organized a donation for old layers, rather than having runners liter perfectly fine used clothing on the streets.
Miles 3-5 were a blur, fortunately. These few miles can be the most boring in a half marathon because you’re not quite at the half way mark, yet you don’t want to run at 10k pace because you want to conserve energy for later…at least that’s how I feel anyways. The spectators were a great distraction, offering words of encouragement, music, cheers, and fun signs like: “You’re running better than Congress!”. I was able to pick up some Clif Shot Bloks as well, and stored them in my drawstring backpack for later.
Mile 6 was when we began our ascent…we had arrived upon our first hill! I could hear people start to murmur about it and brace themselves for it. There were some coaches on the sidelines shouting out common runner’s advice that still needed to be heard, since at that time we were probably all too dazed to take ourselves through the process logically.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t too bad. I could of course feel the burn in my quads, inner thighs, and glutes (all good to work out !), but there were some who decided to walk up. At the top, there were signs displayed from members belonging to TNT teams from across the country (and Canada). I think they were there to remind us that the hill was tough, but that victims (and their families) of terminal diseases go through so much more. It was bittersweet moment, but I must say it was poignantly planned and placed.
Mile 7/8 was when we made our descent, and yet we still had some walkers. This made it quite difficult since physics started getting involved. You do not want to be in the way of a runner heading downhill. But ofcourse, us runners had to act like we were in an obstacle course and weave our way around to the bottom. I tried to keep things conservative, but I think I was adding too much pressure to my knees in the process, and for a little while I had a sharp pinch in the left side of my stomach. It eventually went away by the time I reached the area where they were handing out mini Luna bars .
Miles 9-11 were a lot more woodsy since we were approaching/near Golden Gate Park (I think…). We were still running through the fog, and I was noticing my (aching) joints a lot more. Achy joints = irritability. The littlest things like the discrepancy between the mile markers and my watch were starting to make me feel frustrated.
Whole Foods was giving out mini Alter Eco dark chocolate bars around Mile 10 or 11, and I visibly had two in my hand when I swiped one from another volunteer whose grasp wasn’t that tight…heh heh. Sorry, but I’m not sorry !
At Miles 12 and 13 (+ 0.1), I felt the motivation and energy I desperately needed to eagerly push on. The last group of spectators just before the finish line helped with that. I began to do 60-second countdowns, counting backwards, in order to deliberately not think about the last mile.
Upon seeing the finish line, I lengthened my stride and when I came to a sudden halt, the numbness/sorness/joint aches set in big time. I still reveled in the accomplishment of making it to the end healthy and strong (mentally and physically), and spotted my Dad in the crowd. I was naturally hungry, and I fished into my backpack for the shot bloks I saved earlier. My Dad took a picture of me mid-chew, which made for a very flattering photo op (not!).
It did feel amazing to be done, even though I ended with a 2:24:26, a time that was two minutes slower than my first half, at an average pace of 10:51 min/mi. I still felt like this half was much more tolerable weather-wise, and I felt like it went by quicker because of that.
There was a huuuuge crowd from the finish to where the blue boxes were being handed out. People were seriously standing in middle and chatting with their iPhones in the air…like everyone. It was slowness at its worst .
By the time I waddled through the crowd to where they were scanning bibs, it had already been fifteen minutes (though it seemed like longer). A funny observation I noted was how the older firemen were on the rightmost side and the younger ones were on the left…I didn’t think any of them were particularly hunky or anything (haha), but it was nice of them to come out in tuxedos and not mind the mild objectifying .
The necklace was dog-tag style, but shaped like a triangle. So cute !
After receiving our necklaces, I received what I really wanted…a heat sheet! Call me that kid who likes to play with the cardboard box over the toy that comes in the box, but wearing that heat sheet made me feel like a real runner.
Whole Foods handed out plastic water bottles filled with cold water, along with goodie bags that contained a luna protein bar, fruit cup, and banana. I ate the Luna protein bar sometime before leaving the race, fyi .
Due to all the (iPhone) phone usage, bandwith was at an all time low, and this made it hard for me to meet up with my Dad, even with the so-called Verizon-sponsored “meeting area”. I finally found him, but everywhere we tried to go was crowded to the brim.
I still have yet to get a post-race massage (my time will come…)
But I was able to check my race results (which differed from my Garmin time).
And even though there was an even longer line for the post-race food (included whole cookies, Pop Chips, etc.), we managed to have some people already in line hand us some stuff over the line border which was nice, and there were people handing out Pop Chips outside of line too.
I had shared this with my Dad:
Neutrogena was giving away free fulls-size products and Paul Mitchell was giving away free haircuts/styling, but of course, you needed to wait in long lines in order to reap the rewards.
Despite all the celebration and revelry, there was also some sadness. My Dad told was telling me there was a man in his sixties who finished about fifteen minutes before I did, and just collapsed. They had to send out an EMT team, and they were getting to the point where they had to do chest compressions. He was pronounced dead—a total shock. It was insensitive how some people were supposedly filming this on their phones though.
We called it quits around 10:30 AM, and proceeded to walk a few more blocks to where my Dad had parked, and to where my sister was napping. Marathoners were also starting to make their way to the finish at this time.
Pros of this race included: cool weather that was ideal for race conditions, good sponsors and variety of goodies, the college student discount, a Tiffany & Co. necklace, feeling less pain in my joints (but still pain!) when compared with the first half I ran earlier this year, the challenge and accomplishing task of conquering those hills, feeling grateful about my capabilities and ability to finish the race healthy and strong.
Cons of this race included: unorganization, more specifically the lack of visible pacers (at least for the half marathon), meetups being difficult due to random crowding/bandwidth being sucked up by iPhones, and long lines which are difficult to avoid since crowds are annoying in general.
Notwithstanding the nervousness I came into this race with, since the longest I ran to prepare for this race was 7 miles, I was relieved and felt so accomplished with being able to run it all through without any major injury. This race really made me think about how moments can be so fleeting, and that we shouldn’t take our journeys (and our lives for that matter) for granted. Running is a really powerful thing. It really makes you think.
I am totally feeling that “letdown” feeling right now (and sore glutes and knees!), which I usually feel after a really wonderful day/event. The feeling is not so fun, but it is a real indication of if I really enjoyed something or not. Looks like I really did enjoy this race. Not sure if I’ll be able to run this race next year, but right now, I’ll just replay yesterday’s events in my mind…or just reread this post.
When you run longer distances, do you focus on beating a previous PR or just getting to the finish?
What was the best sample you got during a race?