Sunday, June 23, 2013

No bridge, but bands and a Jewel

Last year, Mrs Notthat told me that I was registered for the first Half of the San Francisco Marathon. I'm not a fan of crowds or road races, but who doesn't want a chance to run on the Golden Gate Bridge, at least once. So I grudgingly did it.

The SF Marathon people know their marketing, and showed off a nice spinner medal that was yours if you ran the second Half course the following year. The thing is, it seemed like nobody wants to run the second Half - there's no bridge.

But Mrs Notthat wanted the bonus spinner medal, so we signed up for that second Half race.

One thing that makes the two SF Half races a bit challenging are the logistics - they are point-to-point races, which means that you don't finish where you started (which is probably where you left your car). You can buy a seat on the official race shuttle busses, but that means dealing with lines and, on the second Half, giving up the biggest advantage of the second Half - its relatively late start. (The Full and first Half waves start at 5:30 AM - the second Half waves start at the much more civilized 8:15 AM.)

Which is why Needs Cool Name, husband of Weird Haired Mom, is such a stud (for the second year in a row). He dropped us off near our start and then met us at the finish. Having an NCN takes a LOT of the stress and hassle out of this process.

To get to our start area, we had to cross the Full Marathon course. There were quite a few runners going by - these were the faster runners that were a bit over half done with their race. I wasn't sure we would see anyone we knew, but then, there was Oel (not his real name) flying by.

And then a stunner - The Endorphin Dude came by. This was his 100th Marathon and he was determined to have a great showing. I was amazed and thrilled for him (and a bit bummed since this meant that I would not see him again out on the course).

We had emails leading up to the race talking about the increased security and that they were strictly enforcing the wave assignments. It was a nice surprise to see that the starting area for the second Half was very mellow and casual. The waves were treated as suggestions and the many portable heaters scattered around were very popular. The runners looked well rested (as opposed to those that had to start at 5:30) and relaxed. It was awesome.

A funny thing about this picture - everyone except the speedy Retep (not his real name) finished within two minutes of each other.

And here we are starting. We basically just merged in with the Full runners, who had mixed emotions seeing all these fresh runners join them on the course.

A cool thing about the second Half is that it has a number of bands scattered along the course. This group I particularly liked. (Note that my camera refused to focus the first bit of the race. As a spoiler alert, this is the same camera that I ended up drowning in the San Lorenzo river a week after this race.)

The second Half course spends a lot of time wandering around Golden Gate Park, which I loved. At about mile 6 we headed down famed Haight Street, whose highlight was K-Bacon cheering loudly as we headed into the Mission.

The Mission part of the course is a bit interesting due how they keep diverting runners down different streets in an effort to allow some traffic to cross the area. Three times the diversion happened just ahead of me, the result being that a small group of us were suddenly charging down an empty street on our own - kind of cool and a bit creepy at the same time.

It was somewhere around mile 8 or 9 that I had a huge surprise - I could see Mrs Notthat ahead of me. (She's one of the dots up there ahead of me.) This was the longest distance she had been able to run for a long time - since the Quicksilver 25K - and she was tiring a bit earlier than normal. Still, I had not expected to see her until the finish, as normal.

And then it happened - I passed her. She was doing fine, but was very tired. And still smiling.

She snatched the (now working again) camera away to take this picture of me being fierce.

Yes, that woman is walking against the runners, looking for her runner. Fortunately,  the  runners were pretty tired by now and the chance of her being trampled were minimal.
Finally we were on the Embarcadero (I think) and on the home stretch. Which meant one thing to me:

The Jewel was not far away. The first Half has that bridge, but the second Half has AT&T Park. I really liked this bit.

Running along McCovey Cove - that's the water that home run balls end up in sometimes.

And finally, the finish line. Mrs Notthat and I ran up this chute hand-in-hand - a first for us and a huge thrill for me.

It's bad form to do this, but here is a screenshot of a proof proving that we were together, hand in hand. And naturally, I had my camera out, taking that picture just before this one. I may have to buy this one.

The finish area was filled with mayhem (and MANY very happy runners that were done).

While we were waiting for WHM to make her way down to the Bonus Medal Tent, I headed back to find a place to fill my water bottle, where I met this guy, Noah. (I hate that I don't know his last name.) He was fascinating to talk to - he has run 80 Marathons starting back in the 60s, including many Boston, New York, and others. I was a bit dubious, but as he kept talking, I realized he wasn't making this stuff up, and it was amazing. (A freak bicycle accident about ten years ago ended his running.)

I love this picture - pure joy at being done and having collected our bonus spinner medals (which, I have to admit, were pretty cool).

The first Half Marathon course has a bridge. But the second Half to me was much more fun - much less stress, much more sleep, and a course that was a lot more fun than expected.

This year's race had to be moved from it's normal early August start to an early June start due to a bunch of rich guys wanting to race their boats in the Bay this summer. The day that was picked was Father's Day. This change of dates led to a significant drop in the number of runners at this race. (Which did little to improve my chances at winning.)  

So here's the next issue - the SF Marathon Marketing Machine isn't done with us. If you run the two Half Marathons and then run the Full Marathon, you get a bonus hoody. Mrs Notthat knows this, and is considering it. I've already got a few hoodies, so I'm good, and consider myself done with this particular road race.

Unless Mrs Notthat does a stealth registration again. Surely not, right?

That's it - move along…

PS: You can see more of my pictures here.


Beth said...

Aahh, I love the hand in hand finish!
I'd put money on seeing the both of you next year out on the full course : )

John Nguyen said...

I ran the 2nd half a few years ago and have to admit that it is a fun race despite being on asphalt and being a tad short! Glad you had fun!

mary ann said...

This might be my all-time favorite running post. Of course I still miss the dogs and (or trouble, or both) ones, but I love seeing all my fave SF places.
Good job you guys!