This race completely exceeded my expectations, and I think it’s because I entered it having zero. I signed up for the race 5 days before as a way to liven up my usual long run, and also to hopefully get some motivation for the California International Marathon (CIM) in 4 weeks, and boy did it bring me just that 🙂
The alarm went off at 5:30am. Over my usual pre-race breakfast, I was thinking about what I wanted to get out of the race…and to be honest, I just wanted to run the entire thing without stopping and to enjoy the race. My long runs this training cycle were going atrociously, so I didn’t exactly have high hopes for any time goals.
Luckily, the start line was a short 20 minute walk from my apartment. I lined up with my wave, sang the national anthem, and we were off!
Miles 1-3: fast warm up
The first three miles were fast ones. Completely flat and on my usual running route in the Marina that I knew like the back of my hand. My splits were under 9 minutes and I instantly felt like I was having a strong race day (side note – do other runners also get that anticipation starting a race to see if you’re having a good or bad day??). I kept my fingers crossed that this energy would hold up!
Miles 4-6: hills upon hills + the Golden Gate Bridge
And then came the hills. We turned into the Presidio to climb the dreaded mile uphill to reach the Golden Gate Bridge. It was daunting looking up at the endless hill but before I knew it, I reached the top feeling strong!
I thought we were going to turn onto the bridge, but NOPE. They had us climb down another hill to reach the very bottom again…all that work for nothing! I hadn’t studied the race course beforehand so was caught off guard by this. I couldn’t imagine having to climb that entire hill AGAIN.
But we did. My splits definitely took a hit during this portion but I just focused on not burning out my legs while keeping my cadence steady on the uphills, and letting myself go fast and not stopping momentum on the downhills. It was such a relief to finally reach the Golden Gate bridge and be done with the hardest part of the course.
The bridge was probably my favorite few miles of the entire race. The views were heavenly – it all felt so carefree and I was taking pictures (i.e. this attempted selfie below :P). I felt so PRESENT and just soaked it all in. I reached an amazing high and picked up my pace – it was like my legs wanted to sprint across that bridge! Great vibes among all the runners. I smile just thinking back to these miles <3.
Miles 7-8: Marin trails + second grind + thought popping in my head
We reached the other side of the bridge and did a loop around Marin which was a nice treat. The views on the other side were just as awesome and we even got on the trails which I wasn’t expecting!
The trails were very hilly since we had to dip under the bridge and climb back up again to reach the other side.
Then it was time to cross the bridge again. I called this “the grind” as the second time was less exciting than the first time. I cranked up the music and grinded away on the bridge.
At the 8 mile mark, I looked down at my watch and an idea popped into my head:
I could actually break 2 hours.
To do that, I needed to run sub-9 minute miles for the rest of the race which (for me) is a pretty big task, especially with tired legs. I marinated in this idea for the rest of the bridge and said I would see how the next two miles went before committing to this.
Miles 9-10: committing
The next two miles were completely downhill, and so my legs were a-flyin’! I looked down at my watch each mile and saw my splits coming in around 8:30…I knew it was time to just go for the sub-2. It was TIME. TO. COMMIT.
In this moment, it wasn’t that I needed to reach this goal of breaking two hours. I mean, the idea only popped into my head a few minutes ago :P. It was that I could not look back on this race and have any regrets from not giving it my all, even if I fell flat on my face trying.
No excuses, no regrets.
That’s the theme of my marathon this cycle, and it couldn’t be more true at that very moment. It was so freeing having this epiphany because I realized that I wasn’t in this to compete for a time goal or to beat others, but I was doing this all to be my best self.
Miles 11-13.1: running with my heart
We were back on the home stretch in the Marina that I knew so well, and I just went for it. I ran at a hard effort for the miles 11-12. So many emotions were going on through my head: pain, motivation, a bit of stress. I told myself: You can do it. You anything for just 30 minutes, so don’t give up. You can rest at the end.
The last mile was a complete sprint; it really felt like I was running with my heart. With only about 200 meters left, I approached the 2-hour pacer, and tears flooded my eyes. I couldn’t believe I DID IT!!! The pacer was so encouraging and cheered me on while passing him towards the finish.
I crossed that finish line letting out the biggest cheer. It was the most empowering 13.1 miles of my life.
Final time: 1 hours, 58 minutes, 58 seconds
Days later and my heart is still so full. This was just the motivation I needed to finally feel confident and excited for CIM.
I have ran a sub-2 half marathon two other times in my life (so this was not a PR for me), but they were both in NYC on much flatter courses. When I moved to SF, I told myself goodbye to running PRs as long as I was in California simply because of the tougher, hillier courses, but BOY was I wrong! Breaking the 2-hour barrier this race taught me that I have NOT peaked, and that my running journey is just beginning in California. ❤
Breaking 2-hours was just a fraction of why I’m so proud of this race. I’m honestly more proud of how I handled myself during the course: committing to be my best self, being so unbelievably present at each mile and not just thinking about reaching the finish line like I usually do, and running with a smile on my face.
If I can have an ounce of this mindset at CIM, then I will have reached my goal 🙂