Friday, 5 September 2014

San Francisco Marathon - Race Recap

This post has taken me quite a long time to write. Sorry for the long delay. It was a tough race for me; mentally and physically.  It was written over the past few weeks as I was able to look back and try to remember the race.

The San Francisco Marathon was my second marathon. I'm not too sure what I was thinking when I registered for the race. I had talked it over with hubs and we were going to head down with the family for a holiday during the weekend of the race, but due to some unforeseen circumstances I ended up heading down to San Francisco on my own. I am very lucky to have a cousin who lives right in the heart of San Fran, which was super convenient for me.

I took the last flight out to SFO Friday night as I knew for certain I would get a seat. Working for an airline has great travel perks, but only when there are seats available for you. It was hard to leave the family behind, but I knew I had to run this race. After finding my way to my cousins cozy apartment, I crashed on her couch and tried to get some good rest. I had read somewhere that it was important to get lots of sleep 2 nights before the race. I knew this wasn't going to happen as it was already way past midnight and I was planning on waking at 7am to attend the SF Marathon Shake Out run hosted by Bart Yasso.

After a quick 6km loop with Bart

The Shake Out run was perfectly scheduled right before the expo. It varied in any distance that you felt like doing. I ended up doing a short loop towards the Golden Gate bridge and back. It was a nice and easy 6km. The run ended at the expo location which had just opened when I got back from my run.
This is not what I had wanted to see
It was a pretty large expo with many retailers. I was able to pick up a few things that I needed and was able to head out and enjoy the afternoon if beautiful San Francisco.

I decided to take it easy and not kill my legs trying to explore the hills of the city and try to relax and calm my nerves. I knew that I was going to  be facing some challenging  hills in the morning. I took it easy, had a nice clean supper and passed out for the night.

It's a good thing that I was still on Eastern standard time as it made the wake up for the race very easy for me. My coral was set to start at 6:02 am, which gave me plenty of time to prep for the race.  I had my standard race breakfast of oatmeal and warm water and headed out to the start line. It was going to be a perfect day for a run. 
Ready to Go
Cupid's Span in the background

I was quite nervous about the race as I was going to be running it by myself and couldn't quite find a pacer in my coral.  As a runner, you always want to do better than your previous race, but I knew that there was no way I would be able to better my marathon time this hilly course as the only other marathon I had done was flat. With this in mind, I decided to try as hard as I could to stick with my slower than marathon race pace for the majority of the race. I would try my best at the hills and walk the moment I started losing my cadence and hope to make up for the speed on the downhills.

The marathon is a loop that starts out on the Embarcardero and brings you past the 'sights' of San Francisco finishing back along the water where you started.

The Race

Miles 1-5 The Embarcardero, Fisherman's Wharf, Ghiradelli and Fort Mason.

First of many hills
I had run this first part on a layover I had in June, so I knew what to expect. I started out as slow as I could trying not to get caught up with the crowds and knowing that I had to pace myself for the next 26 miles ahead of me.

It was nice to take in all the tourist sights even though I wasn't going to stop and take any selfies... this is race after all :)

Mile 1= 9.08, Mile 2 = 9.01, Mile 3= 9.18 Mile 4 = 10.37
Mile 5 = 9.59

The sun was just peaking out but definitely still overcast. I could see the fog just over the Golden Gate bridge as we were running towards it.

Miles 5-10 The Golden Gate Bridge

I was running up to the highlight of this race, the Golden Gate Bridge. There were great crowds cheering us on as we were about to run onto the bridge. This was the first time I had ever been on the bridge. I have visited San Francisco many times on layovers, but never had the chance to get to the bridge and now I was about to run over it. I pulled out my first GU around the 6 mile mark. The bridge was packed with runners and many were stopping mid pace to take photos. It was super frustrating trying to dodge these runners that were like pylons in the middle of the road. The views were stunning, but as you can see from my photo, it was still rather overcast.

Mile 6 = 9.28, Mile 7 = 8.45, Mile 8 = 9.43, Mile 9 = 8.32
Mile 10 = 8.47

The crowds on the bridge
Coming off the bridge

Miles 11-15 Presidio into Golden Gate Park

The crowds freed up after we got off the bridge, but the hills were just about to start. There was a rather huge descent, which were followed with what seemed like endless hills.

Mile 11 = 8.34 Mile 12 = 10.07 Mile 13.1= 9.44 (2:07.41) Mile 14 = 9.30 Mile 15 = 8.57

One of many ascents after leaving the GGB

Mile 16-19 Golden Gate Park
In GG Park with the Second Half Runners
on my tail

This is probably one of the favourite parts of the course as the crowds and runners thinned out. This is where the First Half Marathon ends and the Second Half Marathon runners start. There was a section of this race where it was only the marathoners running and I was running all by myself with the fresh air and tall trees an my back drop. I could hear the Second Half Marathon runners getting ready to start as I ran by their start area and shortly after I was overtaken by fresh legs that were starting their race. 

Mile 16 = 10.24, Mile 17= 9.42,  Mile 18 = 9.19,  Mile 19 = 9.40,

Heading out to GG Park running by
the Conservatory of Flowers

I was trying really hard to stay focused as I could see new group of runners blasting by me. It was really tough as my legs were getting really tired and the hills were really starting to get to me. I was really no prepared for all the ups and especially the downs.

Mile 20-26.2 Haight Ashbury, Mission, Potrero, and Mission Bay

Mile 20 = 9.42, Mile 21 = 10.40, Mile 22 = 9.40,  Mile 23 = 14.49, Mile 24 = 9.54, Mile 25 = 9.49, Mile 26 = 9.25
Coming in for the finish with Cupid's
Bow in the back

This final stretch was a killer. The sun had finally burnt through the clouds and it was starting to get warm. The Second Half Marathon runners were fast and plentiful which really was a downer as I was starting to lose steam. Did I mention there were more hills? It was great to run through this area as there were lots of people out on the sidewalks cheering us on. I probably needed this as I was starting to run out of steam and I knew that I was not going to be able to finish under 4:15. My knees were starting to hurt from all the hills, my glutes starting to burn, and my stomach was starting to dislike the GU I had taken. I knew that the rest of this race was going to be all mental and I would have to push through the pain. My knees finally decided to give up on me around Mile 23. I couldn't run anymore as my legs locked up. I couldn't even walk. I was 3 miles away from the finish and there was no way I was not going to cross the finish line. I hobbled over to the side and tried my best to stretch it out.

After a quick stretch I joined the rest of the runners and ran as fast as my legs could take me to the finish line. I had gone over the course map with my cousin the night before, so I knew as soon as I saw AT&T park, I was almost there. I saw some of the other runners that I had been running with and felt good that I had caught up to some of them. When I saw the finish line, I charged with all I had.  I was hoping to get some photos crossing the finish line, but some guy decided to cut right in front of me and totally photo bombed my crossing.

All Done!!
I crossed the finish line in 4:23:40 Pace 10.03

Overall Place - 2607 out of 6625
Women -  621 out of 2311
Age Category - 95 out of 352

Post-race thoughts

I'm thrilled that I was able to finish the course considering all the hills. I would definitely incorporate more hill training and not just the baby hills here, but I would look for some bigger ones and train my body for the ups and especially the downs.

The City of San Francisco put on an amazing race. It is one of my most favourite cities in the world. I was able to run through and by some of the highlights of the city. The volunteers were amazing. There were many volunteers from the Harley Davidson clubs. Many were dressed in their full leather attire and wore bright fluorescent orange hats to indicate they were volunteers. They were placed throughout the course from the start to the finish. They were always there to give us high-fives and at all the turning points.

The free race photos were a huge bonus. The race and expo were very well organized. The course covers a lot of the city and is a great destination race, but is quite challenging with all the hills.  I was quite beaten up by the hills. Looking back now, I wonder if I could have done better. This was only my second marathon and I still have to learn how to pace myself better as well as when to take my gels. I had a blast visiting the city and hope to maybe run it again one day.

Happy Friday!!

Are you racing this weekend?

What are your most memorable races?

Are you training for any up coming races?


  1. I found your post by accident as I am debating to run my first marathon (SF Marathon) at the end of July. I thought wouldn’t it be great to run my first in the city I grew up in? I appreciate your description of the route and hills. Now I know what to expect and to train for.

    1. I'm glad you found my post. I really enjoyed the SF Marathon. It was definitely a memorable race. The course is hilly, but if you're training out there on those hills you will do GREAT!!! The downs hurt way more than the up. Best of luck in July.


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