Valentine run with nature: The golden gate trail experience

A sight of the golden gate bridge is always a treat to the eyes. Probably the reason why I keep signing up for running events at San Francisco. Most courses take you either on the bridge or close enough for runners to click their selfies and flaunt it on social media.

The Golden gate bridge trail was yet another opportunity to get a glimpse of this architect wonder and also run amidst nature.  I started at 6:30 am from Stanford to reach Marin county by 7:45 am as my half marathon race was scheduled at 8:15 am. The start line was at Rodeo beach, the only point where I would be at sea level as I gazed at the mountains above. I tried to calm my nerves d by averting my gaze to the waves before the race director did his countdown.

From the word go, it was uphill throughout, getting steeper and steeper as we made our way through the unpaved terrain of rocks and sand.  A proper trekking trail, I thought, making me wonder if I should have invested in a pair of shoes designed specifically for trail running.  There was no way anyone could run on this unless they were mountain goats or conditioned their body to such trails from their childhood.  I decided to discard my watch and just enjoy this date with nature.

 

I noticed some of the runners carrying a small backpack and they were huddled in groups.  At one point, one of the runners told another girl to go ahead if she wanted to. “It’s fine”, she said.” It’s just my training run. I will wait for you.”  Running may be a solo sport but it’s important to stick to your pack in times like these where the going gets tough.

As I ventured higher, the climb was getting steeper and at one point, there were actual steps which we had to tread on cautiously.  My mind couldn’t bear to think what would happen if we lost our balance and rolled down the hills. I shuddered and scolded myself for ruining such a beautiful date. The setting was perfect I thought, looking at the blue skies and cascade of greenery all around.

Reaching the first aid station at the 6-km mark which was stocked with fruits, nuts, pretzels, water and cookies, I grabbed some raisins and ran ahead. Greeted once again by a continuous spiraling slope, I decided to walk up instead of expending my reserves especially on a sunny day like this. A lot of people seemed to be on my page as they walked up this hill. Getting into a conversation with a few other runners, I learned that this trail was apparently on their bucket list. One of them drove down from San Diego which was a 9-hour drive to San Francisco. The conversation steered towards the importance of enjoying such tough terrains rather than stressing on pace or timing.  I stopped to get a few pictures of the pristine blue Pacific Ocean, below.

At the 9th km mark, the ascent gave way to a flat pathway and my strides, overtaking many runners who were still huffing and puffing.  I turned into the woods and entered winding muddy terrains at the edge of the mountain. There was a steep fall on the right and I tried to focus on the route ahead instead of looking down which would have led to a heart attack otherwise.

I stopped at the 12th km mark to get a picture of the Golden gate bridge. What an incredible sight of the bridge surrounded by clear blue waters! The view from the top was worth this arduous climb.  I continued running and at one point overtook many more runners.  At the 14th km, I grabbed more raisins, refilled my water bottle at the aid station and continued cruising on this road less traveled.  One more ascent greeted me at the 16-km mark along with dirt roads which prompted me to walk up again till I reached a point where I could continue my strides.

I was close to home, I thought. The muddy pathway gave way to the roads and I soon spotted some cars parked on the road. The sun was up shining in its splendor which prompted me to gulp more water as I trudged along. My legs now felt like a jelly pulp ready to be eaten by hungry hounds. I paused for a moment, tired out from the run when I heard a voice behind “Hey not now. Just a km to the finish line.” I pepped myself to keep going up the slope and go down again only to embrace the finish line and the medal garlanded around my neck.

 

I plonked myself on the grass and stared at the skies above. I was in one piece after this grueling run, so thank you, I mouthed to the heavens above. I recollected the number of times in the past where I kept telling myself that never again would I go through such torture. Yet I never listened to that inner voice which was always telling me to quit! It was worth the sweat, blood and tears. Especially when you go back home and look at a stronger reflection in the mirror!

It had been worth it. Besides its not too often that you get a taste of nature’s splendors along with an iconic marvel! An invigorating date was what I needed with nature, especially since it was just a few days before valentine’s day!

 

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