Tuesday, October 22, 2013


Now that I'm not writing full-time for work, I have the energy to run more—and to blog about it!

Sunday, I was in San Francisco and up early to join more than 30,000 long-distance runners at the 10th annual Nike Women's Marathon and Half Marathon. The race draws mostly women to run the streets of San Francisco and raise funds for cancer research. "A few good men" enter as well but from the amount of pink and purple, tutus and the Neutrogena products in our goody bag, it was evident that this race is all about girls.

Getting to the start line is a feat in and of itself. The race is outrageously popular, so we first had to win a lottery to be offered the chance to enter. I got it, I think, thanks to a college friend who invited me onto a girls' team she had organized. We five "Tufted Puffins" were spread across three cities in two states, so we trained together virtually all summer. 

I picked up my packet a week early, just in case the trip to the city destroyed me. I'm not good at the city. I get lost; once my car was towed for parking in a driveway. But Saturday was great. I got where I needed to be to meet K and her friend at the race "Expotique". We got their race numbers, checked out the swag and considered waiting for a makeover or hair stylist before heading across the street to use our race-day discounts at Macy's. 

Both girls admitted they'd missed more long training runs than they'd completed—a sin I also had committed—but since we'd all finished halves before we had that confidence that we could get through the course and maybe even enjoy it.

Race morning came early. I took my first Uber Cab ride to get to the startline at Union Square and joined thousands of other women walking toward the race corrals. They were marked with this lit-up globes, our first glimpse of the race-day festivities.

Thirty thousand-plus racers is a lot of people. We filled the street for more than four city blocks.

I found K and her friend. We made last-minute bathroom stops. Someone (probably not a fellow racer) left behind a pair of black heels in my port-a-potty. So "city" of her (or him).

I forgot my iPod, so I was hoping the positive vibes of the race would carry me through the course. Excited women from all over (there were some Canadians right behind me) bounced up and down, taking photos and mouthing the lyrics to the pop songs blaring from the loudspeakers.

I was in the first corral and it took me two minutes to get across the start line. What a huge race! Friends were 15 minutes or more behind me getting to the blue arch.

All around, the race was harder than I expected. I nearly fell a couple of times in the early miles because the course was so crowded. Navigating cobblestones and rail tracks in the semi-darkness proved challenging. And staying focused was hard for me. I fretted about a slow first mile (the crowds) and the first round of hills made my not-quite-recovered-from-a-cold lungs wheeze.

But it was so fun. Listening to ladies around me chat (praise was high for a church choir at Mile 1), being cheered on by enthusiastic fans and laughing at the quippy signs ("26.2 miles: long and hard, just like my wife likes it" and "Mortuary ahead. Look alive.") kept all us runners engaged. 

The hills killed me. Before that, my 8:30 pace (about a 1:54 finish time) was tolerable. But I felt like someone was pushing me back as I tried to climb from Crissy Field into the Presidio. That was Mile 6, barely halfway. As we neared Mile 8, a couple running near me started talking about how hard the next hill was—not nice of them! They were right. The hill up past the golf course, near the Veteran's Hospital, was massive.

Cruising down the hill with three miles to go, I got confident. I felt good. I picked it up and tried to push it. But the last two miles had a slight incline that made my legs feel like cement. It was rough. 

I finished in just under 2 hours, 37 seconds off my randomly-chosen goal pace of 8:30 a mile. While I'm not stoked on the time, it was a much harder course than I expected. 

The finish line brought me a firefighter and a Tiffany necklace. Yay. 

I grabbed all my other race goodies—T-shirt, snack bag, space blanket—and wandered around the finish area. And the rest of the Tufted Puffins finished strong to earn their necklaces as well. The chocolate milk was a huge post-race boost before I bundled up and found the Uber Cab taxi stand. The ride home ... and that's a whole other crappy story.

All together, good race, Nike. Thanks. #WeRunSF

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