This race exceeded all expectations. After never having run a full marathon until last May (the Long Island Marathon), I had no idea that a 26 mile run can be so much fun. First off, San Francisco is a beautiful city. I spent the first two days sight seeing and pasta loading, first in the North Beach (North Beach Cafe) and then in a quaint Italian restaurant (Umbria). I stayed pretty much on New York time the first two days. I intended to do this so the 6:30 am start would not seem so early. So here is my race day narrative:
Dressed and made my way down to the Embarcadero which was about a half mile from the hotel. Since the San Francisco Marathon was doing wave starts, I signed up for what I thought was my correct placement (a 5 hour marathon). I ran the LI in 4:51 so I thought this was reasonable. It was on the chilly side, around 50 degrees but that would work to my benefit later on.
The wave started around 6:30 am and I set up north passing Fisherman's Wharf, Ghiradelli Square, the marina with the beautiful vista for San Francisco Bay and Alcatraz. Up in the distance lay the Golden Gate Bridge, the ultimate focal point for this race. Ran up, and I mean up, the Presidio and past the tolls of the GG Bridge and there I was, on the left coast with the Pacific breeze flowing over the bridge as I headed north toward Vista Point. It was pretty jammed on the bridge, and I lost a bit of time, but the view was well worth it. At this point I was very comfortable and once off the bridge I focused on the major point of this race (mile 7 - 26). Made it through some pretty massive hills in Presidio area, finally shed my "throw away T" and then spent 6 miles in Golden Gate Park along with its architecture, buffalo area, and lakes. One of the more memorable water stops was in the park where they offered the runners Cytomax (Gatorade Clone), Gel, and a guy dressed as the devil handing out beer with a sign saying "what the hell, you made it this far, have a beer". Of course I accepted. After the park I came out on the top of the Haight area (upper Haight, which has not changed since the "hippie days" of the 60's. The long climb up Haight was very tough, but not as tough as the run down to the lower Haight. It sort of a stagger instead of a run, with your toes crammed into the front of your shoes and all the time trying to hold yourself up from falling on your face. After the Haight I ran through the Richmond area which was mostly factories until finally hitting the bay again with AT&T Park in the distance. Also at that point, the "so called WALL" was quite evident, though not as serious as the first time I ran a marathon. I was very tired but still quite loose. At this point I knew I was running a faster marathon than before because I caught up with the Wave 7 runners. So along the harbor I continued, past AT&T and McCovey Cove and up under the Bay Bridge to the finish line on the Embarcadero. I did my usual jump on the line as my time read 4 hours 42 minutes. A personal record for me and a most fulfilling run. I would like to do this one again.