To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.

Well, I did it. I finished my first marathon. WOW!  I had been training off and on since returning from my first half marathon in Vancouver. I had registered with Team in Training, which is an organization that helps you prepare for an athletic event in a fantastic destination.  In return, you do fundraising for the organization in support of Leukemia and Lymphoma Research.  The marathon was the SFO Nike Women’s marathon.  San Francisco is one of my favorite places so it was easy for me to choose this as my first marathon.  The prospect of all the hills scared me alot but the challenge is also something that I enjoyed.
I arrived with the team on the Friday afternoon. It was a bit of chaos at the airport. Mostly long lines through the pre-screen at customs which has made me believe that the only way to go is to get a Nexus pass.  I am tired of the line and the generally rude border officers.  The teamstayed at the Parc 55 hotel which is down in Union Square.  Previously in other trips to SFO, I have stayed either more in the Western Addition, Haight or castro area, never right in the middle of the shopping district.
Friday night my running buddy and I went to Alcatraz for the night tour.  I have been to Alcatraz before but the night tour added a new twist for me.  In my previous time on the island, the jail felt really just like a building with some history. Like a museum. At night, when it is cold, windy and quite dark it felt more real more like a jailand definitely more creepy.

On the ferry to Alcatraz
On the ferry to Alcatraz

Saturday was the day to pick up race packs!  How exciting!! The race expo was only about 3 blocks from the hotel so that was fantastic.  My running buddy and I walked down and were promptly greeted by a man at the expo that was carrying a yellow puppet type object shouting out the crowd – “Marathoners – any marathoners?”No response except for me and my running buddy.We are promptly taken out of the line and whisked into the tent to get our race packs.  Confirmation of race chip working, confirmation of name and approproximate finish time and that is that – time to enjoy the expo.

Nike Expo in Union Square
Nike Expo Tent in Union Square

This was definitely the flashiest expo that I have been to in my short amateur running career. The tent was complete with a DJ playing Nike+ selected power songs,

DJ Booth with the Nike+ Power Songs
DJ Booth with the Nike+ Power Songs

a Hurley design your own denim station,Safeway food for life pedal your own smoothie station, Gait analysis station to customize shoes, and a preupdate your Facebook status message station. In short, it was insane and invigorating!

We made our wayaround all the stations, updated facebook statuses for the race day (which would change when our chips crossed the 5KM, 15KM and 35KM lines)

Facebook Update Station
Facebook Update Station

and promptly headed over to Niketown (conveniently locatedacross the street) to get some branded gear for the marathon. I wanted to be sure to have a shirt just in case I somehow forgot that I ran a marathon in SFO back in 2010!  The energy in the air was infectious but I managed to keep my spending to a minimum of only $125 which included new running socks, hooded sweatshirt, and a long sleeve running shirt, all necessities really.

Sunday. RACE DAY!  An early start – 4.30AM wake up call to prepare for the race.  We headed out to the start block, yes block at 6AM.  All participants line up according to predicted finish time.  And off we go!! Took about 12 minutes to get to the actual start line but this is it. This is really happening. This is REALLY happening.

I will try to keep highlights brief including:

  • The sheer number of people 23,000. Nearly all women.
  • The number of aid stations, nearly every 2 miles.
  • The entertainment including breakdancers, music stations pouring out power songs, costumes, team in training cheer stations, Ghirardelli chocolate
  • The scenery the Golden Gate Bridge, beautiful homes, the ocean, Golden Gate Park

The ultimate in all this experience without doubt though was being surprised by my beautiful girlfriend with cowbells at Mile 11.  I was so in the zone that I didn’t even realize it was her!  As a surprise to me she was able to come down to San Francisco to see me finish.

And then the finish. Danielle yelling at me and me knowing I can do it seeing the finish line for now the THIRD time (looping course)  Nearly at the end I am so excited that I start to hyperventilate and start telling myself calm down almost there calm down to pass out now would be beyond embarrassing.  And then I do! Cross the finish line!  Hands in the air and collect my Tiffany necklace!

So now I can cross marathon on life list….although I have my eyes set on a marathon in Monaco. We will see.

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