“It’s a badass route!” I was told at the expo of the San Francisco half marathon. “You will be considered as a tough runner if you get through this one.” I looked at the guy behind the information desk quizzically with raised eyebrows as he pointed to the route map of the 2nd half marathon which was supposed to commence at 7:30 am. There was the full marathon, the first half marathon which started at 5:30 am and the 2nd half which was what I had signed up for. Since I would be travelling from Palo Alto in the morning, I had asked him for logistics to reach the start line.
“You can ask your Uber guy to drop you off at 1st and mission street. From there, you will find shuttles to take you to the start line which is quite far off. You will be finishing your race at the same point where your uber drops you off.” I got my queries answered and went back home with a queasy feeling, hearing about the elevation profile.
It had been 4 months since I did an event-my last one being the Pune women’s half marathon on March 11th 2017 which was a slightly hilly route. The months of May and June hadn’t had mileages to boast about although I had continued my fitness regime diligently. Mental fatigue of moving from my comfort zone was nagging me albeit it was only for a year. I decided to work on my running after coming to Stanford which I did within 3 days after landing here. I resumed my speed workouts, hill repeats in the dish area- located straight ahead of Stanford avenue, which had some deadly inclines. I also had to juggle time between my creative writing course and taking care of the household chores myself as I did not have the luxury of domestic help like I did in India…..
The next day morning, I left home at 5:15 am as it was a 40-minute drive to San Francisco. The shuttles to the start line were functional between 6-7 am. It was a beautiful foggy drive to the start line which was located inside the golden gate park. The woods in the mist made quite a pretty sight and it was quite chill, making me glad that I had worn my leggings and inner wear to keep me warm. There were buses which were segregated according to the bib numbers and runners with those allocated bib numbers could leave their change of clothes or bag packs inside. They could later collect their belongings post the race. Waves aka corals were allocated as per the bib numbers as well and each wave had a designated time to the leave the start line. I was allocated in wave 4 and my race was to begin at 7:45 am.
I observed a lot of runners doing their warm ups and stretches. Some were scantily clothed making me marvel at their tenacity to bear the cold while others were wearing full arm tees and leggings. I spotted a few Indians who were discussing about their last years’ experience. The race soon began…
The very first km greeted us with an incline. The course took us amidst the redwoods of the golden gate park. What a treat it was! It reminded me of the scenes from the fantasy adventure movies I grew up watching. The sight of the mist and the greenery looked surreal. The weather was pleasant as the elevation took us higher and it felt like running inside a hill station. We passed by a vast lake and the logs of wood in the water body resembled crocodiles, making my eyes widen for a minute before I realized my eyes were playing tricks with me. The inclines were never ending and at the 8th km, I ran by the finish line of the 1st half marathon, watching the runners cruise to the finish, in style. The course saw me through the conservatory of flowers and narrow pathways which soon opened out into the city lanes. The first half of the race was over.
By now, the sun had come out, probably realizing that it was being rude not to greet the runners and decided to beam down in a bright manner. The temperatures suddenly soared. I decided to ignore the heat and focus on my music and the streets of San Francisco. “It was a great way to see the city,” I thought, taking in the quaint houses, the cafes and the rolling roads which felt like going on a roller coaster ride. I noticed a lot of foreigners slowing down as the heat became unbearable. Fortunately, the volunteers present at regular intervals proved to be a blessing. For a while there was no shade which prompted me to pour water on my head.
It was nice to see a wonderful crowd support. The young and old stood on the roads, giving each and every one of the runners a hi five. That smile and a cheer motivated me to keep going. It was interesting to see some witty placards with sayings like “You are a badass runner. Finish like one. The rolling course continued till the 18th km. I soon found myself running beside the azure blue Pacific Ocean, glancing at the sparkling waters in admiration. The heat was fierce by now. “Just 3 km to go”. I thought to myself.
I noticed a band playing as we took a turn, giving them a thumbs-up for their enthusiasm. I noticed more placards on the way which said, “You cannot quit now, people are watching you.” I arrived at the Bay bridge and was running strong, determined not to let the heat get to me. Despite the fact I hadn’t run a 21 km in 2 months, I was glad that I did not hit a wall in the 19th km like I usually do at times. The beauty of San Francisco was enough to demolish the psychological walls and soon arrived at the 21 km mark as my Garmin buzzed, showing 2:07.
The finish line was nowhere in sight. I seemed to keep going and for a minute wondered if this was a 22 km race. Finally, I saw that familiar vibrant arch studded with balloons within a few metres and sprinted. I crossed the finish line as my Garmin showed 21.59 km in 2:10. The course appeared to be almost 600 m longer as it was displayed on the Garmin watches of many of the other runners, much to their indignation.
After doing some stretches, I collected my medal, stood in line to be clicked by the photographer as I proudly posed with the Indian flag! The snack counter served some water, bananas, fruits and some chocolate wafers.
As I sat in the cab on the way home, I reminisced the run. It was a challenging course with grueling terrains and brutal heat in the second half. It was certainly not a PB route but one that will make you feel like a badass runner!!
Guidelines for this race:
- As mentioned it’s not a PB route, so don’t go with high expectations. However, if you do manage your pb, well and good.
- It can get extremely windy and chill in san Francisco especially in the mornings. If you are running the 2nd half marathon, kindly wear a disposable jacket which will come in handy in the first half and which can be discarded in the second half when it gets hot.
3. It’s a hilly course so ensure that you include hill repeats as a part of your training plan if you have signed up for this race.
- To reach the start line of the 2nd half marathon, take a cab to 1st and mission street in San Francisco and from there the shuttles will take you to the start line.
- If you are carrying any belongings, you can leave it in the buses which are assigned as per your bib number. They can be collected at the finish line post the race.
- It’s a beautiful route and one can be assured of enjoying the golden gate park and seeing San Francisco city!!