I debated for a long time this weekend whether I wanted to really give the marathon my all, or take the 26.2 miles to enjoy the San Franciscan scenery and take in the experience.
It was tough. It was my second marathon. I had only one other experience to compare it to, and a mediocre time to beat, 4:48. I wanted to prove to myself I could do better, and at the same time I wanted to enjoy it. But at the starting line, in the dark, with thousands of other runners, I decided I was going to do it. I felt good. I felt motivated. I was a runner, dammit, and I was going to prove it.
And then mile 6 proved otherwise. And miles 7 and 8, 11, 12, and 18 through 24. The hills weren't cable car, San Franciscan hills, but they were mountains. Absolutely, absurdly long hills. One entire mile of the course was a steady uphill. And of course what goes up must come down, but no one warned me that by the time I got up I wouldn't even have the energy to tumble down.
For the first half of the race I was on track to do fairly well. I even had a good kick from about miles 15 to 17, averaging 8-minute, 30-second miles. But at mile 18 I hit the wall. And the rest of the race, a loop around Lake Merced and a jaunt down the Great Highway, was hell. But the scenery, and the fact that I was in San Francisco, almost (keyword: almost) made up for 4 hours, 49 minutes and 40 seconds of ass kicking.
I brought my camera along for the race because, why not? I wasn't going to have the chance to see those 26 miles of San Francisco again, so I was certainly going to document the experience.
Running past the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz were amazing, although I'd already seen both earlier in the weekend. But the most breathtaking view I've ever seen was coming down a hill (down a hill, whoa) onto the coast of the Pacific Ocean. I'd never seen the Pacific Ocean before, seeing as though Minneapolis is as far west as I've traveled, and in the early morning light the view was beautiful. The bluffs. The waves. The fog.
I get goosebumps just thinking about it.
So of course I stopped to take pictures. And again. And again. And at one point, stopped to have a spectator take a photo of me, somewhere between miles 23 and 24, to prove not only that, holy shit, I'm running a marathon, but also that, holy shit, that is the ocean. Do you see it?
I also stopped somewhere along the course at the oxygen bar in hopes that mint-flavored oxygen would perhaps help me forget that I wanted to die. It didn't help, but was rather interesting.
I didn't stop for a pedicure, but did snag a pair of pink Nike running socks as I ran past, and couldn't stomach the Ghirardelli chocolate that was handed out somewhere between mile 19 and delirium.
I took full advantage of nearly every water station, sometimes grabbing two cups of water to help wash down the energy gels, of which I downed five, total, throughout the course. Number of photos taken along the way? 28. Salt packets consumed? Three.
Salt packets. Now there's a new concept. I learned, albeit a little late in the running game, that salt actually helps aid stomach cramps. So, before the race, I loaded a handful of salt packets into my pockets, and sure enough, as soon as I got a cramp, I'd swallow the salt, and it'd go away, immediately.
The finish line was a sight for sore eyes. And legs. And arms. And back and abs. Everything was tired. I did my best pretty finish pose, and that was it. It was over.
A man, likely a very handsome man in a tuxedo, had I been paying the slightest bit of attention, handed me the blue Tiffany & Co. box. With my necklace. My new Tiffany necklace, which is beautiful, by the way. And had I cared about anything other than finding something to drink, I'd have looked at it. But instead, I was corralled into the finishers tent, handed a pink finishers t-shirt, and released into the wild of finish line chaos.
It wasn't emotional. Not like Chicago. There were no tears. Just exhaustion. And loneliness. I just spent almost 5 hours alone. Through hell. There was no one at the finish line for me. Courtney was out there somewhere, but hell if I knew where at the time. It was really kind of a bizarre feeling, that loneliness. But at the same time, I was damn proud. I just spent almost 5 hours alone, through hell.
I eventually found Courtney in the Team In Training finishers tent, and we wallowed together in our misery. And hugged. And ate. Damn, we were hungry.
And that was it. Marathon No. 2 was over. I had a monster blister and a cab accident left to enjoy, and some more sightseeing to do, but the Nike Women's Marathon was under my belt. Six months of fundraising was over. Weeks of training were complete.
And to that I say, bring on the Detroit Marathon next fall. I've been assured it's flat. So I'm all over it.