I was lucky enough to be able to run this race for Nuun since they were the official on course support for the race- only the 2nd half marathon was still open for registration, so by default it’s the one I ran (and I’m glad!). The first half marathon course starts under the Bay Bridge, runs along the Embarcadero, through Fisherman’s Wharf, through the Marina, across the Golden Gate Bridge, through the Presidio and finishes in Golden Gate Park. Since between Rock n Roll San Francisco 1/2 marathon, Nike Women’s 1/2 marathon and Mermaid Series 10k, I’ve covered all of that before and wanted a change of scenery.
The 2nd 1/2 marathon course ran through parts of the city that I’ve never had the chance to run through before, so I was really excited to see new parts of the city that I normally might wander through to find food or shopping, but have never had empty streets to myself.
The 2nd 1/2 marathon starts at Spreckel’s Lake in Golden Gate Park and finishes on the Embarcadero alongside the Main Marathon Finish Line. You run GG Park, then out of the park on Haight Street, through Haight/Ashbury, the Mission District, Mission Bay, and passes AT&T Park, finishing just before the Ferry Building, by Cupid’s Span.
I worked the Nuun booth all day Saturday so both K and I (both running the 2nd half marathon for Nuun) were on our feet all day (though she worked the expo Friday as well, while I was at my regular FT job all day). We stayed Saturday night at a hotel in Union Square, had our pre-race dinner after the expo, and back up to the room to get ready for race morning. Since our race didn’t start until after 8am, we were able to sleep in a little bit (whew!), and while normally we start races at 6:30am, we were able to set our alarms for that time. We grabbed a cab in the morning, he drove like a madman (typical SF taxi driver) through multiple “yellow” lights and dropped us off in the park. Turns out, NOT at Spreckel’s Lake, but at Stow Lake, which was semi-close to where the 1st 1/2 marathon finished. Ont op of that, no one seemed to know where the start of the 2nd 1/2 marathon was, and there was literally no staff at the 1st 1/2 finish to ask. Volunteers had no idea, so we had to wander quite a bit and ended up walking an extra 1.5 miles to get to the start, so that was our warm up since we were hustling!
It was already warm by the time we got there, all in tanks and shorts, said our goodbyes and good lucks at the gear check trucks (K is speedier than I am, so she was starting in Wave 2), headed to the long port-o-potty lines, and then jumped in with Wave 4.
Thanks to the random girl behind me in the port-o-potty line for taking pictures! When you offer to take someones picture (who is struggling with selfies) at a race, 9 times out of 10 it’s because you secretly also want one yourself, and need someone to take it for you because you’re running alone haha
Originally when I registered, since I haven’t run a 1/2 since April, I registered for the last wave (Wave 5, 2:30-3:30). Since we needed to stop at all the aid stations to taste the Nuun to make sure it was properly mixed, I knew that would add some time, plus my slow, untrained self would add some time, too! I just wanted to finish the race in about 2:30, but when I saw the waves and the pacers, I had the urge to jump in with the 2:20 pacer, full of hope haha.
We headed off into the park and it was a really nice few miles through one of the most beautiful pieces of land the city has to offer. Most people don’t realize how large the park is, and everything that it offers. Sure, trees and fields, music festivals, but there’s also museums, the Japanese Tea Garden, beautiful music concourse, waterfalls, windmills and bison. It’s pretty effing spectacular.
Shortly after this, I had my mild panic attack (normal) that I somehow veered off course and would actually run the full marathon distance. It too me a minute to remember, “duh, Sheena. You’re running the second half of the marathon. Of course you’re on the same course as them!” It didn’t help to ease my anxiety that all of the mile markings in the park were for the full marathon.
I turned a corner around mile 4 near Stow Lake (where our stinkin taxi driver dropped us off) and saw this fabulous guy in the familiar Ragnar Relay jacket – so needed a little motivation at that moment.
By about mile 4.5, the sun was out in full force, so it was incredibly warm and direct sun. Every water stop I’d grab some water and then grab a second cup (or hose if they had it) to throw on my arms and chest since they were on fire. We continued through the park for another couple miles and exited at mile 6, right on Haight Street. That’s where the party started! There were people cheering, ringing cowbells, with signs and even a stroller with a bubble machine (sidenote, if your bubbles are made of soap, while it might look cool, it sucks to be the runner that has to inhale/choke on soap bubbles or get them in your eyes).
There were people having coffee and breakfast at cafes watching the race, and I was STARVING at this point. By mile 2 I started to feel a deep hunger pain right under the top center of my rib cage and I knew I wasn’t going to make it all the way through, so I texted my friend who lives in the Mission that if she happened to be downstairs in about an hour with some bread with peanut butter or something, I’d owe her big time. Luckily she lives right along the course, so she agreed! We finished running through Haight/Ashbury and headed toward the Mission. I knew exactly what corner she would be on and the thought of her with food was what got me through miles 6-8.
I snapped this picture, grabbed half of the Clif Z bar and shoveled it into my mouth. I don’t even think I chewed. I couldn’t even tell you what flavor it was. Flavor delicious, that’s what it was. We continued through the Mission (where the lovely SF urine smell decided to make an appearance. Was totally expecting it, so I made sure to breathe through my mouth for parts of it) and on to Mission Bay.
Around mile 10 I started to realize that my fingers were incredibly swollen and I had trouble making a fist since they were so tight. Since it was so warm, I was sweating more than normal and the electrolyte levels in my body were incredibly low (turns out SF Marathon didn’t purchase enough electrolyte products/water/cups for the race and most aid stations were depleted by the time I got there). I hadn’t had electrolytes since mile 1, and minimal amounts of water between miles 1 and the finish. I started to fatigue and ended up having to run/walk for the last 3 miles of the race, but was still ahead of the 2:20 pacers, so I was happy. I made it to the finish, stopped my Bia watch when I crossed, and went straight to find some electrolytes because I was super shaky at that point.
I guzzled that Zico coconut water like no other. Normally I like to wander around the finish area, but it was a madhouse trying to get from exiting with your medal and getting into the finishers area, so I sat on the curb, stretched out my hips, slammed that Zico (and the weird boxed water they handed out, which ended up spilling everywhere instead of going into my mouth), grabbed my gear back and walked the 1.6 miles back to our hotel. The further I got from the race finish, the less runners were around and the looks people were giving me got even crazier. I’m super glad I decided to walk back vs take an uber or taxi because I really needed to stretch the hips out and cool down my muscles. Got up to the room, promptly double-fisted 2 bottles of Watermelon Nuun.
It was a fantastic weekend full of Nuun, and I’m incredibly lucky for the opportunity to run the race for them.
I’ll post the official race photos soon (The SF Marathon is super awesome and provides digital copies of your photos FA FREE! You heard me, you can get your race photos for $free.99)!
Did you race last weekend? How did it go?