I could write two very different race reports from the Nike Women’s Marathon. One would be filled with disappointment and despair. The other would be filled with pride and personal achievement. This one will be a little of both.
In and of itself, waking up in a city like San Francisco and pulling up your compression socks to explore the city on foot is a huge treat. I cannot deny that I was filled with wonder and excitement as I laced up my shoes marathon morning…
Because we knew we had to run the next day, we stayed in our hotel room most of the day on Saturday chatting and resting.
San Francisco is one of my favorite cities, so it was hard to stay in and miss the bustling action on the streets.
We did get out for a nice pasta dinner, and I have to say, we did feel a bit like we wanted to bag the marathon altogether and go have a night on the town instead.
We compromised by having a little wine with dinner, which is a huge no-no for the night before racing 26.2. But we decided that since we weren’t Olympians we would probably be okay. (It was my 40th birthday after all.)
I only had a half of a glass. Here is my wine glass beside my friend’s, who decided to go for it and drink a full glass. We are rebels.
Now that I look back on race day, I am so glad that I let myself enjoy my dinner. I had no way of knowing then how the race would turn out; perhaps I was prescient and felt that being rigid and not enjoying myself would be a waste of time.
I had a nice plate of spinach ravioli. The food was delicious and the conversation was amazing. I travelled with two other moms from my area and we met up with two more friends for dinner.
The wine-drinking marathoners woke up the next morning ready to roll.
My running buddies Nikki (left) and Sherry (right). Nikki has three kids and Sherry has five. We had a blast travelling together (and drinking wine obviously).
We had gotten all of our things organized the night before, so we got ready pretty quickly.
This is my gear bag which I never saw again after the morning.
As we got closer we could feel the excitement was building.
I’m pretty sure this is the last time we smiled for a while.
The narrow streets of San Francisco were crowded with women. Nikki and I were unable to make it through the thick crowd to gear check, which was housed in a bunch of school buses on a side street. We literally felt we were in danger of being trampled as we shimmied through a massive group of women. I was so close to having a panic attack, that we soon gave up and left our bags in the tent. (I felt horrified because I could just imagine the authorities calling my family and telling them that I had been trampled by a group of women in compression socks and booty shorts in Union Square.)
I planned on leaving my phone, my camera and a some warm clothes in gear check so that I could have them at the finish line waiting for me. Instead, I was forced to put my camera and my phone in my fanny pack (which is not ideal for having an efficient stride as you can imagine). I kissed my warm, dry clothes good-bye (I never found them after the race), and I sprinted over to get in line for the race.
Because the whole ordeal of trying to get to the gear check bus and then going back to the tent took so much time, I did could not get in line with my pace group. Instead I lined up with 12-minute milers.
I was stressed, but I was trying to stay positive.
Because I had the weight of my camera and phone (I do not have a sleek ones) and because I could not get around the slower people, I was hyperventilating as the gun went off. I just wanted to step off onto the sidewalk and give up.
But I had trained all summer long. I ran in 90 degree heat. I ran long runs almost every week. I went to the track and did mile repeats. I worked really hard to get ready for the race, and it was turning out to be a huge disappointment before it ever began.
I was angry and very bitter and I could hear myself grunting and as I jogged out with a group of women who almost immediately started taking walking breaks (before the 1-minute mile mark). Every time I felt I was gaining momentum and getting up some speed, someone in front of me would stop and walk.
I jumped up onto the sidewalk and tried to sprint around some of them, but there were more and more of them walking ahead, so it was useless.
I settled in. I decided to just run with the pack and try to weave when I could for the first six miles. My jaw was clenched and I could feel tears in my throat, so I tried to concentrate on the scenery.
At mile six I felt I was still running slow, and I was really struggling to stay positive.
That’s when we hit the climb into Golden Gate Park. A very steep climb. The road was very narrow.
It was extremely crowded, and a lot of the runners started walking the hill. Which meant that it was nearly impossible to do anything but jog and take deep breaths and try to stay calm.
I tried to make up for the slow pace on the down-hills by sprinting, but all that did was trash my quads.
Somewhere around the 10-mile mark I decided to treat the race like a training run and just try to have fun. I knew I wasn’t going to PR, so it was time to embrace the run and let go.
I drank at almost every water station (usually I use water stations as a chance to pass other people). I stopped and tied my shoe. I tried to actually notice my surroundings instead of staring at my watch. In fact, I did not look at my Garmin once after about mile 6. There was no use in obsessing over my time. All it did was frustrate me more.
As a result, I felt really even, properly hydrated and steady.
After we broke off with the half-marathoners, the roads opened up. There were still run/walkers, but a lot less of them.
I never hit the wall. I did not bonk. My time never fell off. The slowest mile was the last one, but it was still 9:04 which wasn’t that far off of the other miles.
So I finished strong, and I felt great. I felt like I could go for a beer and talk to people afterward with a smile on my face. I did not feel sick or exhausted. I did not throw up or have to sit down.
I felt like I did after a training run, and that is basically what I had done.
I ran the second half strong and I passed people from the beginning to the end.
What Could Have Been
Of course I wonder how the race would have been different if I had been able to check my gear and get into the proper pace group. I will never know. I feel sure I could have been at least 10 minutes faster if I had not wasted so much energy being tense, weaving and hauling heavy electronic devices.
Had I been able to run faster on the other hand, I feel sure I would have been much more of a mess when I crossed the finish line.
But still, I did it and I feel proud. Overcoming the frustration was my accomplishment and being able to enjoy myself despite less than ideal conditions was a personal success.
I won’t lie. I struggled with feeling disappointed all day yesterday. When MFP called and heard my finishing time, he fell silent. I tried to explain, but I think that everyone prefers a tale of glory and an amazing PR over this one.
In short, the Nike Women’s Marathon is not a PR race. It’s a race for cancer, it is a race for women. It is full of inspiring women with inspiring stories of survival. It is a race through a beautiful city that will take your breath away. (Especially the grueling hills.)
But it is also a race full of run/walkers. Which is fine. But I had no previous experience with them. I had never done a race with people who just stop and walk suddenly so that you almost literally run into them and knock them over, and I struggled to deal with it gracefully.
If I had known all of this beforehand, for sure I would have trained a lot less and enjoyed my summer a lot more.
Official finishing time: 3:44. My Garmin must have turned off for 2 minutes in which case I actually ran 26.6 miles including all of the weaving. Which means my average pace was 8:25, almost a full minute slower per mile than I wanted to run.
Up next: after the race and what I plan to do now.