Sunday, I ran the Nike Women's Marathon in San Francisco. 30,000 runners, mostly women, filled the streets of San Francisco to run half or full marathons. This was the 10th year of the race and had about 5,000 more participants than the previous year- entry is only available via lottery because of the swanky Tiffany necklace you get in place of a medal handed to you by a San Francisco Firefighter. The course is mildly hilly (I would have said very hilly when I first moved here from Texas but after trail running have reevaluated what I think hilly means) and runs down the Embarcadero, near Fort Mason, through Golden Gate Park and ends at the Great Highway on the Pacific Ocean.
Race morning I got up at 3:45 a.m., a little earlier than I usually have to get up for races but it started at 6:30 a.m. and because it is such a large race I wanted to make sure I parked remotely close to the starting line. I picked up an iced latte and a bagel on the way and ended up in a parking garage a few blocks away that was nearly full over an hour before the race started.
I started the race with a few friends in the last corral, which didn't end up getting over the starting line until 45 minutes after the gun. Unfortunately, because I was in the last corral and it was such a crowded race I ended up dodging slower runners and walkers the entire 13.1 miles. The energy was really something special but I doubt I will be signing up for a race that large again. I like my space! Along the course to motivate us were a full choir some time in the first 5k, many spectators with signs and even chocolate (that I didn't partake in because I was booking it) at mile 11. This was the largest race I've ever been a part of and I was a little unused to all of the people cheering us on but it sure did help to hear the crowd at the finish line who were loudly cheering on the first place marathon finisher as I finished my half.
I came in with a time of 2:08:19, which was pretty darn good for me! I've been doing about 10:30 pace on my long runs with the longest being a 16 miler a couple of weeks before the Half. I attribute my increased pace with trying to keep up with my running partner Courtney who kept me pushing through every mile and I even had a 7:50 pace on mile 11 (flying downhill).
Unfortunately, the finish line was insanely crowded because of a change in the land available to the race organizers and that caused me to not be able to find any of the people I came with (cell phones were not working because of how many people were trying to call out at the same time). I ended up just picking up my Tiffany necklace, shirt, drop bag and getting on the shuttles back to the starting line after an hour of trying to find anyone I knew and my phone ended up dying.
ETA: I ended up running in Merrell Trail Gloves instead of barefoot... I debated up until morning of what I was going to do but after my first half experience with an unknown course and it being an early morning race with a bit of chill in the air I put on my shoes. I've run in them a few times including a 16 miler a couple of weeks before the race and I've also been having a couple of new "twinges" in my achilles... Coincidence? I'm not sure but I'm definitely going to stick with bare feet for my familiar training routes. I definitely could have done the course barefoot after seeing it but you never know. The gravel I stood on waiting for the shuttles back to the start would not have been fun after a Half, either!
Overall, it was a great race and I was happy about my time but the sheer number of people caused a lot of logistical problems both during and after the race. I also didn't get any course photos so I'm still on the hunt for the mythical "floating" running picture! I did get one before crossing the starting line as my corral moved towards it: