I didn't think I had very much to say, but somehow this RR turned out kind of long.
The SF marathon has 4,400 feet of climbing in the first half and 2,200 feet of climbing in the second half, a fact which is conveniently omitted from the race website. Had I known that beforehand, there is absolutely no way I would have chosen this for my first marathon. That’s like going up and down a tall mountain! No way. Thank goodness I didn’t find that out until after the race because now I’m just that much more proud of myself.
Because there is double the elevation gain in the first half, my goal was to run negative splits. I was hoping that if everything went perfectly I could run the first half in under 2:10 and hopefully try to be faster in the 2nd half. I read somewhere that marathon pace should feel ridiculously easy for the first half, comfortably hard for about the next 10k and pretty darn painful until the end, so that’s what I was aiming for.
The start of the race had the longest port o potty lines I’ve ever seen, so I decided to skip it and go later, which led to a 1:45 minute potty stop around mile 2. We started along the Embarcadero which is perfectly flat. I wasn’t sure how to pace myself here because I wanted to start slow and easy, but I also thought maybe I should take advantage of the flatness and bank some time since I doubted I’d see anymore flat stretches after this. My hunch was right, BTW, there was no more flat until the very end. Decided to take it easy which was probably a good choice since there were 25 more miles to go.
Running across the Golden Gate was amazing, almost surreal. Unfortunately, all of the fog made for slippery footing so I couldn’t sightsee too much, or I’d likely slip and fall. After the bridge it’s hill after hill after hill and I’m focusing on not looking at my pace so I can stay calm. Hills get to me mentally because I start to panic when I see my pace slowing down so much.
Around the halfway point we ran into Golden Gate park which was just beautiful. The only bummer part was that this was where the first half ended and we had to loop past their finish twice. How obnoxious! I hit the half in 2:09:11 which was right on schedule, now it was time to start picking up the pace. It was around this point that my Garmin lost satellite signal and never regained it for the remainder of the race. I am majorly Garmin dependent so I was like a little lost puppy for a bit there. Now I’ll always wonder if the race would have been different (could I have went sub-4??) had I had that crutch. Later on in the park we must have passed the 2nd half start because all of a sudden I had hit the 3 hr. pace group. Took me awhile to realize these were the 2nd halfers. It was really hard trying to dodge them all, I swear they were all linked arm in arm. At some point in the park I see this older guy who’s doing the full at a pretty good clip. I was starting to feel like I needed to latch onto someone and he told me he was shooting for a 10 min. pace. Now, since my watch lost signal I have no way of knowing my pace, but dude, I’m pretty sure this is way faster than 10 mm. He agreed with me, but kept up the pace so I tried best I could to stay with him.
I stayed with him all the way out of the park and down Haight St. until we hit some MAJOR downhill and I took off and never saw him again. I really wish I could have seen my pace down that hill because I was flying. I was passing people like crazy and I don’t remember a single person passing me. I’m sure this totally fried my quads because believe me, I paid for it the last 2 miles or so, but man, was it fun!
By about mile 24 I was just done. My legs were so incredibly tight that I knew it would hurt worse if I stopped to walk, so I just kept running. The pictures should be interesting, because by mile 25 I totally had my birthing face on. In fact, I was making birthing noises, too. I felt like I was crawling, but I was stoked that at least it was finally flat. People were passing, but not too many, I really wish I could see how much I slowed down here. Around this point they routed us all up onto a sidewalk, and I swear the curb was 18 inches high. My quads hurt so bad I had to stop and take it sideways. Couldn’t they at least have built a ramp or something? That was just plain rude! Somehow I ran the last 10k at an 8:52 pace.
I finally see the end and finish. I can’t believe I just ran my first marathon in 4:07:34 on these super hilly streets! I really had the perfect race. Everything went just as I had hoped in my best case scenario plans. I fueled perfectly and never hit any 'walls', I ran negative splits (2:09 and 1:58), and I never had any sort of injury type of pain. I guess it does pay to obsessively read everything I can re: marathoning. I can now confirm that running a marathon is like childbirth in that you forget the pain, because I’m almost ready to start thinking about my next one. Almost.