Race Recap: San Francisco First Half Marathon

As I’ve noted, the San Francisco First Half Marathon was not a race for me — it was 13.1 miles of a 14-mile run that came with a T-shirt and Irish coffee. But I’m a completist, so, hey! A recap.

The San Francisco Marathon has two half-marathon options (start to the park; park to the finish): I picked the first half because I wanted to finally run over the Golden Gate Bridge. One of the cool things about this race is that runners get to use two lanes of the bridge deck; one of the less-cool things is that because of that, the race starts absurdly early. My original start time was 5:44 a.m.; I dropped back a couple of waves to start with a friend at 6:04. We planned to get to the start around 5:30 and relax — I’d run my first mile, we’d use the portapotties, no big deal.

Any hope of relaxation went out the window when I woke up half an hour after the alarm I never heard and had 20 minutes to meet my friends. I scrambled around and housed a piece of pumpkin bread and then heard that the cab hadn’t showed. While they hailed another, I gathered up the last bits of my stuff and bolted out the door. I’d pre-loaded the pockets of my shorts with my building and door keys, but in my rush, I pulled out the wrong key, put it down somewhere, and sprinted to the waiting cab, upon which I realized the building key was gone.

I had my door key, plus karma from four years of buzzing in other people’s UPS deliveries, so I didn’t think I was locked out forever. But the confusion forged itself into pure adrenaline, and by the time I got out of the cab, I was ready to run. I looped around the block for a too-fast warm-up mile, then headed to the corrals.

I wasn’t racing, but I wanted to practice race execution — starting conservatively, running my own pace, and taking liquids from aid stations. My friend got stuck in the portapotty line and latched onto a later corral, so I started alone. I’d planned to run without music, but (understandably) few people were out and I’d used up my entertaining thoughts during the warm-up, so my headphones were in after about 10 minutes.

I had energy to burn and concentrated on not burning it; I focused on breathing calmly. There are a couple of challenging hills in the first few miles — one short and steep, one more gradual but longer — and I slowed down but never needed to walk.

It was foggy enough that I almost didn’t realize we were coming up on the bridge. I started looking for familiar faces among runners coming the other way, and before long, I was calling out to Susan, whom I’d met at the expo. The bridge had some slick metal bits and people running elbow-to-elbow-to-elbow-to-elbow, and I decided to pick it up a little — enough that I wouldn’t lose my spot of clear pavement. Miles 7-10 were all in the 9:50s, closer to marathon goal pace than smart long run pace, but it felt like drafting on a swim.

At the end of the bridge, I took a Gu and grabbed my first water since ditching my bottle during my warm-up mile. On any other day I would have needed to drink sooner, and I probably should have anyway, but given the weather, I never felt thirsty. I got my phone out to snap a picture, and seconds later my friend came up behind me (on her way to a sub-2 finish in her first half!) and we chatted briefly. My legs felt a little dead around mile 10, as we got off the downhill slope of the bridge, but on the next uphill I focused on keeping my feet light, and the lead feeling passed.

Heading into the park, I chatted briefly with a guy who did a comically major fist-pump as we crossed the 12-mile marker and resisted the urge to kick. The fact that kicking crossed my mind was insane, because I never have a kick. No, I wasn’t racing, but I was en route to tying the longest distance I’d ever run, and to finish that feeling strong was a relief.

I crossed the finish at 2:13:32, got my medal, found my friend, and beelined for the Irish coffee. We wandered for a bit — lovely in a “heyyyy, drinking in the park before 9 a.m.” kind of way — then got a kind stranger to take a picture for the Internet and headed toward some park restrooms …

… in which my building key magically reappeared. I didn’t see it, just heard the jingle as it hit the ground. It was definitely not in any of my pockets, so maybe it got stuck in the liner as I was running out of the house. (And then stayed there for 13 miles?) Regardless, I was happier just knowing I could take a warm shower in my own apartment. A San Francisco Marathon miracle!

Final thoughts:

  • My time was a few seconds faster than I finished Nike last year. Nike is both hillier and I think tougher because of the crowds, but still, I did at least attempt to race it. That said, this was a mixed result in terms of ignoring the race atmosphere (or my own ego); I definitely took the bridge more aggressively than I would have solo.
  • I drank at three aid stations (miles 7, 10ish, and right before the end) and not much at any of them. Had it been warmer or sunnier, that would not have been enough. I think that means my handheld is coming to Germany.
  • Worst. Race photos. Ever. I thought concentrating on my form was supposed to fix that ish.
  • This is as much as I’ve ever done — train up to 14 miles, run a half. It’s all new from here!
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8 thoughts on “Race Recap: San Francisco First Half Marathon

  1. Angela says:

    Wow, great job executing under pressure! Sounds like an exciting morning. 🙂

  2. Kelly says:

    Congrats, Kimra!! Great job and great race! I so want to run that course (and move to SF..) someday soon. It just looks amazing, even with the hills! Also, amazing re: finding your key! During my first training cycle for NYCM a few years ago I lost my only apartment key while out on a 20 miler… in short, it was a disaster. 🙂

    • kimretta says:

      Thanks! It is a fun course, I think — and I really hadn’t run any sort of meaningful hills since Wildflower, so it isn’t THAT bad. And ugh, keys! My old building used to have an intercom where I could call my cell phone to buzz myself in, and I was REALLY wishing for that for a while there.

  3. RoseRunner says:

    You picked the first half, that is commitment! the start time frightens me.

    A) I share temper trap as one of my race songs (weird cause it’s a slower beat).

    B) I’ve heard from a lot of runners that the photos were exceptionally bad. Maybe it’s because SF sucks and everyone was miserable? Kidding. I love/hate sf. So awesome to run on the GG bridge and see NOTHING EVER because it is always foggy. Stupid sf.

    • kimretta says:

      I seriously considered pulling an all-nighter.

      I have driven over the Golden Gate Bridge when it’s been sunny — even when it’s been sunny on both sides of the bridge, which happens, what, once a year? — but I have never walked/run/biked it in anything but horrifying, freezing cloudy fog.

  4. katie says:

    ha, you’re adorable post-race! and I’m jealous of cold fog, oh yes, yes I am.

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