Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Pampering ourselves with a bubble bath - Half-It-All-Challenge. SF 2nd Half Marathon 2014

This race was dedicated to Laura Warren, fellow marathoner and Team in Training Honoree, who passed away after a decades long battle with multiple cancers. Laura's nickname was "Ten Penny Nail" because she would bend but never break. She was a warrior and a gentle soul. She will be missed.

On June 16, 2013 we completed the San Francisco 1st Half Marathon. On July 27, 2014 we completed the San Francisco 2nd half marathon to complete the Half-It-All-Challenge. As the race proceeded, the theme for this blog emerged. Fortunately, we weren't attempting a PR on this hilly course on a warm day so we had the opportunity to take more photos than usual to share with you all.

The 2nd half marathon starts at 8:15 am in Golden Gate Park by Spreckels Lake. You can either park near Golden Gate Park and find your own way back to your car. Alternatively, we used GottaPark to park near the finish line along the Embarcadero and took the free buses to the start line. Ron remarked, "Boy this race start is quite civilized." We got to sleep in our own beds at home, get up at a reasonable hour (4:30 am) and make our way to the race start.

The weather this year for the 2nd half was warmer this year than last year for the 1st half. Partly due to the differences in months (July vs. June in 2013 - the race was moved due to the America's Cup) and partly due to the later start time (8:15 am vs. 5:30 am). That being said, the organizers of the event have even the smallest details down pat. Knowing that San Francisco, especially Golden Gate Park can be cool and even cold by California standards), the circumference of Spreckels lake was dotted with heat lamps where participants crowded around to stay warm.

The 2nd half marathon included five corrals which started several minutes apart and quickly blended in with the full marathons who were going strong down hill on JFK drive. At one point, all three races converged on the same point.

Attention to detail by the race organizers who thought it wise to let participants know that there was a water station ahead. In one case, it also meant there was a beautiful waterfall ahead as well!

Surrounding Stow Lake, one particular runner caught my eye. Let's just say his race attire was a bit unusual. I came up beside him and asked, "So have you raced in this outfit before?" He responded, "No." I couldn't help but then ask, "So why are you running [the full marathon] in a bathroom and slippers?" His response made me laugh, "I decided to pamper myself today!" Ah ha! The theme for the blog is formulating in my head but it wasn't until we came up to the bubble machine on Haight Street that I knew we had a winner here. Unfortunately, the beautiful video I made of the bubbles didn't come out (let's just say I need to learn how to start/stop recording better while on the move).

Haight street presented itself with several long down hill stretches which was prime for negative splitting in the MIDDLE of the race.

The view back up the hills on Haight Street
As we emerged from Golden Gate park, we hit mile 19 on the full marathon course. Unlike most races that clearly post mile marker signs on the side of the road, in this race you have to look down on the ground for the neon tape. Given the Ron and Susan are celebrating their 19 year anniversary this year and that 19 happens to be Ron's favorite number, it only seemed appropriate to capture this particular milepost.

A few mile markers did have free standing flags. The only problem was the wind had turned most of them around backwards so you couldn't even read them!

The race just kept getting better from there. Also along Haight Street and later along the Embarcadero, a dear man and woman biked back and forth along the course with a boom box blasting Kool and the Gang among other motivating rock songs. Given there were fewer bands and DJ's on the course than at a Rock 'n' Roll race, his moving studio was particularly welcome.

The drummers at mile 12 were also setting a strong pace to bring us all home strong.

I couldn't wait to round the bend to see AT&T Ballpark which was the beginning of the home stretch for all of us. By now the sun had come out in full force and most of us had slowed down because of the heat.

Someone beside me said, the finish line is right under the Bay Bridge up ahead. "You've got this - Finish strong."

Normally coming down the shoot to the finish line I would never have stopped to take a picture. But this race was different. I was there with a purpose - to share this race experience with all of you. So I took a moment to snap a quick shot before completing what was a really fun race. It's not often you can say that your half marathon was a lot of fun but today this race was FUN!

We kept up our spoiled streak where we're now used to getting more than one medal per event.

At the start of every race, one can never be quite sure what kind of race you're going to have. A lot depends on how much training you've done, how much sleep you've gotten that week, what the weather is like that day, what the course is like, etc. However, you can always be sure to make the most of the race experience, treasure those images along the race course (either by memory or by camera), and use your surroundings as fuel to propel you to the race finish. In this case, we lathered up and came out smelling squeaky clean.

Hmmm, at least we were after we took a shower back at home!


The San Francisco Marathon, 1st Half and 2nd Half Marathons have been around for 37 years. In 2013, there were 6,580 finishers in the Full Marathon (800 more than 2013) with a median time of 4:38, 8 minutes slower than last year. 7,250 5,952 in the 1st Half (2:24 median time) and 4,492 3,096 in the 2nd Half (2:16 Median time). Both half marathon attendance were up by 1,400 each from last year, but median finish time was 5 minutes slower.

The Marathon starts on the Ferry Building at Market Street and runs along the water on the Embarcadero past Fisherman's Wharf, Ghiradelli Square, Fort Mason, crosses the Golden Gate Bridge to Vista Point and back before turning down Baker Beach and into Golden Gate Park where the 1st Half Marathon finishes. The 2nd Half starts by winding through Golden Gate Park, and runs east through the city streets to AT&T Park, turning north to finish back at the Ferry Building.  The 1st half has a 3 hour chip-time cut off. The 2nd half has a 3:30 cut off. (Course Map for 2014). While we've heard that the second half was much more challenging than the first, I thought it was more due to the scenic views on the first half than the hills or terrain. The mental part of racing is still a big deal.

Weather: 2014 was a bit warmer than 2013. Temps started at 60 degrees F, even for the 5:30 AM start of the Full and 1st Half. The 2nd Half started just over 60 F and warmed to the high 60's by 11 AM. The sun came out pretty early which is kind of annoying for a San Francisco race.

Support: Very Good. I was really impressed with the logistics for the 2nd Half. If you use the shuttle system from the Full/1st Half start, you get there after they are gone, meaning restroom facilities have no waiting and there are no crowds to speak of by 6:30. The buses were typical school buses and ran on a regular schedule from 6:30 to 7:30. TIming was such that they dropped off the 2nd Half Marathoners, drove 100 yards forward and picked up the 1st Half Finishers. Starting later, we didn't have the quiet course like the 1st half as bands dotted the course every few miles. The guy on the bike blaring 80's music was a real treat. 

It was also really nice for the full marathoners that the 2nd Half Marathoners were on the course to keep them company (assuming they weren't clogging up the tangents and narrow roads). Personally, I would welcome the extra sound of shuffling feet by mile 20.

The SF 2nd Half Marathon in 2014 let us complete the "Half it All Challenge," having finished the 1st Half in 2013. While there's an additional option for doing the Full Marathon in 2015 for the 52 Club medal and sweatshirt, we're going to stick with our mantra of "No full marathons unless we leave the continent."  Shout outs to our friends Junior Silva Jesus and Pavement Runner who rocked the "Worth the Hurt 52.4" Ultra that started at midnight before the race. He and a few dozen others travel the course in reverse and must make the 5:30 AM start time in order to be eligible for the regular marathon and complete the double. Junior did admit to getting lost a few times on the first reverse trip. Given some of the neighborhoods the second half went through, it could be quite disconcerting. Also running in SF were Clorox Sole Mates Running Group members Jon Weisman, Patrick Elias (both crushing their first full marathons) and Lydia Chow (2nd Half).

The SF Marathon now partners with Huntington Beach/Surf City marathons for a bonus "California Dreaming" medal. Since we're looking to add to our 50 States list of Half Marathons, we will likely take a pass on adding more California races that aren't going toward another goal (like Rock Idol) in 2015. 

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