The SF Marathon – a half marathon+ of emotion

I’ve been training for the Berlin Marathon for 13 weeks now and am more than halfway through my training plan – only 8 weeks to go! It’s 150% insane to me that I’m only 8 weeks away from my first full marathon. I don’t think it’s quite sunk in yet… still!

On Sunday, July 31st, I ran the 2nd half marathon of the San Francisco Marathon.  I had signed up ages ago and was also a TSFM race ambassador, so I got to network in the local community, drive registration, meet other race ambassadors, etc.  When I first considered the race, I knew it would be a tough one. I had no idea what my training cycle would look like and no idea what mileage I would be at that weekend, but I did know that race day would have been little mans 18th birthday. I knew it would be an emotional race. Later, when my marathon training plan was finally put together and called for 18 miles that weekend, I knew it was meant to be. I put together a plan of attack for that day (physically at least) and decided to go out for a solo 3 miles pre race, have some breakfast and then head to the start line with Kristina (I had stayed the night at her place the night before and she was also running the 2nd half with me – we ran the 1st half together last year).  We would run the half marathon together, and then once we finished, I would set off on a final 2 miles on my own. A total of 18 miles, one for each year of what should have been an amazing life. I love you mister!! ❤️❤️❤️



The weeks leading up to the race were rough. I started a new position (same company) at the end of June and am still trying to get settled in.  I’ve been working long-ish hours, still commuting 4-4.5 hours per day and because I’m the emergency contact for our school, sometimes taking care of phone calls or emails at night or on the weekend. Add on top of that marathon training and a silly attempt to have a social life and I’ve been averaging 4-5 hours of sleep per night.  Race week was even crazier. Monday-Wednesday nights I got about 5.5 hours of sleep each night, Thursday night I got 3.75 hours of sleep.  Friday I worked a half day at my regular job, headed to the race expo and worked the Nuun booth from 1-7pm, then met up with the rest of the TSFM race ambassadors for dinner and a chat.  Got home around 11:45pm, asleep just after midnight and up again at 5:30am to head back to San Francisco to help pace the Shakeout Run 5k hosted by Fitbit and Dean Karnazes.

After the shakeout run I headed back inside to the Nuun booth, worked it from 10am to 2pm, headed outside for a small Oiselle Volee meetup, then drove to my friends apartment to grab something to eat and charge my phone.

At 5pm I got back in the car, drove down to San Jose in traffic and… wait for it…

WENT TO THE ADELE CONCERT!!!  People, she is amazing. Beyond amazing. Totally worth not getting back to the apartment until midnight and up at 5:20am on Sunday to get those initial 3 miles in.

Surprisingly, waking up for those miles wasn’t as hard as I expected, even though I’ve been sleep deprived for weeks. I ran around the Pandhandle for 3 miles (already sweating!), back to the apartment for breakfast and to get changed, hopped in the car and headed to the start line. This year was pretty awesome because 6 staff members and 29 students were all running one of the offered races that day.

We set out for the 13.1 miles, at a good pace, trying to dodge people left and right for the first few miles before finding a good rhythm once it cleared out a little. We stopped when we got out of Golden Gate Park (in the Haight) to stretch a bit where my friends husband was cowbelling us, then set out again. It’s really easy to get those miles in when you’re running with a friend and chatting the entire time!  We stopped again in the Mission at the Oiselle #cowbell corner for a Honey Stinger and a bathroom break (tiny bladder syndrome over here) and then headed off again to finish up the last ~5 miles of the half marathon.

Those last 5 miles flew by! We checked in with each other, took in the scenery and the crowd, stopped at the aid stations when we needed water or Nuun, and tried to keep an even pace.  I realized at mile 8.5 that we were doing pretty well on pace and could potentially get her a half marathon PR if we kept it up! We checked in at each mile marker to make sure we were still doing ok, slowing down when we needed to, and stopping to stretch when needed. Even with the breaks, we were still doing pretty well! With less than 2 miles to go, she kept telling me to go on without her if she was holding me back. My response? “Today isn’t about me. I have 18 miles to do today. Today is about you and your PR. We’re going to get you that PR. I’m not leaving you now. I’ll run whatever pace you need me to.” So we stayed together through the end, finished strong and finished together!

We made our way through the Finish shoot, tried to stretch out our achy hips, drank some Nuun at their booth, then set off to find her husband (and our Half it All Challenge medals!).  We realized after we crossed the finish line that I had paced her to a 2:11 half marathon, a PR for her of 5+ minutes!

I checked my bag at the VIP area (an awesome perk of being a race ambassador and people signing up with my discount code!) and set off on my final 2 miles. These final 2 miles were the most emotional for me. I had gotten choked up at a couple points on the course, but held it together. Now that I was on my own, I had no intention of keeping the tears inside. I thought about my nephew, the times we spent together, what he might be like today if his bone marrow transplant would have taken. What our lives would be like had we not been affected by leukemia. What he would look like, what his laugh would sound like, everything. I cried the entire 2 miles.  And those last 2 miles? They ended up being my fastest of the 18 miles I ran that day. He was with me for each and every one of those miles, but especially on those last two.

After I finished up my run and wiped my eyes, I headed back to the VIP area (where I was sadly told the massage people hadn’t shown up) and promptly got a plate of breakfast, a plate of lunch and a bloody mary with extra olives 🙂  So incredibly grateful for strong legs, lungs and heart to carry me through an emotional 18 mile run that morning.


My left shin has been a bit tender in one spot since a few days before the race, so I’m trying to take it easy this week, no running until tomorrow’s run/walk/hike (birthday Mt. Tam Summit!) and icing like crazy. Please send good healing juju my way!

Congratulations to everyone who ran this weekend!

Comments (4)

  1. Carla Oberst Grokenberger

    how can I express how proud I am of this girl. Words escape me. But, I knew she had such a deep and undying love for her nephew, and how deeply affected she was when she knew the transplant was not going to work, I knew then that it would be life changing event in her life. So, keep going Sheena, and know that people who knew you long ago are following your runs. Oh, incidently, I would love to hear a song from you, again! Love you, Sheena

    1. (Post author)

      Thank you so much Mrs G! I knew there would be some people who were around way back then who would understand how much it meant!

  2. Christina

    Thank you so much for sharing about what was clearly am emotional day. Too many people thing running is just about times and mileage and all that jazz. Sounds like one hell of an 18 mile day!

    1. (Post author)

      Thank you!! Running will always be a sea of emotions for me, but especially this one. I started running when I joined Team in Training in 2010 to honor his memory!


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