With my father passing away in March I had no real desire to return to the UK a month later and compete in the London Marathon. However with summer approaching Janet and myself decided to do some planning for what we would do for a holiday.
There were a few things from my 50th year that I had hoped to cover. Primarily was the hope that I could finally visit our cousins in Canada , do a grand tour of England and then experience the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for the first time. I’ll cover these events in a later update separately.
I also wanted to get back out racing and do another marathon somewhere and although not totally race fit I thought I’d at least try and find something that would be worthwhile.
The northern hemisphere Summer isn’t a great time for marathons but after the usual web searches and detailed checks I managed to persuade Janet that it was a fairly simple concept to do a round the world trip heading first to San Francisco – where by sheer luck there was a marathon.
Although I was a bit late in entering the San Francisco Marathon this is one of those rare races that doesn’t sell out fast and also appeared to offer “elite” entry which I qualified for based on my Dubai Marathon timing.
We arrived a couple of days before the event to attempt to get into the time zone and just relax and wander around the city. Although we’d been to San Francisco many times before it was a pleasure to see again although we seriously overdid the sightseeing. We spent hours on end walking around and although this isn’t recommended as a pre-marathon pursuit I had no real race objective than to finish.
Saturday before the race I bought us tickets for baseball at AT&T Park where San Francisco Giants were playing San Diego Padres. I’m going to be very honest here in that getting to about half way through this event was a major challenge in itself. If there is a duller game than baseball I’d like to know. Only highlights for me were the singing of the National Anthem and then watching how folks could eat their body weight in junk food at a sport event before finally waking Janet up and leaving.
Regardless that is another “to do” ticked off on the grand list of life experiences.
Race morning I was awake super early thanks to jet-lag and as I had cunningly booked our hotel close to the start and finish I simply jogged the mile or so down to the race area. Being elite status – a term I use loosely – I had a very simple task of strolling up to the front pen about ten minutes before the off avoiding all the crowds.
Officially there are around 27,500 runners split between the full marathon and the half although I guess maybe only 1/3rd were in the full. At 5.30 am we were treated as ever to a rendition of the National Anthem and two minutes later we were off into the dawn light.
Off we went heading along the coast towards Fisherman’s Wharf and beyond and I was in great shape on the flats till about 5 km where we then had a short climb at Fort Mason which I definitely found less than easy and then things started to get a bit tricky.
Approaching 9 km leaving Crissy Field we had to then get up and over the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s a fair way up as you can see.
It was sadly this morning totally shrouded in fog although that might have been a blessing. The climb was absolutely brutal from there to the crest of the bridge before we started downhill. However after getting to the far side at Vista Point in Marin County we then had to repeat the climb on the way back.
Once off the bridge and into The Presidio the undulating climbs were relentless all the way through to half way in Golden Gate Park and beyond. I checked my watch at the halfway point – which I don’t normally do – but I was really toiling and hoping against all hopes that I was maybe going faster than I thought. Unfortunately this wasn’t the case and I was showing a time of around 1 hour 29 minutes. If we hadn’t been 21 km from the downtown finish I’d have thrown the towel in there and then and called a halt.
However abandoning any hope of a decent time I just decided to plug on and see if I could push on hoping that at some point things would get a bit easier and I’d maybe recover a bit.
Up and down relentlessly we went shrouded in fog until around 32 km where we then had the start of the long downhill drop back towards the city centre and the finish area at The Embarcadero.
In no time at all I was out of the fog into city streets and the temperature rose quickly.
Downhills at this stage were proving as difficult as the uphills and threatening to cause me to cramp but being experienced I knew just to keep my pace steady and roll along while trying to keep any cramps at bay. Around 37 km things flattened out as we ran along the coastal road towards AT&T Park and I simply had to hold things together to the finish which was about a mile beyond.
I passed a few runners in the final stages including one guy who was heaving up big time. Sorry to say there was no way I was stopping for him as I’d probably never move again.
Coming into the final straight not having looked at my watch since half way I thought I’d maybe have run around 3.20 if lucky but surprisingly it wasn’t as bad as I perceived and reaching the final mile marker I was just coming up for a time of 3.08.
I actually crossed the line in 3:08:17.
This was my slowest marathon since Singapore in 2006 but almost certainly the one that hurt the most. I had actually ran as well as I could on the day and was pretty broken even by half way so was fairly pleased to finish at all.
The combination of jet lag , climate changes and an incredibly tough hilly course were all factors that contributed to what I thought was although a pretty mediocre day out not too bad a result all things considered.
However as a post script to the race I got notification that it was confirmed that I’d come second in my age group (M50) . Those kind folks at race HQ said that they would courier out my trophy. Which they duly did.
Reflecting back now on the event it’s clear that this is probably one of the harder marathons that you could do. It was a pity that there really wasn’t much chance to see the iconic sights when running – particularly across Golden Gate – but summer fogs are an unavoidable fact and anyway I’m not actually sure that I would have wanted to see the climb properly in all its glory.