As soon as mile one was done I felt it. Pain. A spiking collection of embers licking at the muscles in my left ankle. I thought my race was done before I had even lost sight of the start line. Luckily, as I pushed up the second of countless hills the pain rescinded to just a dull, and crucially manageable, throb. The joy that I usually feel while running marathons finally joined the race. The swell of excitement only found in pushing through that which you thought was impossible.
With the deep San Franciscan fog obscuring the way forward we plodded towards the Golden Gate and the part of the race I had been looking forward to for ten months. Before the race I had always planned to stop and take an obligatory selfie to mark this incredible bucket list moment. However, with the pain killers I had taken finally kicking in and my body discovering a decent pace I pressed on, slaloming around those who had stopped. While I have no photo of the momentous miles it will be a long time before I forget the miles I ran through the fog along one of the most iconic structures anywhere on the planet.
It was past the bridge and into double figures that I would start to feel pain beyond comparison. My knees, for those who haven’t read my blog before, are pretty beaten up. Scarred simply by the amount of miles I have put them through this year. I heavily tape them up to avoid my knee cap ‘floating’ an act that cripples me. The tape came off at mile ten and the pain swiftly followed. Downhill seemed to be the trigger for the sharp pain that would radiate from my knees to the back of my thighs. Unluckily for me the next seven miles was spent looping around Golden Gate Park, which consisted of constant small climbs and descends. The park itself is stunning but I struggled to enjoy the views it had to offer as every step was fogged by pain management. It was then I broke one of my golden rules of running; never try anything new on race day. The hydration stops offered Nuun and Gu chews, two items I had ever tried before. With pain clouding reason I munched and drank what ever was offered. Mile eighteen and the chemical assault these new items were having on my stomach came to the forefront and I dived behind a bush and threw up. I thought no one would see me, I thought I had chosen a secluded spot. That was until I turned around and realised that about a hundred odd people had seen me join the barf bus. After leaving not just my heart in San Francisco but also my breakfast I pushed on as I knew that it wouldn’t be long until the sun would burn through the fog and I’d have the heat to deal with too.
After what I renamed Purgatory Park, the city once again opened up. In Height Ashbury (an area of San Francisco known for its drug culture) I found my own high; Runners’ High, an elated feeling of weightlessness when the miles simply run themselves. With your mind lost in contemplation and muscles working without thought you just eat up the miles. The sun shone down, hipsters having brunch cheered us on and music blared down upon the beautiful city. The pain muted by swallowed pain killers I upped my pace.
Then at mile twenty two everything once again came stuttering, stumbling down around me. The manageable pain in my knees had turned into spectacular sharp cramping in my thighs. Caused no doubt by the lack of fuel from throwing up and the different running gait from not having my knees strapped. Every half mile I would have to slow to a walk, stretch and wait for the pain to subside before I could run again. My pace disintegrated.
I usually aim to have a ‘sprint’ finish for the last mile, not this time. Sprint, scream, slow, repeat until the finish line eventually came into view.
As I crossed the line I’m not ashamed to say I cried. The release of knowing that the pain had ended, finally running under five hours, completing a marathon in a city I have truly fallen in love with and the swell of pride in my own strength. The giant beautiful medal hung heavy round my humbled and broken body.
I had fought the hills, the pain, the stomach revolution and won.
Miles Left to Run: 423
NEXT RACE: Slaughters 10K 17th August (tonight!)
Highlights: Running cross the Golden Gate Bridge, the amazing medal, best expo, awesome route taking in all of San Francisco. As a tourist is shows you all the great places and views the city has to offer. It is a race I couldn’t recommend more!
Lowlights: no photographer on the Golden Gate. Early race means not a lot of crowd support.