San Francisco Marathon – A Personal Worst

Runners like to talk about their “personal best” times.  I ran the San Francisco Marathon on Sunday July 29 and turned in my personal worst – 5:14:20.

Now – before you say “5:14:20 – that’s barely running”, remember that I ran 26.2 miles.  I ran the entire way only taking short breaks (usually 15 – 30 seconds) at the water stops to make sure I slurped down enough liquids.  My personal best is 4:05 and my typical time is around 5:00, so it’s not that bad, but it was a painful marathon.

A few things conspired to reduce me to the “marathon shuffle” for the last eight miles (vs. the usual four to five at the end.)  First, I wasn’t planning on running this marathon.  My friend Katherine McIntyre had been training for it and two weeks ago I put together a solid 14 mile trail run and a solid 10 mile run back to back and decided to tag along and be her running buddy (e.g. “I promise you’ll be able to beat me.”  My next planned marathon was in October, so this was more of a fantasy excursion for the weekend (if you define fantasy as running for five hours and then limping around the rest of the day.)

Next up – the Golden Gate bridge.  I’ve driven across the Golden Gate bridge but I’ve never run it.  It sucked – cold, foggy, rainy, crowded, and lots of noisy smelly cars.  At the turn around at Vista Point (around 7 miles) I just wanted “off the damn bridge.”  I did miles 1 – 7 at an 11:30 pace (my goal was 5 hours so this was right on pace.)  I cruised through the half marathon point at a 11:00 average pace.  That means I did miles 8 – 13 at a sub 10:30 pace.  Way too fast for a five hour marathon. 

Here’s a picture of me just before I blew up at mile 18 – somewhere in the Haight (thanks to my friend Ben Casnocha who had to run out on the course to get my attention.)  I look a little tired but pretty good.  By the time I got to Divisadero I felt like I’d been run over by a steamroller.

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Last problem – the day before routine. 

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That would be the Harry Potter 5 / Live Free or Die Hard double feature at the AMC Van Ness.  While I spent much of the day sitting on my ass like you are supposed to, I ate like crap during the day.  Stupid.

It was a difficult marathon in all respects.  I’m not alone – some of the other stories coming back are similar.  I think this is one that seduces you with the flat start and downhill segment between 7 and 13 and then destroys you on the back half.  Oh well – it counts – at least that’s another one down.  Nine down, 41 to go.