It is "worth the hurt" … the sf marathon 2011

The anxiety of the 2011 SF Marathon started way before heading into San Francisco on Saturday morning for the runner’s expo to pick up my bib number, goodie bag, explore he expo and listen to featured speakers. It started on Friday, as the first day of the expo began. Even without being in “the city”,  I was consumed by the Tweets being posted and the Facebook photos and status updates surrounding the SF Marathon. About one year ago I reminded myself I ran my first SF Marathon, where I did not perform very well, in fact to this day, I believe that it might have been one of my worst running / athletic experiences to date. Just placing so much pressure on myself about how I needed to finish at 3:10 (to qualify for Boston, in the men’s 30-34 age group). Even with this marathon being my 8th marathon (2nd SF Marathon), the excitement is still the same as if it were my first, getting to the expo to check in and get my bib, the feeling never changes, and to be honest I think the more I do, the more I get excited about them.

So finally Saturday morning, July 30th rolls around, and Bethany and I start our trip to San Francisco. This year we got out to the city pretty early in fact we walked up to the runner’s expo just after 9:00 am, beating most of the crowd. As we walked into the well organized expo there was I was once again in line getting bib #2108. And just as I requested the words “Run 4 Will”, were printed just above the number. Rather than putting my first name on the bib, I run each race for my godson William. William was born with hydrocephalus (for more information log onto Hydrocephalus Assoc. website at Each run I do, I do for him and with him. He will never be able to run a race or do some of the things that I am blessed to, so with his strength and courage I am able to accomplish and be thankful for these daily task such as running and walking.

Immediately after getting the bib number and other goodies for the marathon, Bethany and I headed straight to the upper level of the building to hear guest speaker Tim Borland. Prior to the SF Marathon, I knew nothing about Tim Borland, but as I looked at the marathon website, I read up on Tim Borland and what he accomplished and continues to do so. He had a 60 minute chat about his 63 marathons in 63 days to raise money for the A-T Cure Tour (for more info check out his website at His talk was pretty good and a fairly interesting chat about performing 63 marathons in 63 days starting with the Disney Marathon and finishing at the New York Marathon 63 days later. However, perhaps the biggest thing out of this discussion was post chat when I was able to stand around and do a Q&A with him for about 15 minutes, picking his brain about running for causes, because as much as I am running marathons to try to qualify for the Boston Marathon, I am also doing this to also help motivate and inspire those around me and those who stumble across my running blog like yourself. One day with the help of others I am hoping to run a charity run with my godson, William, in front of me. Luckily for me I was able to gather some contact information so I can hopefully generate some resources to make this goal happen by further contacting Tim when the time is right to be able to turn my “Run 4 Will” into a “Run with Will”.

As the day started to move on, the energy began to pick up for the SF Marathon. We made our way to the Omni Hotel, which is located about 15 minute walk from the start line. There more and more people with the “goodie bag” were seen checking in for their hotel rooms just like we were doing. To break the day up from all of the marathon joys, we made our way to the Embarcadero to check out the local farmer’s market, craft and art stands, and everything else that SF had to offer. Even then, those places were full of people who came to SF, to run the marathon Sunday morning, so really escaping the marathon stuff just put us in a farmer’s market with other marathoners. Before heading back to prepare for the Carb infested dinner, I did a shake out the legs run along the Embarcadero for 10 minutes of easy running followed by a couple of 150 meter strides. This was good enough to get the legs loose and a little sweat going.

Before calling it a night, there were a couple of things that needed to be completed, the first was the pasta dinner. We found a pretty good little Italian restaurant about 2 blocks from our hotel, which made it easy to get to by foot and the food was really good and for the price it was EXCELLENT! A large serving of pasta along with an all you can eat salad bar with a lot of water, equated to a lot of energy for the following morning. The last thing on the list before early lights out to the pre marathon prep was to watch “Spirit of the Marathon”, now if you have ran a marathon you can pretty much relate to one of the runners they follow in preparation to the 2005 Chicago Marathon. If you haven’t ran a marathon this movie might get your head thinking of what it might be like to run one. Once the movie was completed, it was about making sure all of the needs were put aside and easy to find for marathon morning, including my gel packs, water, and breakfast to start the morning.

So here we go, the alarm sounds off at an early 3:30 am! Yes with a 5:32 gun time, I had to get up a couple of hours early to be able to through my breakfast down, get dressed and get myself ready to run these 26.2 miles. With the bib pinned on the running top from the night previous, all I had to do was get the running gear on put on a couple of layers, and I was on my way to the starting area of the SF Marathon. Walking along California Street, I was greeted by thousands of other runners making their way from their hotel and cars to the start area. I finally realized that runners (especially marathoners) have a little bit of crazy in them. Let’s face it, it is before 4:00 am and the sun is still a couple of hours from rising, yet we are up, and about to grind out 26.2 miles in a marathon that has a tag line of “Worth the Hurt”. As I approached the start area, everyone from elite runner to first time marathoner and supporter had excitement, the energy was good as runners started to put on their running shoes place their D-Tags on their laces or in my case along the velcro area on my Vibram Five Fingers. A lot of photos were being taken, as flashes were a continuous spotting from the cameras.

Even without looking at my watch, I could tell there was about 15 minutes before the first wave went out. Here is a clue on timing at a marathon, the UPS trucks that were holding the sweat drop off bags started to from lines and perhaps the biggest thing is that the lines in front of the porto-potties began to go 10-15 people deep. After making my last 2 stops dropping off the bag and visiting the portos, it was time to head to the Wave 2 lining area where at 5:32 it would be our time to take off and start this adventure. From Elite runner to first time marathoner, we are all going to have to start at the same spot, run the same course, and finish at the same spot.

The “gun” went off for the Elite runners, and now it was only 2 minutes away before our Wave took off. So as the time got closer to us moving to the start, now the excitement really kicked into full gear for me. And all I could tell myself at the beginning is, enjoy the run, have fun and take in everything the course has to offer. I started off slow and was moving at a pace that I was comfortable with and in fact enjoyed, chatting with other runners through the run, and enjoying the view of the bay that I paid for from the Golden Gate bridge, which we were able to cross twice along miles 6-8. At the 7.4 mile marker I was 59 minutes and 29 seconds into the run. I was feeling good, now I knew there was a couple of hills in front of me after we cleared the Golden Gate bridge, and made our way into the Golden Gate Park direction. At the half marathon point I was at 1 hour 46 minutes 10 seconds, still feeling good, through the run, I felt that this is where I wanted to be. If I could keep the legs up and continue to hydrate and take in my gel packs every 45 minutes I would be okay. By the 20 mile mark, I started to slow down a little but was still running a decent race when I crossed the marker at 2 hours 46 minutes and 51 seconds. But then, here was went, and I told myself not again! My legs started to tire out and I felt the lower part of my quads to get a little more fatigued than the rest of my body. In the end I was able to get across the finish line at a time of 3 hours 56 minutes 6 seconds. Maybe not the 3:30 I was hoping for but still a decent sub 4 hour time, and 30 minutes faster than my finish at last years SF Marathon.

Next on the plate as far as marathons are concerned is the California International Marathon (CIM) in December. There will be more 5k and 10k runs between now and then, but perhaps not as many as I did in the spring and early summer time. Stay up to date with all of the running news by checking out my blog and following me on twitter (@chrismalenab).

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