On November 2, 2008, Sam and I ran the U.S. Half Marathon in San Francisco. It was my first half marathon–and the longest distance I had ever run: 13.1 miles. It was Sam’s fourth half marathon, so he was confident we could pull it off.
We first met on the Iron Horse Trail at Forward Motion’s weekly running club, so deciding to run this half marathon is something we were both really excited about. Between the 8-miles runs on Wednesday nights with Forward Motion, the deathly hills of Mt. Diablo and the scenic (and flat!) Iron Horse Trail, we were ready to tackle the U.S. Half.
The U.S. Half, which is only seven years old, has won the Best of the Bay award from Competitor magazine since 2002. Even if no one has ever heard of Competitor magazine, we think it is a fitting and fairly-won award. The race begins at Aquatic Park near Fort Mason, winds through the Presidio, shoots across the Golden Gate Bridge and loops back to the start.
The day before the race we went to the Sports Basement in San Francisco to pick up our race numbers and it was pouring rain. Thankfully the rain passed and we returned to San Francisco at 6:30 am the next morning to almost clear skies. It was also indisputably the most ideal day of the year to race because Day Light Savings Time occurred the night before. Instead starting at 7 am, it felt like the race began at 8 am. Crisp air, temperatures in the mid-50s and over four thousand runners milling about were enough to invigorate us. Come the 7 am start, we were ready to go.
Taking our cue from the tale of the tortoise and the hare, we conserved our energy for the first half of the race and enjoyed the beautiful scenery: the brilliant green grass of Crissy Fields, the salty waves crashing against the rocks and the astringent yet sweet aroma of Eucalyptus permeating the air. After running along the flat streets of the Marina and braving the first hill in the Presidio (which was not all that bad compared to the Diablo foothills), we were about to cross Golden Gate Bridge. A light rain rejuvenated our tired bodies and the sun broke through the clouds, rainbow streaking triumphantly across the sky.
One of the reasons I chose to run the U.S. Half is because it is only one of two races that crosses the Golden Gate Bridge. Surprisingly, though, my favorite part of the race was running through the natural beauty of the Presidio rather than crossing this magnificent landmark on foot. Runners struggled to pass one another on the narrow sidewalk and my shins weren’t too happy to be running on concrete.
Mile eleven marked the beginning of the mental battle: why in the world did I sign up for this race?!! The onlookers gathered along the sidelines cheered us along; the Sports Basements crew even had drums motivating us toward the finish line. I thought it was rather cruel that the last hill was at mile 12.5, almost to the finish line. It turned out, though, that the last hill was only very steep for about 20 seconds, then the grade of the hill only gradually increased. The good thing about going up this hill is that we got to come down the other side — down to the finish line. Since we’d conserved energy in the beginning, we were able to sprint to the finish line, finishing the 13.1 miles in 2 hours 3 seconds. My parents met us at the finish line and congratulated us on finishing the race.
Would I do it again? You betcha! For now, though, I’ll stick with the 10K Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving.