Just the thought of running one mile made me feel exhausted back in April. But this past Sunday, I was able to run 13.1 at the Nike Women's Half Marathon in San Francisco.
It was my first-ever half marathon and I'm ecstatic it was this one. Words can't really describe how epic of an experience it all was, but I'm going to try anyway.
Coffee wasn't necessary the morning of. I was up at 5 a.m., functioning on pure adrenaline.
I arrived near Powell Street with a few members from my group who I had signed up with, including my cousin, Rosemarie. Several of our running buddies had signed up for this race before but since it was lottery-based, they weren't as fortunate in getting one of the 25,000 spots until this year.
It was every man's dream come true: downtown San Francisco packed with women. I called it a sea of estrogen. You could practically feed off of everyone's excitement and energy — both the runners and the supportive fans.
By 7 a.m., waves of women took off at the start line. I tried to take in all that was happening, including my initial pace, but so much was going on. So I focused on the folks standing on the sidewalks cheering us on.
Family, friends, significant others and even strangers held up signs, rang cow bells and reached out for high fives as we passed.
Some memorable signs I remember seeing included:
- "Chafe now, wine later."
- "Toenails are for sissies."
- "Your legs hurt because you're kicking so much ass."
- "At the end you get a necklace, but your trophy is right here."
It was such a remarkable sight, I couldn't help but feel both empowered and emotional at the same time.
Along Embarcadero, a gospel choir kept our spirits lifted. While running through Crissy Field, Sports Basement employees kept us entertained by setting up speakers and dancing to Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe."
Race organizers also really took the needs of women into consideration. Runners had a bra-changing station where we could trade in sweaty sports bras for fresh ones. Plenty of bobby pins and hair ties were on hand to keep ponytails in place. Chafing gel was even provided for those who could literally feel the burn early into the run.
Aside from the many freebies we received, one of the most iconic came in a little blue box at the end of the race.
Handed to us on silver platters by dapper firefighters dressed in tuxes, a Tiffany & Co. necklace commemorating the race was given to each runner who finished under six hours.
My cousin and I were handed ours after just under three hours. Knowing it was a Tiffany's that was earned rather than bought definitely filled us with a sense of accomplishment.
However, for me, hearing "I'm proud of you" and getting hugs and kisses at the end from all those who supported us these past few months was one of the most rewarding parts of crossing that finish line.
I've been training for this race since April, when I found out our group was randomly selected. I've dedicated many days running to Lake Chabot, gone through a new pair of running shoes and suffered through several blisters since then.
But it was all worth it that day.
Despite how sore I was (to paint you a picture, my knees felt like they were hit with a baseball bat), I don't really recall being that tired when Rosemarie and I finished.
Perhaps it was the inspiration gained from the thousands of amazing women running this race with me.
Perhaps it was being able to share this amazing experience with my cousin — who's like a sister to me and stayed by my side the whole time.
Or perhaps it was feeling motivated by the many names and photos of people posted along the route and on runners' clothes who defeated, are battling or lost to what the race is benefiting: lymphoma and leukemia.
All I know is that day changed me and whatever race I decide to do next, it will have some big running shoes to fill.
What was your first big race (half or full marathon) like? Did you run in this one? What was your experience like?