Here it comes, a few days later than expected, my race report for the 2009 San Francisco Marathon, my first Marathon:
As I mentioned in a previous post, I was staying in San Fran with a friend that lives there. The day before the race I bought a small Croissant, a Power Bar and a Gatorade to eat for breakfast on Race Day. That was the best I could find as I didn’t want to cook anything that day. My pre-race morning went without any eventualities, woke up, took a shower, ate breakfast and my friend (who was super nice to wake up that early) took me to Embarcadero, where the marathon was going to start.
When I got there I was so excited that I couldn’t think. I had to ask some random lady how to attach the chip to my shoe, it was different from the ones I’ve used before. Even though it came instructions, I just couldn’t concentrate to read and follow a 3-step instruction process. After this I thought about going to a porta-potty, but the lines were too long. So I just walked aimlessly until my wave was called. I crossed the starting line at 6:07:35 am.
It was really cold and I was just warming up for the first few miles, so I was going sloooooow. At the second mile something really funny/amazing happened. The sign announcing that we had reached mile 2 was facing the other way, and at this time an old man (he looked to be on his 80′s) caught up to me and said:
“Hey! I think we’re going the wrong way, look at that sign!”
me: “Yeah, the finish line is behind us, we’re going the wrong way!”
him: “Well, I gotta let the guys ahead of us know they’re going the wrong way!”
And he sped off, leaving me behind. Never saw him again. I wanna be like him when I’m that old.
At mile 5 we arrived to the hill leading up to the Golden Gate Bridge, the Presidio Hill. Everyone that talked about a hill on the expo or early in the marathon will mention the Presidio Hill as something horrible, almost with fear in their voices. If this was a Harry Potter book, it would be ‘The Hill that must not be named’. And indeed, climbing up that thing was HARD. It was a long steep hill, where a lot of people started walking. But I didn’t walk, I was able to run through it.
There were some trivia-like posters every 100 feet or so during that hill, they read something like this:
“Do you know what’s the steepest hill in San Francisco” – After reading this, some of the people around me started saying “Of course!, THIS ONE!”
Next sign said it was another hill, somewhere else in San Francisco, but another question followed:
“Do you know what’s the second steepest hill in San Francisco” – Now everyone around me was saying “Yeah! this one, you don’t have to rub it on our faces!!”
But again, we were wrong as the next sign said it was somewhere else in the city. Then another sign said that those hills have a 31% inclination degree. And right at the end of ‘the hill that must not be named’ was a last sign, that read:
“Aren’t you glad you just finished going up this hill and not one of those two?” – Everyone around me just started laughing as we read that.
It was a huge relief to have finished with that (horrible!) hill and to see what we had ahead of us. We were just entering the Golden Gate Bridge.
Below are 3 pics, the first one is before starting the race, with the Bay Bridge behind me, the second one is the start of the Presidio Hill (the horrible part of the hill starts when you make that turn to the left) and the last pic is when we entered the Golden Gate Bridge, although you can’t see the brdige becaue of the fog. But you can read the extremely cool sign: “Runners on Bridge”
Crossing the Golden Gate was a great experience, and harder than I thought. That was the coldest part of the race, we were facing really cold winds as we crossed it. At the beginning I was amazed just to be running on the bridge, but after a while I just wanted to get through it! At the end of the bridge was a water station that had Gu, I took a couple and went to the porta-potty. After that it was time to cross the bridge again and go back to San Fran. This was the only part of the race when I went anaerobic and ran way faster than my marathon pace, I just didn’t want to deal with the winds anymore. Here are a couple of pics from the bridge:
After crossing the bridge everything got a lot easier, temps started to raise and we entered the Golden Gate Park, a beautiful place to run in. We were in the Park for a long time, from mile 12.5 to mile 19. I was just enjoying myself there, chatting with people and taking it easy, just having fun.
Between mile 15 and mile 20 the course was a slow continuous uphill. It wasn’t hard or steep, but it was always going up.
I was relieved when I reached Height & Ashbury at mile 20, that meant that the hills were over. According to my friend that is the hippie county in San Fran, and of course, they were giving beer at the water station. My first thought when I heard a guy announcing “Cytomax, Water aaaaand BEEEEEERRR!” was ‘who he hell drinks beer while running a marathon???’. But then I told to myself that I was there to have fun, so I joined the party and had 2 shots. BOOYA!.
Height & Ashbury was also crowded by spectators and people cheering, it was AWESOME to be running there. There were lots of people on the sides cheering for us and even on the balcony’s of some houses there was people cheering. That part of the Marathon was great.
The good thing about going uphill for 5 miles is that then you have to go downhill, right? Well… i don’t think that applies to running, at least going uphill won’t destroy your knees/quads. After mile 20 there were some really steep downhills, from mile 21.5 the rest of the course was mostly flat, that’s how steep those downhills were. And when I reached that point my knees where hurting a bit and my quads were KILLING me. That’s when the hard part of the race started.
From mile 22 to 24(ish) we were in a more industrial part of the city, which meant no spectators, no people cheering, noone there except for the volunteers at the intersections and water stations. On this part they were also changing the route between 2 parallel streets to allow cars to go through and not paralyze the whole city because of the marathon, so every 10 minutes or so they would send the runners to one street or another in a intersection. I got cut in one of these intersections where they opened a street for runners right ahead of me (instead of making me turn left where everyone else in front of me was going). So there I was, with a guy running in front of me and everyone else behind me, the street cleared for us. I sped up, passed the guy, and started yelling “I’m WINNING, I’m WINNING!!!” it was hilarious!
But after a while it got pretty lonely out there. The weather had changed from cold and foggy to hot and warm. To the point that I ended taking my shirt off. These last miles where hard for everyone. I passed a woman around mile 23, she looked to be in a lot of pain, so I smiled at her and said “let’s go! we’re almost there!” trying to cheer her up, she answered “SHUT UP!”, I was like ‘…oooook’ turned around and kept going minding my own businesses.
I got a second wind for the last 2 miles, we had reached the coast and there were more spectators again. There were also live bands playing on corners, which was really cool. I’m a huge Pink Floyd fan and at one point there was a band playing ‘Run Like Hell’, that was one of the coolest thing ever for me at that point.
For the last mile I just focused on getting to the finish line, I forgot about the pain and just ran with all that I had left. Here are some pics from that last effort.
Then, when I reached the finish line, I walked. I had decided to follow everyone’s advice and just have fun during the race. I didn’t take my iPod with me, I didn’t take my Garmin, I had been having fun the whole day and I had done such a huge effort to go to San Fran and to get to that Finish Line that I wanted to enjoy it, I didn’t want to just run through it, I wanted to make it a moment that I would remember my whole life, and that’s what I did.
I raised my arms and just crossed the finish line walking. I was tired and I was in pain (as you can see on the next 3 pics), but I was also enjoying every second of it.
After this I got my medal and a huge blanket that said ‘San Francisco Marathon’ on it, I used it to cover myself from the sun. I didn’t want to bother my friend asking her to pick me up, so I took the Muni. After all, I had just run a marathon, taking the bus back home was an easy task now.
I’m glad I did, on my way home I still had my medal and my San Francisco Marathon blanket around me. A lady approached me and said I looked like a Super Hero with it, funny thing is, that’s exactly how I felt.
Thank you all for reading.
A small side note about the pics. The ‘proof’ sign that some have is because of political reasons in the country that I live on, I don’t have access to buy the pictures online right now. I delayed posting this because I was trying to buy the pictures, but it’s just not possible right now. However when I get the chance I will buy (and post) them, as I really respect the job the photographers did to take them.