San Francisco 1st Half was the race I’ve been waiting for during the last 3 months. There were 2 great reasons for it: I wanted to run across the Golden Gate Bridge and I wanted to come back to the city that I last visited in 2011. I have successfully accomplished both and I am happy to say that this was the best race experience so far. I initially signed up for the full marathon. It’s something I wanted to do as a birthday present to myself, but later realized that I should take it easy. I only started running in February. It’s not enough time to prepare. So, I changed the race to half marathon by May 1st deadline.
Hotel: We stayed at Mayflower Hotel on Bush St between Jones and Taylor. I selected the hotel based on the most economic benefit given that I wanted to run the full 26.2 mi. My concern was the check out time, the distance to the start/finish line, and the cost. Given the past events, I knew that driving to the start is a really bad idea because of all the exiting traffic and road closures. Plus, unless you are a taxi cab driver from NY, I don’t recommend driving around SF, especially if you decide to rely on GPS for directions. (Google took us on Hyde St past Lombard St on the cable car route, when we were coming back from the Expo in Fort Mason to the hotel. The hills were pretty scary. We drove a manual). So, it’s best to rely on public transportation or just walk if permissible. I made the reservation 3 months prior to the event and at that point the prices in the area were already extremely high.This one was one of the cheapest, $139 per night including tax, with check in at 3 pm and check out at 1 pm, and it even promised a parking spot in the garage! Once I changed the course to half marathon, there was still an option to look for another hotel. The early check out deadline was no longer a concern, but I decided to give this one a chance. I was a little apprehensive to see what we got ourselves into, but all of my fears were unfounded. We were on the 6th floor, which is the last. The room reminded me of a studio apartment. It was large enough, clean, and beautiful, not very modern looking, but it was still pretty. The bathroom was clean. There were a fridge and a microwave and a huge walk-in closet ( I wish we had that in our apartment). The only disappointment was parking. Their garage can probably only accommodate a quarter of the rooms (that’s my guess), so we had to park in a garage a few block away. That was an additional $30 for the night (we had to pick up the car by 3 pm), but even so the entire cost was lower than at any other nearby hotel. We didn’t get to try their complementary breakfast, but did enjoy an extra hour time before the check-out. So, I think it was a good choice. I would stay there again if we ever travel by plane.
Morning of the race: I woke up at 4:20 am and we left the house promptly at 5 am. My corral starting time was at 6:13 am, but the official marathon start was at 5:30 am. It was a nice 1.3 mi long walk from the hotel to Embarcadero and Mission. The first half of the walk was downhill and the rest of it was flat. We got there in no time and it was a good warm up.
The course: Everything was well-organized. The weather was gorgeous, around 65 degrees. The views enjoyable. We ran from Embarcadero Plaza toward Fisherman’s Wharf and then west through Presidio toward the bridge. The bridge was not an easy obstacle to conquer. We had to climb about 150 ft incline to get onto the bridge. Once on the bridge there was no place to stop, so it really encouraged everyone to keep going for 2.7 K one way. On the other side of the bridge there was a brief opportunity to take in the views of the Golden Gate from the vista point. The run back was a easy probably because I felt elated that I just completed this exercise. We were high-fiving the runners who were still running toward the vista point and I felt a renewed strength to continue. The last 3.5 miles of the race went along the Baker Beach on Lincoln Blvd. We had to tackle another 100 ft incline, but immediately after, there was a beautiful stretch of the road down hill for about a mile. The last 2 miles were challenging because of the incline. We ran through a quiet residential area in Richmond and then turned into the Golden Gate Park. The last mile was sprinkled with spectators. Their cheers encouraged me not to stop because at this point it was a struggle to maintain the pace. But once I saw the finish line I knew that I did it. Once I crossed it, I was really really happy that I got to be a part of this beautiful race and proud of myself for completing my 3rd half marathon.
There were muffins, bananas and coconut water at the finish line. We could also get a hot drink, such as Irish Coffee. It was still in the high 60s when I finished around 8:45 am, so a hot drink was a nice treat. We also got a cute thermal blanket. I will most likely use it at the next event. We lounged on the grass for about half an hour before leaving the park. There was an option to use a shuttle back to the start line, but the lines were way too long. We decided to take a trolleybus back to the hotel and I am pretty sure that we made it back to downtown way before the shuttles.
I loved the entire experience and I am pretty sure the full marathon course is just as beautiful. The medals definitely are. They are probably an inch large in diameter. If I ever decide to run a marathon in the summer, SF would be a great option.
I finished in 2:31:17. A little slow, but I don’t mind because I ran it for the experience. It was hard. I probably should’ve trained a little better. But I was still able to complete it in almost the same time as the previous one. I can probably run any half course now. What’s nice is that it only gets easier from there on.