This last weekend, I ran in the San Francisco (2nd) Half Marathon. The SF Marathon is a bit unique in that it offers half runners the choice as to whether they’d prefer to run the first or second half marathon. The pros of the first half are that it sees much more interesting parts of the city and runs across the Golden Gate Bridge and back. However, it starts very early, doesn’t finish at the finish line festival and is overall a harder course. The second half starts at a more civilized 7:30am, spends a lot of time in beautiful Golden Gate Park, finishes with the full marathon at the festival and is a net downhill (more on my feelings on these two words). However, after the first 7 or so miles, the course isn’t that interesting.
My training heading into this race was very good….until about 4 weeks out. With 4 weeks to go, I only ran twice, but that included a great 8 mile workout and a strong 16 mile long run. However, due to a convergence of a bunch of different stressors, after that 16 mile run, I did not run again for over two weeks. This brought me into the last week before the race. I originally decided I did not want to race and disappoint myself, but determined I’d be more bummed if I did not run at all, so just adjusted expectations and ran. This meant I had to figure out how to get my legs as ready as possible in 6 days, which I did via runs of 3, 8, 6 and 3 miles leading into the race. I think this plan worked as well as it could: enough distance and pace to remember, not enough to be too worn out for the race.
As usual, I laid out my kit the night before. San Francisco in late July offers some weird weather, so I included a lot of options for what I might wear, including gloves (not pictured):
As I wasn’t expecting a true race, I only briefly warmed up. So, after arriving and standing around in the cold for a bit, I stood in my coral along with every else.
The race generally went as I planned. I was able to mostly keep myself in check at the beginning, though my pace was unfortunately still too fast and I did slow down by the end of the race.
I found the crowds this year to be much more manageable, which could have been related to a slight course alteration. However, I did find there was some confusion at some points as to full/half runners should be going one way or another. I saw one runner I recognized from the corals turning around and I had to stop her and tell her she was on the right path originally.
As I mentioned, this course is a net downhill. I’m finding that this might be one of my least favorite course descriptors. It’s generally meant to indicate a course is easy, but I have not found this to be the case. In the case of SF, it seems a large portion of the course is actually uphill, and all the downhill is steep drop offs. These down hills are both hard to recoup some pace losses from the uphills and actually fry one’s legs by the end of the run.
Two things happened to me this year at nearly the same points as last year:
- After about 10 miles, I found myself saying “no way in hell am I doing the full next year”, which I’d been thinking both times prior to that.
- In both races, I found myself heading into the mile 11 marker thinking I was about to hit 12 and had considerably picked up my pace, albeit briefly. One would think this wouldn’t be possible with a GPS watch, but I don’t have a running total on my watch face, only the current lap. I rely on my brain to keep track of distance covered.
While this was one of my slowest half marathons, I knew that this would be the case going in. I would have liked to have run faster but I can’t recoup those lost two+ weeks. I did feel a lot less beat up than I had the previous year, enough to want to stick around and get my free beer. We even decided to stay and go to the Ferry Building and had several more drinks there. Knowing that my next big race is Munich, I had to have a beer from Munich:
Overall, it was such a good day that I’ve already registered for next year’s race.