Friday, September 21, 2012

Best Marathon Weekend Ever - San Francisco 2012

Some blogs are easy to write, and others are difficult.  This one was a challenge for me to write because I enjoyed the whole race weekend so much that I could write an entire book about it!  But I’ll try to keep it at a manageable size.

I’m writing about the 2012 San Francisco Marathon (SFM).  This year I was fortunate to be selected as a San Francisco Marathon Ambassador, so for many months prior to the event I was busy promoting the race at various other events.

Rather than fly in, I decided to take a road trip with my friends Terri and Bruce.  We hit the road on Thursday and drove for about 8 hours.  That may sound long but road trips with racing buddies are always a blast and we had a lot of fun.  We found an all-you-can-eat buffet on Thursday night and did some serious carb-loading!

On Friday we drove the remaining few hours, and by the time we could see the bridge the excitement level was pretty high.  We went straight to the expo to get our packets and have some fun.  I met up with a few other Arizona friends, including Aric and Jen, and Monica.  Here’s a shot of me and Monica, note the headline from a 2010 article in the Wall Street Journal calling SFM “The Race Even Marathoners Fear”!

The expo was a very good one, with plenty of vendors and seminars.  I picked up a new fuel belt called a “FlipBelt” from Level Terrain Apparel, and so far I really like it.  I also got to meet the Ultramarathon Man, Dean Karnazes and he gave me an interview for my SunRunner Podcast project.  I hung around the Tech Center for a while with other Ambassadors, and then we went to check in to the hotel.  On Friday night, we had a special Ambassador dinner.  It was a very nice gathering and I really enjoyed getting to meet the rest of the Ambassadors.  Runners World Chief Running Officer, Bart Yasso, joined us for the meal.

Saturday morning started off with a Shakeout Run sponsored by Lululemon.  Bruce and I both ran it, as did a bunch of the other Ambassadors.  We had a lot of fun running alongside Bart Yasso!  It was a nice jog along the final stretch of the marathon route, and I really enjoyed the beautiful scenery as we ran along the bay.  Here’s a photo I took during the run, which includes Bruce, Ambassador Alisyn, and Bart:

On Saturday afternoon, I returned to the expo for some fun and also to work at the Tech Center.  During the techno meet-up, I met some great runners including my friend from New Zealand, Kim.

I also attended a seminar, and later Bart and I recorded an interview for SunRunner Podcast.  I had a great day on Saturday, perhaps a bit more active than one normally should be the day before a marathon, but it was well worth it.

Sunday morning started bright and early, as the race has a very early start.  Terri drove Bruce and I right up the starting area (she was running the 5k, which had a later start).  The race starts before sunrise, and the excitement level was very high (as it always is before a marathon start).   Here’s a picture of me with some of my friends just moments before I headed to the starting line – many of them wore tutu’s but I could not bring myself to do that!

I was very happy to find my friend Joe Taricani, host of The Marathon Show podcast, right in my starting corral.  Joe and I chatted for a while and he even interviewed me briefly before the gun went off.  The start went smoothly, and the first few miles are very flat as they run along the Embarcadero.  Eventually we reached the Golden Gate Bridge and ran across – just one example of the unique aspects of this race that make it so special.

Some of the other highlights of the course include looking out on the bay, running through Golden Gate Park, through the Haight-Ashbury District, and back down to the Embarcadero.  It’s a hilly course, but the scenery makes it hardly noticeable.

My only negative has nothing to do with the race itself.  This year, I was running the marathon only about 6 weeks after having double hernia surgery.  My hernias were abdominal, and the only reason I knew about them was the pain that I was experiencing during runs.  The recovery was progressing, but the pain was actually worse than before the surgery – which had a very real negative effect on my ability to hold a fast pace.  Looking at my split times, it’s quite clear that I gradually slowed throughout the entire race.

Despite the pain, which manifested as a nasty burning sensation in my abs, I did manage to complete the race in 3:25:36.  SFM has an incredible finishing area, with plenty of drinks and food for the runners, so it didn’t take long for me to feel much better.  I received two medals – one for finishing SFM, the other for completing both SFM and the LA Marathon in 2012.

I enjoyed hanging around to cheer people in, and saw many that I knew – Ambassadors, Marathon Maniacs, Endorphin Dude, Marathon Goddess, and others.  The friendship culture that grows in marathon racing can’t be matched and it’s so much fun to watch and encourage others as we all achieve our personal victories.  SFM definitely provides an environment that fosters and grows those relationships.  I watched as my friends Bruce and Joe crossed the line:

San Francisco is such a perfect race.  The weather is always just right for marathon racing (even more so if you are coming from the hot Arizona summer), the city has a very special vibe, the race organizers do everything right, and the runners are all amazing.  I know I’ll be heading back, maybe next year you can join me!

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