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  • San Francisco Marathon 2015 Write-up

    Posted on July 27th, 2015 Michele Sun No comments

    Sunday July 26th, I ran the San Francisco Marathon and this is my first local marathon :-p

    When I told friends that I have never run a marathon without travel involved, everyone found it’s hard to believe and even a bit funny. Earlier this year while I was getting ready for Rotterdam Marathon, I found that I’ve traveled thousand miles to run 26.2ml in Tokyo (x2), Paris, Rotterdam, and other destination and big THE races like New York, Chicago, Washington DC, San Diego, Long Beach…etc, but I have never run a Marathon race in SF Bay Area! I don’t think  CIM in Sacramento counts as local, because I particularly remembered that M called it destination race because we had to stay at a hotel for it.

    I have run and paced the SFM 1st Half, 2nd Half, but never done the full marathon course, so I decided to run it and check off  “local marathon” from my list. And thanks to my sponsor GU Energy Lab for the race entry, I would be running across the Golden Gate Bridge, through Golden Gate Park and up and down the Haight/Ashbury, then loop around the AT&T Giant Ball Park and finish by the Ferry Building after passing the Cupid’s Bow. Lots of iconic SF landmarks!!  I thought I knew the course well, and just need to add the first Half and second Half course together. But I was so wrong!!

    SFM Full Course Map

    The day before the race, I went up to the Expo to do a 5K shakeout run with Dean Karnazes, and surprisingly he remembered me from Chicago Marathon. He told the crowd that “she is hard to forget“, wow!! Hope that’s a positive impression :-p I got sucked in with Anita and Kiyoko and was running pretty hard for a supposed relaxed shakeout run, haha!! After the 5k run, I went to pick up my bib and shirt, then volunteered at the pacer table between 10:00 to 11:00. The usual gang gathered together and we all went for a carbo-loading lunch at Tacolicious near Chestnut. It’s always fun to hang out with them pre and post race!!


    Sunday July 27th, at 3:00am I woke up and went through the usual race day morning ritual, then drove to Mt View to meet up with Anita and Luc. Luc brought the yummy crepes again and our car smelled very buttery immediately. From years of practicing SFM race day routine, I knew that parking at the Embarcadero Center would be the best choice — it opened early and it’s cheap with a race bib. On our way to SF, I thought about how depressed I have been lately, and the image of walking through the rose garden with that conversation from last year appeared to be extra cliche now. “Grow five thousand roses in one garden, yet they don’t find what they’re looking for… and the one loves you most is right in front of you..”  And you know what? I have learned that to forget a friend is sad  (-Antoine de Saint-Exupéry)

    Most of my friends are in this race as Pacers, so first we gathered at the Pacer tent and assembled everyone together for group pictures. It’s pitch dark at 4:45am, and I saw those crazy Ultra runners just coming in — those are the people that run a marathon starting at midnight, then 2nd marathon in the morning, back to back. That’s Dean Karnazes type of crazy!!  We got our group pics taken and it’s time to drop-off our bag at the gear-check and did some warm-up. Luc left for his corral and Anita and I stayed with the later pack/start time. No matter how many races I go to, the excitement at race start always raise my heartbeat and I love the crowd energy!!


    When the gun went off Anita and I started slowly on pebble-stoned street, but within the first mile we both knew it’s too slow for me. She urged me to take off and she stayed with the 2:30 Half pack. The sky was ashy grey and a bit misty at the ocean front, as I was watching my footstep not to tripped by the cable-car tracks I could smell coffee and breakfast when passing Fisherman’s Wharf. I remembered this part from previous years! I was feeling really good at the Presidio looking out to Golden Gate Bridge in the morning fog, and energetically charged up the hill toward GG Bridge at steady pace. The Bridge was closed on one side for runners to run across it. This IS the highlight of this race, and people from all over the world come to run SFM for this experience. I saw couple familiar faces as I ran toward to the vista point, and we high-five each other and shouted “good job” as we passing each other. Golden Gate Bridge was wet and slippery, and IMO it’s actually not that much fun to run across. I have enough running-across-bridges experience from New York, Rotterdam..etc, but I can totally understand why people travel to SF just for this ultimate selfie opportunity!


    After the Bridge, we continued on and into Golden Gate Park and it’s so unfair and demoralizing to see the first Half runners running toward their finish line and the second Half runners starting with fresh legs. But we had to continue on running in and out this Golden Gate Park in loops with non-stop rolling hills, and my heart screamed “OMG, I will never get out of this place.” At mile 16, I made an ultimate mistake. There was an odd table with bananas on it, and I grabbed one. Soon I felt the need to use the restroom but I couldn’t find any porta potties. My stomach hurt and I got dizzy from being too nervous, and I couldn’t keep up with my pace anymore because I was afraid that there could be unpleasant accident.

    We exited the Park after mile 19 and I continued looking for porta potties, but so disappointed to find the random ones on the streets were all locked. I slowly walked with the best control I could have and feeling miserable about this situation. For whatever reason, I decided to call Anita and left her a message “You should have finished by now already, but I am still running, and OMG I hate this. I can’t find any porta potti @#%$@!”  This is definitely new to me — calling SOS while running a marathon. The course was all downhill from here which made it even worse. Finally I spotted THEM at next aid-station by mile 21, what a relief!! But by then my pace was all over the place and I was upset. I tried my best effort to pick up my pace and running toward the Finish that I could see on the horizon. So near yet so far!

    After the turn at mile 23 1/2, I saw Vinh, Kiyoko and Jesi, and out of blue for reason that I don’t understand “I don’t wanna run this, I can’t do this anymore!” I stopped in the middle of the road and put my feast down on my sides; I protested and  acted like a rotten child. Kiyoko went “oh no… this is not how it supposed to work” with disbelief. I burst out laughing!! The three of them ran with me while Vinh and Jesi kept chanting “Let’s Go Michele, Ah.. Ah.. Ah..” “Let’s Go Michele!” With their support and encouragement, I pulled myself together and really grind it hard; stayed focused on my shuffling and breathing, and I ran around the AT&T Park (Giants stadium) dodging all the tourists. Kiyoko pointed and said “see the lights at the curve? after that you will see the finish chute.”  Those words sounded like Kryptonite to my ears and I started sprinting faster and faster. I ran hard, for them, for their support! I ran hard, for myself, for able to reset and dig deeper! I ran past those walking runners and finish in style!

    With the hard earned medal on my neck, I told myself “finally, a local marathon it is.” I didn’t even have to look up the record and already knew this would be my slowest marathon time, but I am glad that it’s done and over. We then celebrated our finishing SFM, Vinh and Kiyoko’s first anniversary, Anita’s birthday.. with champagne!

    SFM Medal

    “It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.”- SFM is 5 hour important :-p


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