I headed into the San Francisco Marathon expecting a big race, and while my run didn’t go as I hoped, it was still a great day. I’ll be quick with the details about this one, because my race was fairly forgettable. What I’ll always remember about this one will be the gutsy runs of two Operation Jack supporters running their first marathons.
Real quick, I felt fairly good heading into this one. I really thought I was ready to break through with a sub-3:10 for the first time since May. Even if I didn’t hit that, I knew I’d be disappointed with worse than a 3:15. I wanted to run well on this course, I was more-or-less ready mentally and physically and I felt fairly decent.
The course is pretty hilly the whole way through, but especially the first half. There were a three or four steep climbs that’ll beat you up. However, there were also some nice declines to get your wheels turning. I ran the race with perfect balance between aggressive and conservative for the first 12 miles. I felt comfortable, I was turning miles in the 7:10 range consistently and I resisted every urge to go any quicker than 6:45 or so during the first five or six miles.
My average pace for the race fluctuated considerably with the inclines and declines and through 12, I was pretty close to on target for a 3:10. On paper, the second half looked quicker than the first and I thought I could negative split. However, I started to fatigue from the hills and a little bit before the half, I knew my day was done. There was a decline, and for the grade it was, I would normally turn at a 6:30 or so pace without much trouble. But all I was getting was 7:20 and I knew it was going to be a long second half.
Sure enough, I fell apart and had a rough go the rest of the way. I went through the half at 1:37 and change and finished in 3:21. I’m kind of frustrated because I’m running too many races up in this time zone. I know nobody cares but me, but it’s frustrating for me when I’m used to much faster times. Mentally, I just need to accept the fact that my times are going to be off. This is one of my biggest struggles this year and since I’m pretty competitive, I’ll probably battle with this the rest of the way.
The course was great. We got to run across the Golden Gate Bridge and I thought the course did a nice job highlighting the city. We ran down a street called Haight that was exactly what I think of when I think of San Francisco. One nice thing about this year is I get to see a lot of America, and that street ranks right up there with some of the cooler places I’ve seen. Probably not where I’d hang out, but it was pretty cool nonetheless.
Anyways, enough about me and my race. I really want to talk about Heather and Sarah and I want you to read this!
Heather is somebody I’ve known from an online running community for a few years. We’ve communicated for a while, I’ve given her a lot of advice about running over the years behind the scenes, and oh yeah, she’s a huge Operation Jack supporter. She’s from San Francisco and chose this race as her first marathon. I think she was going to run the race last year, but an injury got in the way. So she ran this one for Operation Jack, raising money in the process and making me grateful for people like her who believe in what I’m trying to do.
Her training went great. She worked hard and trained smart. I saw her numbers and she was really whipping herself into pretty good shape. Her times were getting good, she lost some weight and she was really ready to go. A year ago, she probably would have been somewhere in the mid-4s, but a few weeks ago, she started talking about going after a 4:05. I don’t think you need to shoot for the moon in a first marathon, but you should at least chase a decent goal. I told her that I really thought she could go sub-3:50, but I figured she should chase sub-4 as a decent goal.
She was ready for that sub-4, and I had no doubt she had the ability to pull it off. But you never know how the body is going to react in that first marathon over the final 10K. I saw her on the bridge on an out-and-back portion and she was cruising. I could tell she was right in the 3:50 range. I didn’t know how she would hold, but I was glad she wasn’t struggling early. The plan was I was going to finish and then run back on the course, find her and run her in. I had some motivational tricks up my sleeve just in case.
After I finished, I was cramping pretty bad, but I sucked it up and ran back to find her. No way could I go soft and miss this one-time experience. I thought I’d get about two miles out and then find her, but she caught my attention about 1.3 miles out or so. I was totally shocked. She was KILLING the course. I asked her what her time for the race was, because I needed to do the math to make sure she could get in sub-4. She said 3:37! I told her forget sub-4, let’s go get Boston! I did the math pretty quick and realized that she was actually a bit too far out and I told her that, but still — I was crazy impressed. She just needed to stay steady to bring home a sub-3:50!
I told I was proud of her for doing such a great job on the course and I could tell pretty quick that she couldn’t talk and she needed to stay focused, so I just kept on working on bringing her in. I asked her a few minutes later if she wanted to finish hard and pick people off and she told me no, she was already going as hard as she could. So I stayed steady and tried to push it a tiny bit to see how she’d respond. She didn’t have a ton left, but she had a little bit here and there and I stayed in front of her to keep her chasing me. She finished in 3:48:58. I can’t really come up with the words to explain how proud I am. It was awesome, definitely more than making up for my run.
But wait, there’s more! Another Operation Jack supporter, Sarah Loy from Massachusetts, also chose this as her first marathon. She found Operation Jack through the San Francisco Marathon website and really believed in what I’m doing, just like Heather. She did an incredible job fundraising and, like Heather, is someone I’m grateful to have in my corner this year.
She trained well and was primed to go after a BQ (3:40), but suffered a foot injury a few weeks ago and wasn’t even sure if she’d be able to run the race. I saw her before the race and she was telling me that she had a short training run earlier this week and her foot hurt so bad, she had to quit the run. She said she was going to try to run the marathon, but she wasn’t sure if she’d be able to finish.
I didn’t think she had a chance of finishing, although I certainly didn’t tell her that. When I was doing the back portion on the bridge, I said a prayer for her because I was hoping she’d be OK and that I’d see her in passing while she was on the out. I saw her pretty close to the end of that portion (just in the nick of time!) and she seemed pretty upbeat. I was pretty surprised and happy and slapped her a high-five.
She made it the whole way and finished her first marathon in 3:54. After the race, she told me it was a miracle and I agreed. I really couldn’t believe she finished the race. For the past few weeks, she missed a lot of runs and suffered through a lot of pain. To go out and nail a 3:54 in a debut under these circumstances on a difficult course was pretty amazing. I was really happy for her.
So, that’s San Francisco. Wasn’t thrilled with my race, but I was beyond thrilled with how Heather and Sarah ran, so all-in-all, it was a great day.
35 down, 26 to go. Next up, Choteau, Montana.
Me and Sarah at the finish. Her boyfriend was being funny and getting us to clown around for the picture.
Me and Heather. Awesome day!
Really looking forward to this thing getting filled!