It’s been eight months since I ran my first marathon. We were living in Santa Monica at the time and decided to fly up rather than drive. We got there Friday evening and my husband was having stomach pains (we believe it had been an ulcer). We stayed at Hotel Vitale which is on the Embarcadero, literally right on the start/finish line. Saturday Scott was still having pains in his stomach so Ubered to the expo on my own. There was a lot going on-I had never been to an expo so I had nothing to compare it to-but it was exciting. Lots of photo ops and gadgets to try out. I was in a hurry though, so I went and got my bib and shirt, then stopped by the merch area and got a race tee and zip up (since it’s my first marathon I figured why not splurge and buy extra merch. Also, I wasn’t a huge fan of the race tee design, so I wanted to buy one I liked better).
There was a Safeway across the street, so I walked over there to buy some snacks, it was cool seeing lots of other people walking around holding the bib bag!
I then Ubered back to the hotel and Scott was feeling a bit better so we got a ride across the bridge to check out the east bay. We got lunch at a cool café in Oakland and checked out Langley Park. Once back in the city we got dinner, and around 8pm I laid down while Scott worked on the computer. I had set my alarm for 3:30am (race starts at 5:30), I ended up waking up 15 minutes before the alarm though and decided to get up. I got dressed, ate oatmeal with cacao, banana and almond butter and then went down to the lobby. They had coffee available, so I helped myself to a cup. I don’t usually drink coffee, but I wanted to ensure that I used the bathroom before the race started. I used the lobby bathroom (having a hotel so close was awesome because I just used that rather than the port-a-potties!) and then went to the start line. There were people hanging about, but it was chilly and still a bit early, so I went back to the hotel and stayed in the lobby till about 5:15am.
I did some mobility moves and ditched my sweats, then went to stand in the corral. I didn’t feel nervous, I just kept thinking how I get to do what I love, and it’s not like I have sponsors or anyone to impress so what was there to be nervous about? The gun went off and I pressed start on my Garmin as I crossed the start line. The beginning of the race was very scenic, running near the ocean, running through part of Crissy Field, crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, then off into Golden Gate Park. At mile 8 I remember feeling a major running high, the temperature was cool, the views were beautiful, and I was surrounded by people who love to run! While on the opposite end of the bridge I tossed the long sleeve I was wearing over my tank top. I regretted this though because going across the bridge on the way back definitely was chilly. The entire morning was overcast, with some slight drizzle in certain areas. I probably could have worn the long sleeve the whole time and been fine.
In Golden Gate Park we ran passed the 1st Half marathon finish line which was cool, and I didn’t feel jealous at all! I was happy to keep running. Around mile 19 is when you leave the park and that’s when I started to feel fatigued and so tired of the hills. At about mile 20 we were in Haight and Ashbury and that’s when we got a downhill (thank goodness!). Throughout this training cycle I had had problems with my right thigh cramping up, and around mile 20 it started to feel especially painful and cramped. I just kept my head down and kept running. I had some slower miles (9:30ish) but I was still running. I kept repeating “the fun is in the run”, a mantra that worked great throughout the race! At mile 24 I was ready for it to just hurry and be done already! I was tempted to walk, but I told myself that after running 24 miles, I wasn’t about to start walking now. I had a goal to break 4 hours, and according to my Garmin I reached 26.2 at 3:57, however I ended up running 26.6 miles with a finished time of 4:00:52. A little bummed I didn’t speed it up to get an official sub 4 time, oh well. I know when you cross the finish line you should put your hands up and grin for the camera. But I was so exhausted I didn’t care.
I was in a daze as I was given a medal and foil blanket. I grabbed a banana and protein bar. At some point in that, I called Scott to see where he was. I saw him, but the waist high fence was in the way. Rather than going all the way down the finish chute, I hopped the fence. All I wanted more than anything else in that moment was to be with someone I loved. We hugged, and both felt on the verge of tears. I love this race course-but when asked what my favorite part was, I’d have to say it was hugging Scott after the finish! He took a picture of me, then we called my sister who was there to figure out where they were. We walked to the hotel and met them in the lobby. After chatting we went up the room and I showered, took a short power nap and then went to the restaurant in the Fairmont Hotel for brunch with family! When getting back home to southern California, I enjoyed indulging at the best restaurants in Santa Monica!
I would recommend this race-it’s beautiful (the last couple miles are pretty drab though until you reach the embarcadero) and the weather is great. It’s a challenging course, with 1082 feet elevation gain (according to my watch), but I think hills make the race less monotonous. The aid stations were well stocked and there was never any confusion. The expo was cool and the post-race snacks were good. I wasn’t crazy about the shirt or the medal, however the design for this year’s looks like it’ll be way better (I’ll be running again this year with my brother!) So, all in all I had an amazing first marathon experience. I kept telling myself to enjoy the moment and soak it all in, don’t wish for it to be over because you only run your first marathon once!