Racing cleanly through San Francisco
August 2, 2007
Last weekend I did some clean racing. Im not referring to racing sans performance enhancing drugs. I could never afford them anyway on a journalists salary.Im talking about city racing, when you finish as clean as you started, with maybe a little sweat. Civilized racing, where matching outfits from shoe to sunglasses, and even makeup if you want, is acceptable.I entered the San Francisco Half Marathon last Sunday, 13.1 miles of running on pavement through the city. No dirt, no blood and no crashes, unless I took the wrong route and got hit by a bus. Also acceptable is racing with ear buds, so much that 80 percent or more race with them. I have always been anti-iPods in running races for the same reason I wouldnt wear them playing tennis or basketball you need to hear whats around you and be aware of other runners. From my experience, its been frustrating trying to run around packs of walkers wearing headphones.As I sat in the bus escorting runners to the start of the half marathon, I pondered whether I should race with my new shuffle for the first time. A couple guys behind me were talking about what power songs they had on their iPods. Why do you have Girlfriend on there? one guy asked another, referring to Avril Lavignes new hit single.Well, I was on Nike Plus doing this contest with like 20 people from around the world and I was checking out their power songs, and I was like whats this song? …He continued to justify his manliness as I refrained from laughing too loudly.After that I made the decision to race with the iPod. If you cant beat them join them, I guess. Plus, I thought, I may need a little boost to get me through 13 miles on pavement, and what better than some bad-but-good early 90s dance tunes?It had been almost four years since I ran a half marathon. I was hesitant to do so because I knew I would be slower than during my college running days. Even then I had a bad habit of starting off way too fast (6-minute pace), making the race more difficult than it had to be. Now I was older and wiser, hopefully enough to start at a reasonable pace and pick it up on the second half. This meant starting at a 7-minute mile pace and picking it up to 6:45 the last six miles, getting me to the finish in just under 1 hour, 30 minutes.I opted to do the second half of the marathon. Although the first half seemed more scenic, crossing over the Golden Gate Bridge, it had a 5:30 a.m. start time ugh.The second half started outside Golden Gate Park and ran into the park and around Spreckles Lake. Unfortunately, I started off with a power song and ran the first mile in 6:15 oops! Now what do I do? Its hard to change pace once you start, so I kept going. Soon I was slowing down and getting passed by everyone who knows how to race half marathons, or those being paced. I noticed everyone passing me was not wearing headphones.The course had more hills than I imagined as it weaved through the park. I started to get IT band pain after the third mile and tried to run on grass beside the road as much as I could because it is a softer surface. At this point I hoped I could finish and not have a chronic injury return.The course soon took us through Haight and Ashbury, which was dead at 9 a.m. I was still getting passed and my knee was still hurting. A couple matching blond women in baby-blue Nike outfits caught up with me and I tucked in behind them. I felt weird and kind of rude running with people wearing headphones. I couldnt talk to them or hear anything they said. Plus, could they tell I was listening to Ace of Base?I stuck with the ladies through mile 8 or 9, through the Mission and Potrero District. And yes, we (or they) were getting a lot of cheers as we maneuvered around the 4,000 marathoners. Then they broke away. We then ran by a lot of chicken wire, graffiti and shopping carts through the industrial part of town, Mission Bay and China Basin. By mile 11 I was feeling pretty good and the pain in my knee had subsided. I was still running fast enough to break 1 hour, 30 minutes, even though I went out too hard. We soon passed AT&T Park, where baseball fans were already lining up for Bobblehead Day, where I would be later hoping to see Bonds hit a homer.I was getting close to the finish but also 1 hour, 30 minutes. So I picked up the pace, passed one of the baby-blue ladies and sprinted to the finish on the Embarcadero.The crowd was so loud I couldnt hear my music, but it felt good to end with the Spice Girls. My finishing time was 1 hour, 29 minutes and 4 seconds. I was relieved. Maybe next time I will figure out how to start slower.Emma Garrard is a photographer for the Sierra Sun. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Half Marathon: Kara LaPoint, Michael Barna, Lucia Lake, Kristi Schaffner, Kelly Rodriguez, Kevin Densmore, Heidi Blide, Carrie Degree, Jane Weeks, Tammy Deangelo, Stacy Conner, Gretchen Sproehnle, Kelly Helgans, Joel Baier, Karyn Stanley. Full Marathon: August Braugtigam, Michael Martina, David Robertson.