I remembered that I was registered to run the San Francisco marathon about 3 weeks ago. Well, that's not completely true. It had been in the back of my mind, and I knew I would have to run it, but I had been trying to ignore the need to start training. Training for a long distance run sucks. And it's boring. Sprints and shorter distance runs are cool, because you can go fast and you're blitzed at the end of the session. Long distance runs are slow by necessity, take hours out of your day, and you are left with a lot of joint pain. That's why, after a few solid weeks of training with Israel and Mae shortly after registering, I stopped.
I woke up at 4:15am and feasted on cereal, coffee, and some energy gel. Then I walked over to Israel's house. We taxi'd to the start point and managed to find Mae and Gabby...completely by luck, as it was an absolute swarm of people at Mission and Embarcadero. Israel was adamant about finding and staying with the pace group...a plan that I didn't see the importance of right away. We found the 4:30 pace group, and stayed just behind them for nearly the entirety of the race. This was an unbelievable help, as the pace leader told stories, gave advice, handed out sugar and salt pills, and kept everyone motivated and going strong.
A lot of the course itself is a blur, but I do remember not enjoying the section that went over the Golden Gate bridge. The course narrowed so severely that you had to be very careful not to step on people's heels or bump into folks. Water and cytomax stations were set up every 2 miles or so, and that was a big help. The section through the park was a lot better, as the trail widened and runners were able to spread out. I felt very strong up through the 19 mile mark. At no point was I ever winded, but my knees are started bothering me pretty badly, and my right hamstring was in danger of completely cramping. A pit stop for water, electrolytes, and ever more energy gel restored me somewhat, and I got a 2nd (or 4th) wind in Portero Hill.
Israel and I stayed with the pace group until mile 24, and then kicked at the end. I am proud that I was able to go through the finish line at a near sprint. The final time was 4 hours and 25 minutes. No world-class runners need fear me breaking their PR's, but I was pleased with the time as a first (and only) effort. We set up shop a few blocks down from the finish line, within convenient proximity to a medical station, and zoned out for a bit. The sun was warm and the ice bags felt good on my knees. We stayed there for about an hour, talking a little, but mostly just people watching and coming back to reality.
After a while, we walked down Mission Street, hailed a cab, and destroyed several kilograms worth of food and beer at a BBQ spot in the Lower Haight.