Race Recap and Review: US Half Marathon

This was a race of almosts and near misses.

I decided that with my recent increase in running speed, I should be able to hit a PR in a race.

The course? Familiar. I had just ran across the Golden Gate Bridge and back this past July from the San Francisco Marathon. The US Half? Unknown territory. The US Half Marathon is an organization that sets two half marathons in San Francisco a year, one in November and one in April. The spring one (The US “Other Half” Marathon) has been absorbed into the Rock n’ Roll network starting 2013, and I’ll be running it with my 2013 Tour Pass!

The Most Convenient Pickup Ever

The US Half does a pickup that is sensical and no-nonsense. There were three Sports Basement locations to pick up from: Sunnyvale, Walnut Creek, and the Presidio, held on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday respectively, helping you save a trip up to SF. My one little complaint was just that there was only a 3 hour window during rush hour to pick up my bib.

Race Weekend

Saturday night my roommate Michael and I drove up to our friends (David, Amy, and Patrick)’s apartment to stay in the city (Thanks for letting me crash guys!). I figured with free parking in SOMA overnight, I might as well stay there, then find some parking near the Aquatic Park on race day morning.

That night, we sat around and played Halo 3. Not a bad way to rest my legs for a race!

With Daylight Savings on my side, I got an extra hour of sleep and headed up to Fisherman’s Wharf. It was really unclear what streets were actually closed, since the site didn’t list street closure areas and just recommended garages. I managed to park just outside of Ghirardelli Square, right next to the finish line. San Francisco has this really cool thing about street side parking, and like everything in the Bay Area, involves an app on my smartphone. I punch in a number on the side of the meter into the app and pay by credit card. Super convenient, right?

The race was capped at 5,000 participants, and slowly more and more people were huddling around the start line. I didn’t do a bag check this time either, since my car was so damn close doing one would be more of a hassle.

I was also able to snap some very cool shots of the sunrise as well.

Ahh…sunrise.

The race started 5 minutes late at 7:05, and we were off! But I had one little issue the minute I started running…

My parking! I was prepared to pay right before we started, but only realized that my credit card wasn’t valid for some reason. I soon became “that guy” who was on his phone the first mile, frantically trying to pay for his parking to avoid a ticket from the SFPD while running. By the time I approached the one mile marker, my payment finally went through, quickly put my phone back into its armband and finally started focusing on the race.

The Race Course

The race itself nearly follows the San Francisco Marathon route for the first several miles, and is an extremely beautiful course. At around mile 3, it deviates from the SF Marathon route and runs around the Presidio a little more before heading across the Golden Gate Bridge. The course is a lot hillier, since it goes down to the water before heading back uphill to the toll plaza. I was experiencing some sore legs from the LA race last weekend, but that soon went away when I got to the bridge.

The bridge itself really is uphill both ways, and instead of it being foggy and freezing back in July, it was sunny and warm in November. Yes, you read that right. Instead of the street, however, we ran on the sidewalk, which led to collisions with other runners whenever we reached the two towers. The good thing is that each of the bridge’s sidewalk was one way, so the Bay side was the northern route to Marin, and the Pacific side was the southern route towards SF. Apparently in previous years it was two way traffic along one side of the bridge.

At around mile 7, we break off from the Vista Point in Marin and run down a dirt trail, getting some spectacular views of the bridge from the bottom. But, once you go down, you must come up, and the uphill portions of this race seemed like they would never end.

At mile 10, we run down to the base of the bridge again, only this time from the San Francisco side and no more uphill treks to the bridge. The organizers should really retitle this race the “Golden Gate Half Marathon.”

While I didn’t have any need for bathroom breaks, I noticed several runners stopping off near a bush or behind a building, doing their business. The course seriously lacked porta-potties.

The last three miles alongside the Bay Trail in the Marina were really tough, with only a mile marker at the 11th mile and nothing else until the finish line. This was when I knew that I shouldn’t be running half marathons in two consecutive weekends. The sun’s beating down on you, Fort Mason looks like it’ll never come any closer, and your legs are almost ready to quit. Not to mention, when I finally got to Fort Mason (mile 12.75 I suspect), there was one last uphill portion to Ghirardelli Square.

The guy waving the massive Cal flag at the Fort Mason Green really pushed me to the end. He yelled a “Go Bears!” at me and I picked up my pace to a sprint, knowing that just around the bend was the finish line. Thanks, random Cal dude!

I finished in front of Ghirardelli Square with a time of 1:54:00, 8:43 min/mile pace, and only 42 seconds slower than my PR. I was a little disappointed, but hey, this was a much hillier and warmer course than my PR race. Not to mention a very fun, beautiful, and fast paced race! Perhaps the running gods are telling me this isn’t the time to PR.

I look amazingly tired.

And at the finish line? Peasant pies, all you can drink Muscle Milk and Zico Coconut Water, and water from a huge jug that looks like it’ll be empty by the time the last runner is finished. I also received a metal bottle container with the US Half logo on it. The lukewarm peasant pies were a bit difficult to digest after running your heart out, and everything was just so spread out at the finish line. Gear pickup looked chaotic, and I was glad I didn’t do it in the first place.

The medal itself looks pretty sweet, quite possibly one of the best medals I have.

All in all, this was a race that primarily focused on giving you nothing but wonderful views of the Golden Gate Bridge, and did not disappoint.

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