How can you not fall in love with a half marathon that includes gorgeous, sweeping views of Golden Gate Bridge and enough hills to challenge even the strongest of runners?
As planned, Kristine and I made it our goal to PR in fun this weekend versus giving ourselves a time goal. We wanted the girls weekend in San Francisco to be enjoyable versus filled with race stress that comes along with a goal race. We took a Bar Method class together, we walked for miles exploring Marina and other neighborhoods, we stayed up watching our favorite shows and laughing, and we enjoyed a fun night on the town with her amazing boyfriend.
After last night’s unconventional, yet delicious homemade pre-race dinner of pork chops, roasted squash and Brussel sprouts, we said goodnight around 10:30 knowing that the alarm would be going off soon. This race starts at 6:30 which, while a dream for this morning gal, means that we had to be awake at 5 AM.
After chugging some water and coffee we donned our race day gear and hopped in an Uber with our pre-race meal.
From her neighborhood it was an easy 15 minute ride down to Union Square, where the half marathon took over the entire area.
Within minutes of arriving to the start, Nike proved that they know what they are doing when it comes to this half marathon. Everything was planned and organized flawlessly. Even though over 25,000 women participated in this race, the bathroom and bag check lines were shorter than most races due to the strategic placement of them inside each individual corral. There was even NUUN water stations within each corral! Well done Nike, well done!
At exactly 6:30 AM the first runners crossed the starting line, signaling the start of the race. It took 10 minutes or so until our corral, the 9:00-9:59 corral crossed the starting line. I will say that as soon as we started we came to a dead halt due to bottle necking. Not a good thing if you’re trying to PR the race but if you’re hear for the fun then it is no big deal.
The first 5k included lots of turns and hills as we headed west through The Tenderloin area of the city towards Golden Gate Park. While my hip flexors and glutes felt these early hills, including the second steepest one of the race, the three of us just kept talking as we powered up each of the hills.
We entered the gorgeous Golden Gate Park around mile 3.5 and proceeded to weave through it for the next four miles. The park was a welcome change from the first few miles. There was lush greenery, gorgeous buildings, waterfalls and beautiful views everywhere. The course plateaud during these miles, allowing us to rest our legs a bit.
There were three aid stations in the park which included water, NUUN, a medical tent and bathrooms. We took advantage of the bathrooms early in the race, around mile 4.5, in order to ensure we could enjoy the rest of the race. It amazes me how the temperature and weather vacillates in San Francisco depending where you are. While the start was cool, the miles in the park were warmer and humid due to the initial morning fog, which typically holds in the humidity.
As we exited the park, I laughed knowing that while we’d passed the halfway point, the hardest part of the course was waiting for us at mile 10. Sun, hills and thicker crowds greeted us as we navigated the neighborhood streets en route to The Presidio.
I don’t know if I was fully prepared for the beauty we’d encounter during these miles. While the climb from 9.5 to 10.5 was nothing short of soul crushing, the views were well worth the effort. Unlike last year, Karl the Fog lifted in time for our climb which meant we could see the bridge, bay, and rocky cliffs perfectly.
Since we were running the race for fun, we took full advantage of the scenic vistas, posing for fun photos and taking pictures of fellow runners. The energy that the cheer stations provided during this climb was on par with the New York City Marathon. Special thanks to the November Project, Team in Training and Nike for the signs, cheers and motivation.
What goes up must come down and as soon as we crested the climb we turned the corner for a fast, steep downhill towards the coast line. As soon as we finished the downhill dash towards the coast line, we entered a wide path along the coast line which included a chocolate station and final water station as well as a few bands and Asian dancers.
I didn’t enjoy these final miles as much as I expected due to a side stitch and the urge to finish. Since we ran at a conversational pace the entire time, we still had two miles left when my watch beeped 2 hours. Even though the path was along the water, nothing could compare to the incredible views of miles 9.5-11.5.
As soon as we saw the finish line we gave it a final kick over the finish line, literally running into Emily.
Our final time was 2:27, more than 25 minutes slower than last week’s half marathon due to a fun, conversation pace and multiple picture stops. It’s amazing to see how far I’ve come as this was a “difficult, hard to talk pace” during my early years of running half marathons!
After grabbing chocolate milk and filled water bottles, we made a bee line for the highly anticipated medals, aka Tiffany necklaces.
We were a bit disappointed to see that they replaced the fire fighters with volunteers this year. In years past, tuxedo clad fire fighters presented each winner with her teal box.
It’s been a while since I ran a half marathon for fun and I would happily do it more often. For most of the miles, it felt more like a casual long run with a good friend than a half marathon.
Too bad all long runs didn’t include Tiffany finisher necklaces, race support in the form of cheering and NUUN, and great company.
While the $200 price tag of the Nike Women San Francisco Half Marathon can provide some with sticker shock, I would highly recommend adding it to your race list. It is a wonderfully executed half marathon in a gorgeous city. In addition, the Nike tank, re-usable bag filled with race swag and Tiffany necklace are included in that price.