Unlike other marathons this journey was different, it wasn’t just another training cycle for a 26.2 mile adventure along my favorite marathon course. This specific adventure started back in October 2012, when I was honored to be selected as part of the The San Francisco Marathon Ambassador Team. Since being selected I was fortunate enough to get to know and become friends with many of the 39 members along with a number of the SFM staff members. This would all come together as I got to meet a majority in person for the first time.
|SFM Expo view from the Tech Center|
Before this weekend, I was able to meet a handful of ambassadors during various races and race expos leading up to the June 16 race. For me the race weekend started on Friday morning of June 14 as I took my first trip on the Mega Bus from Sacramento to San Francisco. The upside to this trip was riding on a double-Decker bus for only $3.65 for a one way trip. After a 1 hour and 45 minute ride, I was finally in the city by the bay, where I had a little time to kill before the first day of the expo. I grabbed a quick bite, checked into my hotel and took a taxi cab to the expo. Yes, I took a taxi ride for a walk that was less than 2 miles. Okay, every now and then, I get a little lazy, not to mention, I already ran an easy 6 miler prior to leaving Sacramento.
Expo Mania Part 1 (Friday)
So here it was the official start to the SF Marathon weekend, like every year I have been at the expo, it was well organized and ready to go when the doors opened. As I mentioned this year, it was a little different as I had a specific role as part of the Ambassador team. From 12:00 – 2:00, I kicked it with my fell SFM2013 Ninja Posse (self named not so secretive group) Meg and Elise. We had the opportunity to do what we do best, tweet, Instagram (I opted to post photos of the expo, Elise posted photos of Meg, and well … Meg posted photos of food), Facebook and talk to other runners.
Through the course of two hours we got to meet up with other ambassadors, take more photos, encourage runners to sign the #SF4BOSTON banner and pose in front of the SF Marathon back drop that were all located Tech Center.
After the few hours of “working”, and I use that term lightly. The Ninja Posse made our way to through the expo, where Elise and Meg educated me on the technique of buffeting it through the expo. After some quality samples of snacks, we made our way to grab our runner swag. Elise ran the 5k, Meg picked up her goods for the 13.1 and I grabbed my goodies for the 26.2 jaunt. The swag was amazing for the marathon with an awesomely yellow long sleeve top. However, I am not going to lie, I was a bit jealous when I found out that the 5k runners got a pair of sunglasses.
|The awesome SFM swag!|
SFM Ambassador Time
|SFM Ambassador group photo|
Friday would not have been complete without an official SFM Ambassador meal for those who were in town by 6:30PM on Friday. While some still were in route to travel into San Francisco, a number of us had already arrived and made our way to the expo. This evening’s delicious meal would take place at Osha Thai Restaurant.
|I had a couple cupcakes as part of my carb loading plan|
This would be an opportunity for many of us to meet for the first time. I was very excited to meet and share a meal with people who I had so much in common with, communicated with fairly regularly over the last few months but yet to have met in person. One of the ambassadors I was very much excited to meet in person was Chris K. This specific guy has been someone who has helped me through my marathon training cycles and whom I have been able to refer to when I was struggling with how to improve my running. He introduced me various training techniques and plans, and an idea that worked for me specifically. The wealth of knowledge that Chris has passed onto me would pay of during the race, I just didn’t know yet how much it would, until the following day.
|Chris K. talking about hammers|
Expo Mania Part 2 (Saturday)
The expo on Saturday was going to be a really fun filled day, I got to the expo and worked the Tech Center area from 11:00 – 1:00, this time with Alisyn, Courtney, Alissa and Daniela. With the time being really busy at this point, there was an official Tweet-Up / Meet-Up during this time slot along with further arrival of runners and fellow ambassadors.
|tweeting during a Tweet Up|
I was excited to meet many more people today from the Twitter universe. I even had an opportunity to meet the one and only @PavementRunner.
Show Time (Sunday Race Day)
With an early gun time, 5:32AM for my wave it meant an early morning wake up of 3:45AM. This year, I opted to stay closer to the start area so I could get a couple extra minutes of sleep before walking the less than 1/4 mile to the start area. As an ambassador, I was treated to having access to a VIP area at Perry’s (a local eatery that was located steps from my wave 2 entrance). The VIP area allowed for separate restrooms, a bag drop for those running the marathon, as well as some food for before and after the race. For me it was a great opportunity to remove myself from a lot of the race day “riff-raff”, where I could find a corner, slip on my head phones and just relax and be at peace before the race.
|escaping the “riff raff”|
With about 15 minutes until gun time, it was time to make my way to my wave and get ready to see what was in store for this race. Honestly, not until 7 weeks prior to the race, did I make a decision that I was going to run this event pretty hard. 13 weeks ago at the LA Marathon, I tried for a 3:05 time, which I did not get but still was able to achieve a PR that would only last 13 weeks. The change in my approach for this race, had to do with finding out that Chris K. was now scheduled to pace the 3:05 group. Fellow ambassador Keith also provided further support as he was going to run with the 3:05 group as well, Keith just recently PR’d less than a month ago running a 3:01. So for me what better way than to run fast, than to run with fast company.
5:32AM hit and we were on our way. Headed up the Embarcadero, we went out and got our first mile in hitting pace, the beauty with running with a pacer is knowing they are going to hit close to even splits as possible, it allows me to just run and make sure I can take in the course, and not get overly stressed at looking at a watch. Staring down at pace for 26.2 miles can be a lot to take in at times.
As we made our way through Fort Mason and Crissy Field, I will be honest, it kind of became a blur, until we started to approach the Golden Gate Bridge. How can anyone make this part of the race a blur, an iconic symbol known all over the world. The bridge like always was fun, we got to see the lead runners heading back across while we were making our way along the bridge. Miles 9 through 17 were a moment to try to shut off the mind and just run as we made our way through Golden Gate Park at this point of the race, this is where I started to fade away from the group. However, I was not too far back because I was still able to keep the pack in eyes view.
|the guys who helped me hammer a PR|
After clearing Golden Gate Park and making our way up Haight Street, I was still able to see the group, but they started to move further away from me, with a number of downhill opportunities I tried to make ground with the 3:05 HAMMER sign. However somewhere between miles 21 and 23, I knew it wasn’t going to be my day to hit the magic number of 3:05, but I did realize “HOLY SHIT, I MIGHT PR TODAY!” So with a my legs moving through the course, I literally closed my eyes while running, took in a couple deep cleansing breathes and decided to get after it.
Finally, I could see AT&T Park, and I knew exactly what was in store, I ran with comfort, I ran with my head up and I ran for myself knowing that I was going to be heading to the final mile. At the finish line I was excited to see my wife, son, a PR and my friends. Crossing the line with an official time of 3:09:21, I just ran a PR, I saw my wife and immediately gave her a kiss and grabbed my son. At the finish I was able to connect with Chris and Keith who got across just after 3:03. I was also able to connect and celebrate this moment with other friends including a very excited Elise who was able to meet my son for the first time.
This time of 3:09:21 is something I never thought I would get on this course. Thanks to the information and sharing of ideas from Chris K, he helped me PR on a great weekend of running and spending time with my wife, son and friends. My previous 3 attempts at the SF Marathon had times of 4:26:23 (2010), 3:56:06 (2011), and 3:53:26 (2012).
The SF Marathon will return to it’s regular running of the last weekend on July in 2014. In fact, registration for the 2014 San Francisco Marathon is already open!
Will I see you there next year? Have you ever ran the SF Marathon? If not what is stopping you?