13.1 Miles of Fun

Yea, I brought my camera phone on the race

This past Sunday I ran my first half-marathon in San Francisco. The last time I ran a race was probably when I was a wee lad, running in the neighborhood park to appease my parents. This time, I did it to appease my wife. Well, at first, I did it for her, but the more I looked into it, the cooler it became.

I ran the first half of the marathon, which starts on the eastern side of the peninsula, north of the Bay Bridge, on Embarcadero. It winds northwest around the peninsula towards the Golden Gate Bridge, which is always in view from early on in the race. The path crosses the bridge and loops around a scenic outpost, overlooking the city, before heading back south on the bridge and crossing through some city streets into Golden Gate Park, where the first half ends.

We’re leaving in a couple days, and this was a perfect recap to our time in the city. The first half of the marathon takes you by many of the more well known tourist attractions, some of which I visited the prior day while playing tour guide to my brother and his wife.

As far as the race portion of it went, I didn’t have high expectations for my own performance and mostly looked forward to running around the bridge and the city, void of traffic. When people asked about it, I told them that, if nothing else, it would make for a nice walk. I trained for it over the last few months we’ve been here, usually on nights Jen was off. One of the peers who pressured me into the race gave me a few suggestions on where to run in the area, all of which were twenty minutes to a half hour drive from my place. Booo.

At first, I expected the course to be extremely hilly and I planned accordingly by running up some of the local hills/mountains, namely Mission Peak in Fremont and St. Joseph’s Hill near the reservoir in Los Gatos. At some point, I looked up the elevation map of the race, and was delighted to see that the first half never rose above 300 feet in elevation. I then turned my training to running the Los Gatos Creek trail and instead, trained more for distance. Prior to this trip, the farthest I’ve run has been around six miles, more like a 10k. I now averaged eight to ten miles per run, and the week before the race, I ran the full 13.1 miles in about two and a half hours, with plenty of walking in between.

I figured I’d be tired enough to walk a few times on race day, but surprised myself by running the whole thing without stopping. It still took around two and a half hours but at least I was consistent. There were a few uphill portions with lots of people walking on them, but I just took baby steps, barely going faster than the walkers. Most of these people passed me on the way down, but I was too busy enjoying the scenery.

There were a ton of people running the race. I passed a girl with one leg, and felt slightly guilty about it, but I never caught up to a guy who ran the whole thing on crutches. There were people scattered throughout the race shouting encouragement, but my favorite was a little kid hold a sign that said something like, “Take it easy, you’re not going to win.” Words to live by.

I’ve had people tell me that after their first race, they were hooked. Me, not so much. It was fun and I can say I’ve done one, but I did this more for the course. Running across the Golden Gate Bridge was pretty damn cool. It’d have to be an impressive course to hook me into another one of these things. For now, I look forward to taking it a few miles at a time back home, running around the neighborhood and through the woods with my trusty dog at my side.

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