…are condemned to repeat it – George Santayana
Sometime back about 6 years or so ago, my pal Sarah and I started running together. We did a pretty steady 3 mile loop at lunchtime one or two times a week – down the Embarcadero from Market to the ballpark, across the front courtyard – “touch Willie!” we would say as we slapped the Willie Mays statue – and then back down the Embarcadero.
Not long on distance, and not a consistent runner, I found that most of the races I ran were at the coaxing of others. “Come on. It’s a cool shirt.” “But it’s Puerto Rico!” Several of these races I did with Sarah – Bananaman 5K, Race to the Far Side 5K, SF Hook & Ladder 10K and of course the Bay to Breakers (which isn’t much of a ‘race’ when you run with a beer in your hand at mile 5…). She was always a little faster than me…but we’d stay pretty much at the same pace – just like our lunchtime runs – gabbing a little…picking up the pace at the end.
In 2004 Sarah suggested we take our running up a notch – do a half marathon. ‘That might be ok…’ I said, feeling absolutely on the fence about it. Somehow by the end of the day we were registered.
Sarah’s husband (boyfriend at the time) was a real runner and introduced us to a real running plan – 3 x week…miles ramping up…rest days. We did our shorter runs during the week on the Embarcadero and the longer runs (6-10 miles) in Golden Gate Park on the weekends. This was nothing like our little 5Ks. This was (gulp) really running.
Training was going pretty well until we go about a month out from the race. I started to poop out after about 6 miles, and Sarah developed a hip problem that sometimes made running for her just totally painful. We pushed each other along though… just to the top of that hill… just past that tree… then we’ll slow down… you’re doing great! I’d say that about 1/2 the time there was at least one of us who showed up to run solely because of what the other might think if she didn’t.
We weren’t necessarily at the top of our game come race day… but we were a team!
The San Francisco 1/2 Marathon started in the Presidio and snaked up to the Golden Gate Bridge. The bridge run was beautiful and the restrooms on the Marin side of the bridge marked the 1/2 way point. All well so far. As expected I started to slow up a bit after the bridge and Sarah started to pass me. “Wait! Wait!” I wanted her to stay with me – motivate me – push me along! But there she went… ahead without me. This was race day and every second mattered. Then somewhere in front of Crissy Field I spotted her again – slowing up. Her hip was obviously bothering her – here was my chance! “My hip!” She was obviously in pain, but no mind… It was my chance to pass her up… which I did. How’s that for motivation?! Then on the last 1/2 mile down the hill to the finish my left knee started feeling like it was going to give (probably from the downhill which we didn’t train much on). Sarah came up from behind. “My knee! Sarah wait!” I yelled out to her. All I heard was her “Noooo…..” trailing off as she passed me up. In the end only one person came in between Sarah and myself at the finish line.
We were glad to have finished, and proud of our hard work – but I threw my shoes away that day and Sarah and I didn’t pick up lunchtime running again for about a month… and then only back to our little 3 milers around Willie Mays. I swore I would never run another 1/2 again.
Now fast forward to 2008. Sarah had a baby in September. I’ve since moved away to Portland, Oregon. Sarah’s thinking that maybe we could do a half marathon again – somewhere between SF and Portland – with a little long-distance motivation. Over IM I agree and I can’t recall exactly why, way back in 2004, I thought I would never do another 1/2 again. So, as of about a week ago we’ve been in training for the Avenue of the Giants 1/2 Marathon in Humbolt.
We’re on a running schedule – her in San Francisco running on the waterfront and me here in Portland. I’ll go on over 50 runs between now and race day – maybe only one or two of them with Sarah. Come race day though, we’ll meet in Humboldt to run what is considered one of the most beautiful races around – and it will just be an awesome day.