First things first: THANK YOU. From helping me raise money for a great cause to all the love on social. Without the running community, this would have been a completely different experience and I can say, without a doubt, would not have been as enjoyable without all of you. My sincerest, heart-felt appreciation goes out to you.
I was nervous about this one. Running that far is always a concern as any thing that pops up during the race can immediately become a serious concern: Chafing, blisters, cramping, or experiencing anything that will last almost 12 hours is an ordeal — on top of running. I looked over my supplies the day before a couple of times, then again on race morning and again as I got to the start line. I felt like I was forgetting something. I knew there was going to be a moment where I was like “gah, that’s what I forgot.” Spoiler alert: it never happened. I had everything, but there was the “forgetting something” feeling most of race morning.
I arrived at the start line around 10:45 pm, pretty early, but didn’t want to risk any possible delays. There were a handful of runners already there and as it got closer to midnight the 52.4 tent became full. I was running with my friend Chris, my ultra-buddy. We decided to start with a 5 min./1 min. run/walk ratio and adjust as we needed. We put on all of our reflective gear, blinky lights, head lamps, and lined up for the start.
The first 26.2: Miles 1-13.1
There were almost 50 runners out there all at various paces and race strategies. We broke into small pockets of runners with similar paces. The streets were not closed which meant we were running on sidewalks and obeying all traffic lights. I wasn’t going to argue with a 30-second break at a red light or a stop sign. Running through SF after midnight is interesting. Since the bars/clubs were still open, we had the “privilege” of entertaining the night-life patrons. My favorite comment was: “You know the race is tomorrow!” Well, technically it is today, but maybe we are in the future, ooooohhhhh. Not what I said, but it’s what I thought and it made me laugh for a half-mile or so.
The first miles always feel good. We kept a pretty good clip for the first 5 miles, around a sub-10 min pace. I knew we weren’t going to run this the whole time, but it’s where Chris and I tend to drift in our comfort zone. Slowly we pulled back a little bit as the start of the race excitement wore off. We drifted back to a safer 10-11 min mile pace. We hit the first 13.1 around 2:15-ish. A little fast, but I was happy with it We wouldn’t be able to start the second loop until 5:40 am, so no use in rushing. I was running with my hydration-pack and a PB&J sandwich. I decided to eat a quarter at each 5-mile mark so that I was getting in to some solid food to help fuel the system.
Total time: 2 hours 17 minutes
At this point we had a quarter of the race behind us. That thought brought me some comfort (only 4 half marathons). What didn’t bring me comfort was my stomach. UGH. It wasn’t feeling right. I remember telling Chris around mile 17 that I didn’t feel right. I don’t know if I had to puke or poop (sorry). I was trying to figure out what it was: either the Gatorade in my pack or the PB&J – neither are new to my ultra routine, but something wasn’t working. I made the call to stop drinking/eating both. Thankfully Chris’ partner was out there crewing and supporting us, so I switched to drinking water. The bad thing was that I now was no longer eating. I had plenty of GU with me, but that was my plan for the 2nd half and didn’t like the idea of only eating GU all day.
Our pace slowed to 12-15 minute miles. We were hitting the harder part of the SFM course that had more hills and we were both fine with walking them. If you have run SFM before, remember that screaming downhill part after the Golden Gate Bridge (Lincoln Blvd)? Well, if you are doing the course in reverse, it means you run UP it, or in our case, walk up it. Chris would later tell me that he was concerned about me on the course… he knew I wasn’t “right.”
As we crossed the finish line (sort of) we had to maneuver through the crowd getting ready to “start” their marathon. We made it back to the tent with (at minimum) twenty minutes before we could start our second loop. We both changed our clothes, ditched all of our blinky-lights and headlamps (which felt SOO good). I took the opportunity to open a new Gatorade and eat a KIND bar I had with me, drink a couple sips of broth and get ready for the second marathon. Honestly, I hadn’t really eaten much the last 13 miles, and whether it would turn out to be a good or bad decision, my stomach felt better.
This was also the first time I had a chance to take a look at the love on twitter with the #Pavey52 hash. I read the replies to THIS tweet and it gave me so much a great feeling to know that there were runners out there cheering/supporting.
Marathon 1: 5:21:05
The second 26.2: Miles 26.2-39.3
The sun was starting to come out and I couldn’t wait for it. I tried to forget the first marathon and think of this as a journey on its own. I don’t know if that makes sense, but breaking these into four half marathons was working for me. We started at 5:45 so we had about 20 or so minutes of down time. We didn’t want to get cold or stiffen up and we timed it almost perfectly. We were off again for marathon number 2 still holding on to our 5/1 ratio. We couldn’t help but wonder what the people in Wave 3 were thinking when we started walking 5 minutes into the first mile. We joked to ourselves that we wish we could tell those around us that we have been running all night.
The energy of the crowd definitely helped. My stomach issues had pretty much disappeared and the legs were feeling pretty solid. The feet were feeling good and I was surprised at how good I felt. My legs were heavy, but they were willing to move. The change of clothes was helping mentally and it almost felt like a brand new start of any other race. The first few miles were kept pretty consistent, around 11-13 minute miles… we had pretty much decided to walk anything that looked like an incline. Being familiar with the course was a huge advantage. I just kept thinking: make it across the bridge and into Golden Gate Park. On the out-and-back portion of the Golden Gate Bridge, it was great to see familiar faces and cheer them on as they ran by.
Shout out to the November Project (SF) tribe cheering on the runners at the Golden Gate Bridge entrance. It was a HUGE energy boost to see familiar faces and the support going on and coming off the bridge. Andrew Hutchinson grabbed the one at the very top of the post and Viviana Oliva grabbed the one below.
Total time: 8 hours, 14 minutes
Once we entered the park, the majority of the “difficult” hills were behind us. The park is loops of incline/decline and can be monotonous, but I was happy to be able to see where I was going this time around. The park can be a little quiet at 2 in the morning. I was hoping to see Wifey and the First Lady entering the park (mile 13, or 39), but it didn’t happen. I knew that we looped through again a few miles later and was glad to see them there. It is such a refreshing feeling to see loved ones along the course. I was excited to see my daughter, I know getting her up early can be difficult all around, but that little face just makes me happy. There is also the opportunity to grab a snack from her too.
Our pace was pretty much turning into clock-work at this point. When it was flat and we didn’t have to stop to refuel, we were knocking out 11-12 minute miles with consistency. Once we exited the park we were in single-digit territory with miles left. We saw signs that said mile 20, 21, and we found comfort that those signs really wanted to say mile 46 and 47. When we got to the final two miles, I had a little celebration moment in screaming “MILE 51 LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, MILE 51” — as it was the furthest I had ever run. Gotta enjoy the little things.
Side note: Chris was wearing a F*CK CANCER shirt for the second marathon and we didn’t go a mile without someone coming up and sharing a story or complimenting/agreeing with the shirt. It was interesting. He was a celebrity on the course. If you happened to remember seeing the shirt, I was the guy a couple steps behind him.
We crossed the finish line together. Around mile 41, I had to switch tracking miles/time from my watch to my phone, so I didn’t know how long we had been out there, but was glad to be crossing the finish line and feeling reasonably good. I was tired, my feet hurt, but apart from some tightness in my left quad (which thankfully never seized to a cramp), I was moving along well and our last mile was 10:40, almost an identical pace to our very first mile of the second 26.2 loop, 10:39.
Marathon 2: 5:45:34
52.4 Miles: 11 hours, 6 minutes
Thank you, Thank you
I can’t express enough the feeling I had when I looked back at my twitter feed and saw everyone that was cheering, offering support, celebrating, wondering about me, and for caring. I know I always say this, but it I mean it EVERY TIME. I love being a part of this community and everyone on social that sends a tweet, throws a virtual high-five, calls me crazy (with or without love), shouts out along the course — it means the world to me. It really does. You are a part of this journey and you make it that much more amazing. Thank you.
Run All Day (and all night?)
It seemed appropriate that the shirts that say RUN ALL DAY came back after this journey. I’m happy to announce that the store has re-opened — and RACERBACK TANKS have been added.
See you all next year?