San Francisco Marathon 2017
Background: I suppose most of us look back at our PB (personal best) races with a sense of pride, but on top of that I look back with so many good memories about the whole of this race. I was in the middle of my first Ironman training programme - 24 weeks in all and this marathon fell into week 18. Not the best idea, but I figured on a 21km training run with some San Francisco sightseeing for the last half. It is said to be a pretty tough course with a lot of hills, but I wasn't too worried as I knew I could walk them if necessary.
Travel/San Francisco: The lead up to the race was amazing in personal terms - a 10 day road trip through California, Nevada and Arizona, but not great in training terms. Still, it was just another training run right?
The Race: Race morning was my usual two bonk breakers and a cold cup of tea before an Uber to the race start at The Embarcadero. At the start-line, I felt okay, but many of us were put off by the late arrival of the DHL trucks where we were to store our personal items. We ended up leaving our bags in a pile on the road and headed to the start line hoping that we'd see them again after the race.
Early-Race: I had no time goals in mind, but would just run on feel alone. I started well and kept up a decent sub-5 min/km pace for 8km until the first hill up to the Golden Gate bridge. While it's great to have run over the bridge, I can't say we saw much as the fog had drifted in and hung around both out and back. By the time we left the bridge, I was 15km in and my pace was still good. Presido beckoned and this is where I felt the wheels would come off. But the park was delightful to run in and there were just enough up and down slopes to keep me motivated all throughout the park.
Mid-Race: Once we left Presido, we were up to 18km and I was still feeling good as we ran through the streets to Golden Gate Park. Same story here - I was ready for the wall, but the park gave me another boost which lasted another 10km.
End-Race: Leaving the park, I took my first aid-station walk around the 34km mark. Looking at my Strava stats, I took 6 short walks in all, but kept my pace up with my slowest split at 6'34" pace. I loved the run in, past Giants stadium with the crowds picking up. The wheels never fell off and not only did I break 4 hours, I hit a new PB and even got below 3'50". Even now, I kick myself for those walks as surely a 3'45" may have been achievable and I've never been that close again.
Post-race thoughts: The finish line experience was fun and after gulping down the free water given out upon finishing, the only liquid left was a delicious can of Golden State Cider. I got myself an Uber home and savoured the glow of a well run race for the rest of our trip. It's a well-organized race with a large expo and great finish line experience. Definitely worth doing once in your life and combining it with a week or so in San Francisco makes it a superb venue overall.