US Half: The Hilliest, Prettiest Half Marathon
Remember yesterday when I told you about running the half marathon that I’d forgotten that I’d registered for? Well, let me give you a little backstory.
After forgetting about it completely until I was reminded two weeks ago during Nike, I figured that there were two options. Option A) forget about it and throw my $48 discounted entry into the garbage, or Option B) go do the city and do the damned thing.
I have to admit, I was leaning towards Option A. I hadn’t planned for it, we had soccer in the middle of the afternoon the day before, making expo and bib pickup a complicated affair, and… well, I really didn’t want to run the hills. Keep in mind that I’ve grappled with months of knee pain from my IT band issues, and I was doubting my ability to hit the time cutoff in my other half as recently as early September.
Oh, and did I mention that I’ve never before done two half marathons in the span of a calendar year, let alone twice in a month? And that every single time I run a half, I think to myself that 10k races are really more than far enough?
But The Husband, crazy though he may be on my behalf, convinced me that I should do it. We booked a room in the city within walking distance of the start and finish of the race course, and decided to make a weekend of it. And yet, as recently as Friday night, there was part of me that was like, “Seriously? We’re really doing this?”
Evidently I was.
And so we came home after The Assistant finished with his soccer game, rushed him through the world’s fastest post-game shower, and stuffed the already-packed bags into the car to drive to San Francisco. I walked the mile to the expo while they went and checked in on the sea lions at Fisherman’s Wharf. Then we went out for dinner and gelato in North Beach, came back to the room and crashed for the night.
I rolled out of the hotel in the morning and couldn’t believe how clear, cool and perfect the weather was. Karl the Fog was nowhere to be found, and the light was such that I was in absolute awe of San Francisco.
(I have a bit of a conflicted relationship with San Francisco… heck, California in general. And just as I max out on my “Please, you’re not all that you’re cracked up to be” attitude, the months of October and November come along and we’re graced with the most astonishingly beautiful days that anyone could possibly imagine, the kind of beauty that takes my breath away and makes me remember just why the cost of living is so damned high here. Anyway….)
The only race I’ve ever run in San Francisco is the Nike Women’s Half Marathon, in 2007, 2011 and 2012. Nike is about 25,000 women in a loosely organized sea of chaos. Compared to that, the 6,000 or so entrants in the U.S. Half Marathon seemed practically quaint, like a neighborhood 5k. I have to admit, I liked that.
I didn’t like the hills as much. We started with an immediate uphill. And then there were more uphills. And more. I swear it was like an M.C. Escher painting: all uphill, no downhill. This was later confirmed with other runners in the hotel elevator. (Hey U.S. Half: new shirt design idea for 2015?)
The highlight of this race is the Golden Gate Bridge. Usually shrouded in fog, the bridge was visible in all of its glory today. And lord, was she beautiful. So let’s do a series of photos, shall we?
What I didn’t take a picture of, and should have: the line of people taking selfies of themselves on the bridge. Seriously funny, though a bit of a nuisance to get past.
Here’s the funny thing about running my second race in a month: I had nothing to prove. I didn’t care. I didn’t need to PR on the hills. I didn’t need to make the most of my training. I just needed to go out there and have fun.
And I did have fun. I actually think that all of my race photos will come back to show me smiling. I had a blast! Sure, it was hard and it hurt, but it was fun. I fell into my regular role of coaching, chatting and encouragement for the folks in the back of the pack.
At one point, the course looped back on itself, so we were passing other runners. We ran with our hands out, delivering sweaty high fives across the cones that separated us. We laughed. We talked. We marveled at Jazz Hands Guy (he ran the entire half with jazz hands, which seemed uncomfortable to me, but to each his own).
I earned the world’s heaviest medal and a lunch of delicious wood-fired pizza at an unsuspecting outdoor pizza cafe — Carmel Pizza Company — that was vastly better than it needed to be in a tourist trap like Fisherman’s Wharf. Thank you to the lovely lady who recommended it at the expo on Saturday!
We finished our weekend with a leisurely stroll around the De Young Museum in Golden Gate Park. It was really a perfect weekend in the city.
Many thanks to all of the staff and volunteers of the race, Karl the Fog for staying away, and for my awesome family for giving me the push I needed to do it.
Now I’m certain that this was my last half marathon. Except that, oh, my teammates have requested that I join them at the Napa to Sonoma half next summer. Hmmm, maybe just one more race….