Okay, there was scant few glitz and little glamour, but still, I'd been a part of the Ambassador program since late last year and with months of buildup and anticipation to this event, being there and meeting all of my fellow Ambassadors was quite surreal. But I couldn't let that get to me. I still had 26.2 miles to run.
Not having had the kind of training I had wanted, the task of running the distance for the third time in 2012 and seventh time ever made it quite daunting. Still, I found myself feeling somewhat composed at the start line. I had little doubts that I would finish after all, it was mostly the worry of in what condition I'd be at the finish that was bothersome to me.
I walked to the 5th wave along with fellow Ambassador Daniela, who was running the 1st Half Marathon.
We enjoyed a few pre-race moments together before we parted ways shortly after the start of the race. Once on the course, I smiled. I was excited. The race was finally here.
Running on The Embarcadero, I quickly settled into a rhythm. What helped was my decision early in the morning to ditch my Garmin. I decided at the last minute to leave the Garmin at the hotel room and opted to run the marathon without any sort of idea of my time or pace or anything. Without the pressure of having to meet a time, I was able to concentrate on feeling strong and running at a comfortable and steady pace.
My attention was on the course as well. I ran past Boudin and again smelled the intoxicating smell of sourdough bread. I was anxious once more for the Golden Gate Bridge and once more it did not disappoint. The fog was thick though so I did not have a great view of the City but that did not matter. I was in complete awe of the Bridge and even took my hat off while I was under each tower, gazing up at the enormity of the structure.
I went around the Bridge parking lot and quickly went back on my way. As I set off on the journey across the Bridge, a runner came from behind, passed me and then shot a look back at me. "I love your blog!" he said and I smiled back at him. That was just one of many energy boosts I received throughout the race. I soaked in the tower every time I went underneath one. The Bridge was great but it was also a bit congested but before too long I was back on firm ground.
And quickly into an uphill. This quickly became a theme. More uphills, more climbs, more inclines. That did not change when I was in Golden Gate Park, meandering through the part that threatened to defeat me mentally in 2010.
The path snaked its way through the park and I followed along. One new thing from 2010 was running alongside runners from the 2nd Half Marathon. Unlike two years ago, this time was more pronounced. I passed by the start of the 2nd Half, with a stable full of runners waiting for the start.
Before too long, I was out of the park onto Haight, which was a really long uphill. By this time I was nearing Mile 20 and I was feeling strong. But my strength was fading. What sapped my energy - the downhills. With my leg muscles already shot, they had to work extremely difficult to keep me from falling down those hills. I had no choice though but to try and slow myself down. I did, but it was at the expense of my leg strength.
Still, I plodded forward. I grew with excitement every time I approached a mile marker. Mile 23 was exciting, Mile 24 even more so, Mile 25 was superb. I was running around AT&T Park at this point, making audible grunts when I had to go up or down curbs and sidewalks or when I hit a rough patch of pavement.
Throughout this stretch, I was overcome with emotion. The severity of it all hit me like a baseball bat across the head. I was running my seventh marathon. Seven! This was for real. Five was great and six was great but seven... that's some serious stuff. And it was me doing it - me! I'd never intended to run anything, let alone a marathon, and yet here I was on the verge of running my seventh marathon. Unbelievable.
I scanned ahead for my family and finally saw them. My girls bundled up in their jackets, jumping up and down, Mrs. LB snapping some pictures and then shouting encouragement at me. I felt grand.
As I got closer though I was once again overcome with emotion and as I passed them I struggled to keep it together.
But I tried.
I approached the finish line and figured, why not, and held my arms out like I'd done at this very same spot two years ago.
I had done it. I'd finished the San Francisco Marathon again. And I was now a seven-time marathoner. Seven!
It really happened! And I made it happen!