The San Francisco Marathon

Now that I’m almost fully recovered from last Sunday I thinks it’s about time I start talking about my experience running my FIRST MARATHON, the San Francisco Marathon.

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Running my first marathon was definitely an overwhelming experience. It was all things incredible and equally painful. It was one of the best thing that ever happened to me and it was also the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life!

Before I crossed the start line I was really, really, really nervous…Training for a marathon is hard but when you finish you will feel stronger and more confident than you’ve ever felt.

Since this was my first marathon and the San Francisco course is very hilly I decided to have a plain and simple goal – to finish under 6 hours…my goal then changed to 5 hours and 30 minutes, but it wasn’t until I started to really get into the training and feeling more confident in running when this changed.

I was a nervous wreck marathon week. I didn’t sleep well at all and I was feeling extremely under prepared.

My best friend texted me to see how I was feeling and ended up having to give me a full on pep talk.

She gave me these 3 tips:

1. If I needed to walk, walk.

2. If you end up only sleeping 3 hours the night before, that’s OK. You are nervous. You will be fine.

3. Just go one mile at a time, and have fun!

I remember walking into the expo to pick up my bib thinking “What am I doing here.” I wandered around the expo for a few minutes, scoped out new products and I bought some official SF Marathon merchandise.

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After the expo I checked into my hotel room, prepared my gear for the race, went out to eat my last carby meal, and went to bed at 8:00pm.

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I woke up at 2 am paralyzed with fear the morning of the race and forced myself to eat my breakfast. I then went back to sleep and woke up at 3:30 packed my bag, got dressed, and headed down to the lobby with my water, Gu, and bag to catch my ride to the starting line.

Normally I don’t check a bag, I usually wait until I get back to the hotel and then change out of my shoes, but since this was my first 26.2 mile run I figured I’d probably want to take my shoes as soon as I crossed that finish line. Well get this, the one time I decide to check in my bag the UPS trucks (they hold all the runners bags) arrived late! It was 5:15 AM. I had already waited in the Porter Potty line, done my business, had my pre-race waffle, and the trucks still had not showed up and our race starts at 5:30. In the end we just left our bags on the floors with the volunteers and jogged to our corals.

I normally don’t mind running a race by myself but being alone in my coral was tough. I was just really nervous. I wish I had someone to share my nervous energy with.

The first five miles were pretty flat, we ran through the Embarcadero in the early, predawn miles. I had already run this part of the course in previous races and I was also was ahead of my pace goal so I was feeling really good.

I slowed down a little towards the end of mile five as we starting climbing up the hills of Fort Mason before making our way to the breathtaking views (obscured that morning by some equally beautiful late July fog) offered by the one and only Golden Gate Bridge. We ran miles 6,7,8, and 9 on in the fog.

As we entered the US’s largest urban park (bigger than Central Park in NYC), the esteemed Golden Gate Park, we came to mile 13. HALFWAY THERE!

I kept running through miles 13 through 18, but about half way through mile 18 I knew I had hit the runners wall. This is when your legs feel like concrete, your breathing grows labored, your strides turn into a shuffle. WORST. FEELING. EVER. It was time to walk a little, take out some GU, and drink some electrolytes.

The rest of the race was downhill and mostly flat but I was winded and hurting I ended up walking about 10 minutes through the rest of the course.

Mile 19 we ran the enormous downhills on Haight Street, mile 21 we ran the Mission District and at mile 25 we were running by AT&T Park, where you know you’re so close to the finish line but still have some work to do. This felt like the LONGEST. MILE. EVER.

My body was SCREAMING and my legs were stiff. I just kept saying “It’s almost over. It’s almost over.” I never thought I would get there. But then I could hear the screaming and cheering so I forced myself to start sprinting. And then I saw the finish line  and I started smiling. Then I crossed the finish line. They put the medal around my neck and I downed my water bottle.

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The rest of the day was painful. The rest of the week was even more painful! But every second was worth itI’ve never felt so proud of doing something in my life. Nothing compares. I bet winning the lotto would be more exciting but a finishing a marathon is a close second.

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