Nothing screams FUN like running a half marathon in one of the hilliest cities, right?
This was my first time I've ever traveled for a race and all 2,116 miles to get there were totally worth it! This trip was a big step for me, in many ways: it was the first time I ever traveled for a race, first time I’ve ever flown, first time in this city –alone I might add. Like many bigger races, Nike races are through a random draw. I entered back in June on a whim thinking I’d never get in, But I did! I debated for a day, because it was only one week after my first marathon and I wasn't sure how that would go or how I'd be feeling. Ultimately I decided to keep my entry, because the experience outweighed any con I could think of. I went in with little expectations. I loved this race, so far the most challenging and scenic course I have ever run. I’ve never run a Nike event before, and I’ve never run in San Francisco before. From start to finish, I was thoroughly impressed. Not to mention, instead of a finisher medal, I got a Tiffany & Co. finisher necklace!
Race morning, Union Square was invaded by 21,000 runners awaiting the start line. I had planned on meeting my new friend Lynda at her hotel for coffee and breakfast, however I found out very quickly this was not going to happen. I could not get to the other side of Union Square without walking blocks out of the way, something I was not going to do right before a race. After a little panic, we finally found each other and got situated in our corral. No coffee and no breakfast, how does this keep happening?
This course sends you straight into a hill within the first mile. My first thought was I am not ready for this, my legs aren’t warmed up yet. Lynda kept yelling at me to stop looking at my watch, to breath and to stop thinking about my foot, which had been hurting all weekend. I knew she was right, but I didn’t want to admit it. We ran the start together and kept with each-other until just after the 8k mark. I kept hoping my foot would stop hurting and I would be able to stick with her, but that was not the case. The first couple of miles are a little uneventful as you are mainly running through the city streets and it’s still quite dark. You do get to watch the beautiful sunrise over the mountains in the distance though. By mile 3.5 we made it to Golden Gate Park, which was beyond gorgeous. We ran through the park until about mile 7.5ish. These were some of my favorite miles of the race. The next 2 miles are through residential streets with rolling hills. It was right around this point, I finally got to meet Brian from Pavement Runner- we had chatted many times on social media and I had been a reader of his blog for quite a while but I had never actually met him in person until now. A hug, a selfie and some encouraging words from him and I was back on my way.
At some point I was running side by side with the 2:45 pacer, I knew I wasn’t going to get a PR on this course at this point I with my foot and I just was hoping for a finish so I made a point of keeping them in sight or behind me. I was running slower on the uphills, faster on the downhills. So we traded leads for the next 2.5 miles, she was great to work off of, I wished I had paced myself with someone sooner. San Francisco is synonymous with HILLS, and this course has a few doozies. However, I was pleasantly surprised by how manageable the course was overall. Still the toughest course I've run in terms of hills and you need to be mentally prepared to push yourself over said hills, but it's totally manageable as a whole. By the 15K-ish we had entered Presidio Park area, which was also gorgeous along the ocean. The worst of the hills came at Mile 10. It was the one I kept staring at on the elevation map with fear. I realized that with the steep incline I could power walk it probably just as fast as I could run it and conserve a bit of energy. The view at the top is AMAZING! Oh the views of the Golden Gate bridge! Once you reach the top, it’s a glorious downhill followed by a flat aprox 1.8 stretch into the finish line at the marina. I’ll take a downhill or flat finish any day!
That last stretch was rough for me, I stopped at the aid tent at the bottom of the hill to ice my foot for a few minutes, but then I couldn’t get my shoe back on. I didn't know why I was hurting so bad or why my foot was so swollen but I was determined to finish. I finally got going and I WAS going to finish this race. I could see the white tents in the distance, I knew that’s where the finish was but it seemed so far away. I finally hit that last stretch and gave it all I had. The second I crossed the finish line and stopped running, I couldn’t take another single step. I had two very nice gentlemen help me hobble over to the medical tent. It was thought that I had sprained my ankle based on my pain reaction and the swelling. Some ice and a tight wrap job and I was able to hobble around. It wasn’t until I returned home to see my own doctor that I learned that I had torn a tendon in my foot. I have no idea how this happened other than I was having some soreness in my foot the entire week prior to this trip from running the marathon. I’m sure there were warning signs that I ignored and in the moment of the race its really hard to make the call to quit or not when you don’t actually know why you’re hurting. It wasn't a pretty finish and my slowest race time ever but I finished and I’m ok now so I’m grateful for that.
Overall, There aren’t enough superlatives to describe how much fun I had at the Nike Women’s Half Marathon. I wouldn’t call this a PR course, not unless you're used to running those hills, but it’s a really beautiful, fun course that challenged me mentally and physically. I can’t say enough how much running changes your life. It breaks you down but only to prove how strong you are, mentally and physically. No more doubting myself. No more criticizing my thick thighs. Those thick thighs have done amazing things getting me through my first full-marathon and my toughest half-marathon in a one-week span of time. Believe in yourself, surround yourself with people who believe in you and enjoy the journey.
This is one race I’d certainly love to run again! Oh and Check out the Tiffany’s bling! I’ve admittedly been wearing it since Sunday, but I don’t think it’s something I’ll keep on for long.
Dream Big. Work Hard. :)