Sunday, July 29, 2012

SF Marathon 5k

This morning I ran a 5k (part of the San Francisco Marathon) to finish the progressive marathon I've been working on for the last three months. If you didn't catch this last time, a progressive marathon is when you run 23.1 miles over a period of a couple of months, then, on the day of the race, you run the final 5k. I thought this was perfect for me, because it allowed me to "spread the pain" as I told an inspiring marathoner today. He didn't even mock me. It was cool.

It was a neat race. But let me start at the beginning.

Last Friday, I went after work to the SF Design Center (about four blocks from my house) to pick up my race bib, t-shirt and sack for the race. I also picked up free samples (love those!) of coffee & granola, and managed not to drool all over the Nike shoes they had displayed everywhere. I knew the race was going to be large, but I'd never been part of something this organized before. Bay to Breakers has a lot of participants, but lets face it, most of them are drunks who don't intend on running any of it, and the organizers of Bay to Breakers aren't fitness people. The organizers of the SF Marathon clearly seem to be fitness people. And it showed in how sleek everything was (though it retained its SF quirks, such as a Tacolicious truck serving quesadillas for the kids in the Munchkin Run, and the actually totally atrocious vegan snack samples handed out at the finish line (ugh, so gross!). I even saw a few people in tutus, but for the most part this was a race for people who wanted to run.

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The running expo, on Friday
I have a confession. I was really worried about my ability to complete this race, or to complete it with the effort I wanted to put into it. I haven't been doing any of the normal pre-race prep I normally do: last week I stayed up too late every single night, have been on a juice fast for 8 days the day of the race, I haven't been running, my stomach has hurt all the time due to hunger ... and last night, the Olympics didn't end here until after midnight, and suddenly it was 1am and I had to get up at 6 and had to be there at 7:30am at the latest, and I was freaking out. I knew, however, that I'd done it all to myself, and there was no one to blame but myself, so I just had to go out there and do my best. My biggest fear was that I would pass out because of having been on a juice fast for 8 days. I haven't even been able to drink coffee in the morning because I don't eat food that absorbs its acidity, so it makes me feel sick. So no coffee, even? Oh dear.

Fortunately, much to my surprise I was proven totally wrong about nearly all of my fears. I got up this morning, had a banana & some water, left the house and arrived just on time to the race. I kept thinking of my friends who were running the full marathon (!) and the first half marathon, wondering where they were and how they were doing. I felt kind of lame for "just" doing a 5k, but as the race began, I kept repeating the same mantra: "The only person you're competing with is yourself. The only person anyone here is competing with is themselves." For some reason, that really helps me not get up in my head about everything and just take it one step at a time.

I ended up having a surprisingly good experience. As in, I kept thinking about how surprised I was that  I wasn't about to die, or walking more. At the end, I suddenly realized that I was on track to finish with a faster time than all of my previous 5k races. Here's where I had a bit of an epiphany, because for the first time in any race, I was able to power up and sprint to the finish, and finish more than a minute over my typical 5k time (36:09). The epiphany: I can't explain any of this except that it must be due to those 8 days of juicing, which I thought were going to make me pass out during the run.

!!!

I have to give credit to juicing. How cool.

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Finisher's medal

Afterward, I ended up hanging out at the race village for a while -- longer than I usually do. I had some fruit, a free beer (yes, a free beer, what a cool marathon, right?) and talked to a bunch of random people. I saw quite a few marathon finishers looking very worse for wear, including some hunched over in the medical tent, others hunched over on the sidewalk, some actually horizontal on the sidewalk covered with their marathon tarp thingy ... it was pretty intense. It made me wonder why people ever do this to themselves! I also chatted with a man who has run about 20 marathons so far. He actually seemed totally fine when we were sipping our beers in the beer garden. He was really cool, and that made me wonder what his secret was, and what the others hadn't done that he had. Any ideas?

I left after my beer was gone, and walked back home along the race route. It was really heartwarming to do this because there were people lining the race route and the runners were all so mentally focused ... its just so nice to be around people who are challenging, pushing themselves to be more.

So yeah, it was a good day. I'm pretty useless tonight and the last thing I want to do is drink juice (sigh) but I just have to tell myself that its almost over. But hey, at least it helped me run like a cheetah! 

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