The first 3-4 miles were spent running through Fisherman’s Wharf. A very touristy area, it included a great view of Alcatraz Island. It was within these first couple of miles that linked up with the 4 hour, 45 minute pace group. The early miles of every marathon always feel the best for me (as I am sure it does for most any marathoner), because normally it is this stage of the race where the only thoughts passing through my head are positive in nature. This theory held true this morning. As I began to make simple introductions to the pace group, I easily fell into their established rhythm. By mile 4, we had entered the Presidio and were closing in on the Golden Gate Bridge. Fog had made the span of the bridge barely visible – but that was no matter. I planned to take a couple of pictures as I waddled in traffic along it – hopefully I’d be able to see more than a few feet in front of me!
As we approached the mile 5 marker, the course provided its first hint of how it earned its reputation as being a true test. As the bridge grew closer, we were provided a long, steep hill to climb – it felt like the toll we’d have to pay to waddle across the span of the Golden Gate. It was tiring and I caused the entire pace group to break their collective strides…but it was worth it. Before you knew it, we were on the bridge and it was a really enjoyable experience. Unfortunately, the view was handicapped by the fog – but no one seemed to care. Once we got to the other side, we made a tight U turn in Vista Point…and then ran back over the bridge toward the Presidio. As we exited off of the bridge, we were already closing in on Mile 10. Knowing that the hills were most assuredly in front of me, I decided to let the 4:45 pace group go and begin running my own race.
I slowed my pace down and began to take in the sights. The Presidio is absolutely beautiful. Since I am a huge Disney geek, I had made my way to The Disney Family Museum which is located within this gorgeous government-owned park area the day before the race. So the marathon simply gave me a different view of this lovely part of the city.
The next several miles were spent running through the park’s tree-saturated roadways, with very little crowd support. A year ago, this lack of verbal support during the race by spectators would have made miles 8-20 extremely difficult for me; however, after running several very small races in 2012, I was accustomed to being my own cheering section. As one person once told me (who shall remain nameless): “Joe, you have several odd personalities…so you really are your own entourage”. Good – because I began to need my own portable cheering section as we closed in on the half-way point of the race.
Near mile 12, I was running down 27th street when all of a sudden, in front of me, a couple of police officers halted runner traffic in order to permit cars to cross the street. I had never seen this before. Runners alongside me actually looked puzzled as we stopped in front of a long orange chord held by two volunteers. This was a first. Within moments, we were permitted to continue – but the damage was done. I had stopped completely. And once I stop during a marathon – all of my positive momentum was lost.
As I entered Golden Gate Park and crossed the half-way point of the race, I desperately attempted to get my motor running smoothly again. It took a good mile to find renewed rhythm to quasi-succeed. And then…at mile 15…I began to smell something amazing in the air. No – it was not the sweet smell of success. No – it was not the decedent aroma of potential personal best time. Nope. None of those things. So what did I smell? Bacon.
Dailymile supported an actual bacon stop at mile 15. Unreal. And oh how I love bacon. However, I chose to ignore my urge to order six slices extra crispy because I had no idea what they would do to my stomach in the coming miles. I actually used my head for something other than a hat rack. Go figure. And I waddled on.
Miles 17-23 were extremely tough. I hit the wall hard, was stopped one more time for crossing car traffic, and began to feel dehydrated. The one highlight: BEER at mile 19!
As the final miles were reeled in and I passed right in front of AT&T Park, I knew I would finish strong – but would not PR. That was OK – those hills throughout the course presented a challenge…but not as tough as Gettysburg.
As I ran past the ballpark, I thought of that routine performed by Lewis Black:
“I love my Iphone. It’s a fantastic little computer. It’s a computer – NOT a phone. It’s not a real phone because I have AT&T as my carrier. And AT&T is a cellular carrier in much the same way that a mosquito carries malaria. I would be better off with a Dixie cup and a strong…”
…I actually laughed as I waddled along the first base side of the edifice. Out loud. For all to see.
The final mile felt great. Spectators were finally around and that gave me the jolt to sprint across the tape. Soon after I was given a medal, I had my bag as well as some fantastic food and drinks in the finisher’s village. I even got to hang out with the Rabbit from Quik chocolate milk. Ahhhh yes – a good way to end the event.
This is one race I would definitely run again, and would recommend to my buddies out there.
I waddled back to my hotel room slowly, with three slices of greasy pizza in a rapidly deteriorating white paper bag in one hand and a huge bottle of water in the other. When I finally arrived back at the Hotel Nikko, I took a moment to do the mental math…..yup: it was definitely worth the hurt.
I gave myself 24 hours to enjoy the fruits of my labor and heal from the event. Then it was time to focus on August’s race: 9 laps around in 3 mile lake in Rye, New York. The Self Transcendence Marathon.
7 Down. 5 to go.
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