Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The San Francisco Half Marathon

Well it's done.  I can't believe it.  As I said to Diana the night before, "It'll be over before you know it" I still can't believe the race has come and gone.

But it's done and I have to say it was my best race so far.  Not only because I made my PR (personal record) for a half marathon but also because I ran this particular race to feel closer to my Dad; who we lost to complications from Diabetes a year a ago next Wednesday.  His favorite run was along the San Francisco Bay in the Presidio, a military base we were stationed at when I was four and five. I got the chance to run just as he had and boy did I feel him every bit of the way; it was amazing.

I never forgot the story of when he ran across the Golden Gate Bridge with Randy Quaid.  I was 4 at the time and the image always stuck with me, with us all I think.  Maybe it was because it involved a celebrity, but really I think I never forgot because I remember thinking the bridge was the longest distance anyone had ever ran in their entire lives!  And my dad did it!

While my child eyes just were a bit of an exaggeration as to the actual length of the bridge, it was something to admire about him throughout my life.

I never in a million-bajillion years thought I would EVER willingly run long distances (other than away from something/one).  Nor did I ever think I was ever actually capable of it.  I credit my friend Tiffany, my sister Sally and Jennifer all for getting me into it.  I credit myself for continuing to muster through the pain and annoyance of it all.

I've done it.  I've actually run the Golden Gate Bridge...

The Marathon:

The night before Diana and I prepared our shirts. 

Hers having her writing on the front for photos, mine on the back for all to read while running.  (the letters had peeled off by mile 2).  For her:  a shout out to Suarez, her family name.

Mine: Wally, my dad - though he HATED when people called him Wally, I had to represent myself with the shout out - I'm a teaser at heart.

We, Diana, Sal and I, were up-and-adam ready to get the race started before the sun had even risen.  My alarm went off at 4:00, and the group was in the lobby by quarter of 5.  I've never in my life seen Diana early to anything in the morning...except this!

We met in the lobby of the race hotel for some pre-race coffee, protein and energy load(in the form of saltwater taffy we bought at Fisherman's Wharf the day before- delicious!)

With our excitement in tow, we walked out in the still-dark morning to get into race mode.  The sun was just rising and the atmosphere was soaked in nerves and anxiety.  I myself love this part of the race.  The beginning when everything is ahead of you, when everything you have done for the past 3/4 months has come down to this moment.  Yet the moment is still....moments away.

They should bottle anticipation.

The serious/competitive runners and those whose times are unfathomable to me start first, us to follow.  We were in the last wave, so we had a awhile to wait, stretch and amp up before it was our turn to cross the start line.

And they're off! (the good ones at least)
We walked the 3 blocks back to our start corral watching the other runners begin their journey, just dying to start our own!  Ugh!  I just want to start already!! -Twas our morning theme.

Finally the time was our turn.  The sun was up and we were READY!

And just like that they blew a whistle, fired the gun and we were off.  This is such amazing part of the run for anyone can really experience...for the first 5-10 minutes out of the gates you can hear this inspiring, soothing and just plain cool-ass sound.  I don't even turn my iPod on until I've had my fill of it.  It's the sound of hundreds of runners pounding the pavement at once.  It is indescribable and something worth hearing.  Very cool.

Me with the RED cap - Diana with pink headband - Sal:  Missing.

We ran all along Embarcadaro, passing the numbered piers.  Fisherman's Wharf came up around mile two and I eyed Boudin bakery as I passed, picturing their delicious clam chowder bread bowls and how delicious they would taste after my run...

We kept along the water on Lincoln, past some of the prettiest houses with great big front bay windows that over looked the harbor.  As I ran I imagined myself sitting on their couches, sipping coffee watching the fog roll out over the Golden Gate and on into the Bay and chuckling to myself how wonderful my life is...back to reality.

The course continued along the water and into the Presido; a place I knew well and looked forward to in the run.  At this point in the race, the streets were narrowing and it was hard to keep a steady pace.  I found myself under-performing because of people traffic and wished to be unleashed.  But calmed myself by a promise to later use said energy on a strong finish, when the runners has dispersed more.

And then there was the first hill.... Ouch, you bastard!  That sucked.

At points on the course there would be signs with trivia questions that answered themselves within a block.  The sign on this hill, the hill being the climb to the Golden Gate, read "What is the steepest hill in San Francisco?"  Well that's comforting, at least this is the worst hill there is...  Then I came upon the answer.  "Knob Hill.  Aren't you glad you're not running up that?"   

WHAT THE...?!?  It's like saying "Does it make you feel any better this is only going to get worse?"  Why, yes!  It does.  How kind of you to ask.  Grrrr... 

Then came the moment.  The moment I had wanted and waited.  I rounded mile 5.5 and there she was, massive and beautiful, intimidating, glorious and covered in fog.  I had made it to the bridge and I choked back tears as I approached.  

You'll ...sniff... need the sodium.

It was awesome, in every sense of the word.  Even though it was four miles long, I enjoyed every second of it ... minus the traffic of the people, which made it a bit dangerous and quite slow for my taste.  The air was chill but this being miles 5-9, I enjoyed the hard breeze as we ran across.  The other side of the roadway was open to two-way auto traffic that honked support and encouragement as they passed.  We shared our side of the highway with the runners who had started in the waves ahead and were coming back down the bridge.  Thus making the run EXTRA crowded.
I had to snap a photo...not bad seeing as I'm running at the same time.

Once I was done with the bridge, I'll be honest, I was over the run.  Everything I had looked forward to was over.  The bridge, the Presidio, the flat.  Because now, at the 9.5 mile turn, is when it started to hurt.  The course took us on a steep downgrade hill for about a half mile.  Though I was glad to have an opportunity to make up time, taking downhill fast is quite hard on the knees, especially my knees after the 10th mile.  But I must say the view was INCREDIBLE.   The Pacific ocean, the city blanketing the hills below and the beautiful 100-ft high trees that lined the windy way down.   It flattened out as we turned back into the neighborhoods, exiting the back of the Presidio.

This is where I curse you San Francisco Marathon!  It was soooo hilly.  High and hard, short but painful.  They made us turn every few blocks and with each turn I desperately wanted to see the finish line but with each turn was disappointed.

Finally I rounded a corner and I saw the sign where the half marathon runners and the full marathon's were to split routes.  YES!  Finally, that MUST mean the end.  Oh good a mile marker, this has to be 13!

MILE: 12

Grrrrrr.  This is never going to end.  Screw 26.2!

The streets were clear for me and anyone else to spread their wings and finish strong.  There were hardly any people lining the streets watching which I found very odd especially if I was near the end.  I started to think that one mile was a lot fucking longer than I ever had thought it was before this.  But I focused on the good parts of the run.  I was still running.  I was still passing people. I hadn't given up yet.  However the thoughts were hardly overwhelming motivation with a looming 5 block-long hill ahead.

I looked ahead I saw a guy running just a few people ahead of me with writing down his calves.  As I got closer I looked down at his calves which had a word written on each of them...


What a perfect time to show your face Dad!  I smiled to myself, put my head down and kicked it up a notch.  Before I knew it I looked up to see the greatest word in the English language....FINISH.  And bolted towards it using every last drop of stamina I had.

2:18 and change.  I had wanted a lot faster (sub 2hrs) but I know with starting in the last wave, the traffic jam and the nasty hills were obstacles I never anticipated when setting my goal.  Anyway, it was still a PR for me in time AND distance so I cannot complain or be hard on myself.  And it was the best/hardest run so far...


The story of the day was my roommate Diana.  It was her first half; first race and she nailed it!  She couldn't even run a mile at the beginning of the year and now she has 13.1 miles under her belt!  She ran the entire thing without stopping once;  though cursing me - as she said - when my promise of "it's all down hill after the Bridge" turned out to be false!  But she never stopped!  She finished hers in 2:30, Sal finished his race just in between us at 2:24.

YAY!  Add another medal to my wall.  I love that!  The medal IS the best part after all.

And I have Diana to prove it's the medal that hooks you. 

How do I know what really hooked her?  Well, when she had signed up to run this half with me back in March, I remember telling her "Oh Diana, just wait until you get the medal!  That's why I run.  They are the best part!"  She said to me, "Oh I don't care about the stupid medal.  I just want a reason to continue running, that and say I've run 13+ miles."

Cut to yesterday and her newest Facebook photo upload:

CAPTION:   It's two days later, and YES I'm still wearing my medal.

I told you they were addicting.  And I believe she's after she has signed up to run the LA half in October. 

And I can't wait for my Chicago one.  13.1 miles down, 13.1 to go.

This weekend I take a small break and run week I hit 14.  I'm going to do this.  I AM.  If I ever doubted it before now, it was reinforced over the weekend with pure accomplishment and outstanding support from friends and most especially my family.  [Did I tell you, just as I stepped foot on the Golden Gate bridge my brother Christopher sent me a text "You must be rounding the corner now!  Go get 'em Molls!"]

Ya, and Dad was definitely with me guys.  That was a cool feeling.

BEST. RUN. EVER.  Thank you San Francisco!


  1. Awesome job, girl :-D It was definitely a gorgeous course. And I think it's given me hope for running a full one day!

  2. Unbelievably Inspiration! Beautiful. Eloquent. Terrific. Congrats Molly! You deserve it!! xoxo!

  3. Let's try this again -- unbelievably inspirational! Yikes -- leave your law practice and your brain goes to mush!! Congrats again Molly!!