Remember how my very persuasive friend convinced me to sign up for the SF half marathon?
Since I shared my accidental marathon plans, I’ve been in a constant state of denial that it was really going to happen. Every once in a while—at completely inconvenient moments, of course—I’d remember the looming date and think, “huh. I should really look up a marathon training plan and start preparing for this run.” The thought would occur to me as I brushed my teeth before bed, or while I sat on the Bay Bridge in traffic.
The day before the marathon, I realized it was the day before the marathon, and I hadn’t taken a single step toward getting ready for it. I hadn’t gone running in the last few months, except the day my dog died. I was so unprepared, in fact, that I completely missed packet pickup. (I blame the meetings, meetings, meetings). I was literally in meetings the entire time the race expo was open. LITERALLY. But it didn’t occur to me until too late that I could have asked my friend to pick up my bib for me.
I decided to show up anyway. I reasoned that the worst that could happen was that I’d have to brunch bib-less. If I got stuck mid-course, well, hell, I would be in the middle of San Francisco. Surely there’d be a cab I could call to carry me away to safety.
So I decided to be game. And show up, and just see what happened.
Shockingly, I found myself enjoying the first few miles—conveniently, the only flat miles in the course). I finally understood how racing with thousands of other people might be appealing: I really liked being out there, and feeling like I was part of something. Also, it’s so nice to be in a pack that’s running more or less your pace. I felt so much less turtle-like than I usually do.
The absolute best part, though, was when I saw a stranger fly by me…wearing sweat pink shoelaces.
At that point, I started thinking, hell, why don’t I just run this whole damn thing? This feels pretty good.
My hips gave out. Like, liquified. Only they were also on fire. At mile 9, I told my friend that I didn’t have four more miles in me, and we started looking for a cab. But those opportunistic cabbies who had been hanging out along the Embarcadero waiting for early drop-outs were nowhere to be found.
I’m so grateful to my friend for staying back with me while I hobbled through the next couple of miles. Without her, I would have sat by the side of the road until the second coming. Or a taxi. Whichever came first.
By the time we reached mile 11, I decided that enough was enough. I was going to finish the stupid race, one gimpy step at a time. We pushed each other and talked smack and told stories for the next two miles, until finally, gloriously, we forced ourselves to limp-jog across the finish line.
Our running buddies (who are actual runners, and finished far, far earlier than we did), both mentioned that the hills were far worse than they had expected. (They’re both from out of town). Those comments gave me a small surge of pride: I may have straggled in long after they did, but it wasn’t the hills that did me in. Sure, I may have shouted obscenities at the rolling terrain in miles 12-13, but even then I remember feeling relieved that, as far as SF hills go, they weren’t all that bad. It’s not like we climbed twin peaks or had to power our way up Divisadero from the marina.
Will there be a next time? I’m not closing that possibility off. But I will say that should next time happen, I’ll try to run a little before race day. And I’ll definitely do it with a friend.