Nine months of preparation paid off. Yesterday I achieved my goal of completing the San Francisco Marathon within the six hour time limit. My official finish time was 5:52:23.
I woke up at 4 a.m., having gone to bed at 10 p.m. but sleeping fitfully, waking nearly every hour. I had my usual pre-race breakfast of tea and overnight oats, which was somewhat difficult to get down at such an early hour. At 5:20 boyziggy and I walked to the starting line near the Ferry Building. Security wasn't nearly as onerous I had expected from all the race organizers' warnings, so we got through bag check very quickly and Ziggy was able to accompany me into the starting corral.
And the sun came out! I had been really worried about the weather, as I didn't want to wear long pants or a long-sleeved T-shirt during the race (partly for photo/vanity reasons). The weather was in the lower 50s when we left home, but I knew it would go up about 10 degrees by the time I finished, and of course I would get warm from running also.
My wave, the last of eight, started just after 6:30 a.m. I felt a bit dazed and tired. I stuck to my usual long run intervals, 5 min run / 1 min walk. After I clocked in the first mile at under 12 minute pace I deliberately slowed down, knowing I would be in trouble in the later miles if I didn't. Mile two and I was just about at twelve minute pace so I again slowed down, and shed my jacket.
We started the run along my favorite, familiar course, Aquatic Park up to Fort Mason, the Marina, and Crissy Field. I enjoyed the unexpected sunshine, and spotted a great blue heron in flight. Up to the Golden Gate Bridge, which I'd actually been dreading but with the fog lifted was quite tolerable. Though running on the roadbed, it was more difficult to see the view. By mile six I decided to start eating the dates I'd brought along, and would eat one approximately every three miles from here to the end of the race.
After running over the bridge and back, I was actually feeling my best at mile 10, along Lincoln Blvd in the Presidio. It was high on a hill and now overcast, but I felt great. I might have felt even better had I been running the half-marathon and finishing in three miles instead of thirteen, but I tried not to think about how much farther I had to go.
Mile 13 in Golden Gate Park, I made my one restroom stop. In and out of the disgusting porta-pottie in four minutes. I walked a few yards over to the water stop that my fellow DSE club members were staffing, and was greeted and hugged by our club photog Paul and veteran volunteer Phyllis. (I was also greeted by fellow club member Bill, grand master ultrarunner, at the next water stop. He's been very supportive of my efforts.) Then I was off to complete the second half of the marathon.
(Photo by Paul Mosel; link is to his album on Facebook)
Running through GG Park was somewhat difficult as it brought up memories of all the pain and fatigue I suffered during my long training runs there. Though my out-and-back loops meant I got to experience the park while I was relatively fresh on the way out, the pain on the way back was a much stronger memory. I tried to enjoy the scenery but I was just too tired. Though I was cheered whenever a fellow vegetarian or vegan runner acknowledged my No Meat Athlete T-shirt (which says "Runs on Plants" on the back). One who passed me in the park said that he was vegan and was running the 52.4 mile double marathon, plant-powered!
Out of the park, through the Haight. My GPS battery died after 18 miles, only four hours into the race. I'd started it about 10-15 minutes before we took off to make sure it had time to acquire signal, so I knew I wouldn't get a full five hours out of it, but I didn't expect it to shut down that quickly. At least I knew I would get official timing, though by then I'd passed all but one of the timing mats for splits (the last one was at mile 23.5, and ended up not registering for me for some reason, and the tracking didn't work for my timing chip during the race at all). I switched to my backup watch and stopped trying to figure out if I was still on pace to finish in six hours, and just tried to keep my energy level up enough to survive. Smiling and flashing a V for Victory (and Vegan ;-) ) sign at all the official race photographers helped.
Into the Dogpatch. The sun was back out, and I was getting very tired and warm. I'd worn a sports bra but had attached my race bib to my shirt, so didn't want to deal with taking my shirt off. I missed the mile 23 marker and was going crazy thinking that I still had four miles left to go in this condition, but eventually saw mile 24. At that point I knew that I would make it. I could crawl two miles if I had to!
Onto the Embarcadero for the last stretch. I cut out the walking breaks after mile 25. I passed the 5:45 pace leader at a couple of minutes before that goal time into the race, hearing him behind me reassuring his charges that they still had another 15 minutes to finish within the official time. I knew I would make it, with time to spare.
The finish line came into sight. I hit the last timing mat and heard the announcer call out my name. Tired as I was, a crazy surge of energy came into me and I broke into a sprint. I crossed the finish line in 5:52:23, achieving my goal.
My overall pace was 13:27/mile. I placed 5334 out of 5763 overall (92.6%). My age-graded score was 41.85%. Complete results here; search for my name or bib number 80146.
Ziggy greeted me immediately, having seen me cross the finish line. I posed for an official photo, but was too tired to remember to ask Ziggy to take more photos with me wearing my medal. I just wanted to eat, drink, and go home to rest. I passed on the scone and Hawaiian bread offered at the finish, but did take a banana and coconut water. We walked a few blocks to catch a taxi home. My legs and feet were hurting but my knees, surprisingly, were absolutely fine.
Home. I struggled up the stairs, collapsing onto the couch. Ziggy prepared a large snack for me (including brownies I'd baked the night before), then he headed back to work. James came over a short time later with lunch from Herbivore (soy chicken schwarma). I only managed to eat half of it before deciding I really needed to shower and nap. James, having also had little sleep after teaching yoga 14 days straight, crashed for awhile too. We roused ourselves for stuffed pizza from Paxti's which Ziggy brought home around 6 p.m. Then Chad came by for awhile and we had more food and toasted my success with strawberry smoothies. I was happy to be surrounded by the people closest to my heart on such an important day.
I am proud that I accomplished my goal of completing a full marathon. Ever since dropping out of the first marathon I signed up for back in 2000 due to injury, I've wanted to see if I could achieve this goal. But it was until Dean Karnazes convinced me last September that I made this commitment. For the person who was always picked last in gym class, who was overweight and sedentary for half of her life, who didn't start running (or any other regular exercise) until age 28, and who always considered 26.2 miles to be an arbitrary distance, this was a Big Deal. And I did it.