I signed up for my very first full marathon not too long after my beloved grandmother passed away, in memory of her.
Let me tell you straight here, when you are not 23 years old, and sort of athletic, being lazy is not an option for marathon training. While I trained, my training was not optimal, especially towards the last 6 weeks. Let's just put it this way, normal people taper for 3 weeks, I taped for 6 weeks…. And let's just lay it out here, my goal was to finish at 4:30, but I missed my A goal by 1:31 , and finished at 4:31:31. I went into this race without any expectation, my fastest half marathon is on a flat, fast course, and I do it at 1:57:xx. If my training is optimal, on a similar fast course, I maybe able to do it in 4:15, again, maybe, but not SFM. Hills, have you heard of those hills?
Another thing is that I am a big chicken, I have never run this distance before, so I need to feel it, know how I would feel at certain point to make sure I can finish the race, I felt like while I was tired at the end, I ran this quite conservatively.
The course: All I can say is hills, hills, hills, and more freakn hills. I thought that after the first half, its all flat/downhill. WRONG!! Golden gate park is one long gradual hills that will eat you alive and spit you out then run over you. No joke. I mentally broke the race into 3 stages
Stage 1: AT&T park to end of GGB
Stage 2: Presidio hills (scary) to out of GGB- mentally toughest stage, luckily my family and friends were there to support me and offered a bit of pick me up at mile 14ish.
Stage 3. Haights street all the way back to AT&T park.
I am not an early person, so a race that starts at 6am is really not my cup of tea. After finding my running partner Luisa (we decided to run this race together, in fact, my 2 half marathon PRs ran with her!), we were late for our wave (5), and decided to climb over and just get started.
Miles 1-6: The first few miles was flat and minimal weaving was needed. We ran along Fisherman's wharf, passed by ghiradelli square, aquatic park and encounter my first hill at Fort Mason. This hill is steep, but it's really short, being a hill-phobe, i'm proud that i ran all the way up without complaining or
wanting having to walk. Then we ran along crissy field, up onto the golden gate bridge and turn around.
Not my pic…but you get the idea
Miles 7-11: I didn't expect to love running on the bridge since I ran this route all the time, but seeing lots of runnings on the other side got me quite excited!! We passed alot of people on the bridge, it was very crowded, slippery and someone fell in front of me. I took my first gel at the Golden Gate Bridge Visitor Center turn around. Then onto the presidio.
The presidio is the hilly part I fear (number 1 fear is golden gate park). Never ran there (tried but kept getting lost and never found lincoln). It was a mild to med grade hill but it's HELLA long. After that, we encounter the BEST downhill running ever. Being a slower runner, Luisa and I were very very chatty during the first 14 miles of the race, even when we were running at 8:xx pace here!!
How could not smile and get your spirits lifted when you see this!!
Miles 13-20: The damn park: We ran through the Avenues into the dreaded Golden Gate Park. I start feeling a bit of fatique of going out fast. I would be lying if I didn't secretly want to turn into the half marathoners lane when I saw the split sign. But I know that my husband, BFF Susan, niece Cecelia, and her dog Max are all waiting for me in the park, my spirits lifted up a little. I called them to let them know that we are on our way into the park. We finally saw them at mile 14, I was tired. We stopped and took pictures with the crew and get going again.
We circled around GGP, really, I don't ever fancy running here anymore. When I ran the 2nd Half of the SFM last year, I did not feel the hills AT-ALL. But after the first half's hills beating on my legs, I just did not have the strength to do this anymore, needless to say, I ran my slowest miles in GGP. Here comes stow leg, its a series of nonstop rolling hills and at this point, I wanted to cry. But thinking that once I'm out of this damn park, we shall be rewarded with net downhill running. Woo hoo!! (turns out not to be the case).
Out of the park: Miles 20-23
First time I felt my emotion swelling when i stepped outside of the park. I remembered when I told one of my friend that I'm running this in memory of my grandma, he said: “She will be with you, every step”. I thought about this, and I started choking up, I didn't actually let the tears out, but I was choking to a point that I could not talk. I wanted to tell Luisa how I felt, but my throat was shut. I started thinking about presents I can get myself after the race and it went away. Luisa then asked me, “you said after the park we will have downhill, where???”. I was silence because I don't see any… We continue to run through the haights neighborhood, we were no longer chatty. Our walk breaks became more frequent, every single water stop i had to walk a few. Tiny little hill that last maybe a block, i had to walk. Fatique was kicking in.
Mile 24-26.7: Somewhere here, we encountered those downhills that we both very much look forward to. But in reality, after our legs being beat up by the massive hills for 20 miles, I did not like those downhills. I was running them slower than flats. It hurts. BAD. At mile 25, I was tempted to tell Luisa to just go forward, I cannot push hard anymore. The evil thoughts start kicking in, but I know I won't walk to finish because it's just takes way long and prolongs the agony. I did not give in, I can imagine my family's face if they see Luisa at the finish line without me. I swallow the pain and pushed through. I've been training with Luisa for over a year, running together every weekend, miles and miles. I can feel that she wanted to kick it at mile 25. I went with her, we start back running at a decent pace of 9:30 and not feeling so bad. Then when we got to the AT&T park, not having a faintest idea of how much longer we have till finish line, she said let's kick it more! I thought I was gonna die. I went with it. Our last .7 mile was at 8:xx. We missed our goal by 1:31 minutes, but I'm very very proud of myself.
Thank You Luisa for always sticking with me!
- Do not do a 6 week taper, doesn't work.
- Try to stick with a plan unless you know what you're doing.
- I need more tempo runs. 3 mile tempo runs does not work for a 26.2 mile race.
- Taking a few walk break is okay, but standing at the aid station talking is not okay.
- Respect the distance, 26.2 miles (although i ran 26.7) is no joke.
- Knowing the course is hilly, please do some long runs with hills.
This was a very long post!! But hey, it was my first marathon!!