July 12, 1998
Leading up to San Francisco Marathon, my training had gone really well. I did a number of long runs (sometimes back-to-backs, like 10 miles in 77 minutes, 10 minutes rest and then 10 miles in 85 minutes), lots of variety including speed workouts, hill running, and fun running. My average weekly mileage (I would call it “quality mileage.”) was 36.5 miles a week for 10 weeks.
In July 1997, San Francisco Marathon had a reboot after a 4-year hiatus. There was actually quite a bit of concern that the race would not return to its glory days with thousands of competitors. The 1997 race probably had a couple hundred runners. Riva was running that race and I decided I wanted to be challenged, so I said Mom and Dad will drop me off at Mile 13, approximately 10 minutes ahead of Riva’s estimated arrival, run steadily, and then we will run together whatever distance I can hold on.
The course that year started in Marin County, ran across the Golden Gate Bridge, ran through Golden Gate Park, out towards the new (being built) Giants stadium, back through Golden Gate Park, an out-and-back on Lincoln, and then ran down and finished along the Embarcadero. Mile 13 was somewhere in Golden Gate Park, and I carried a Gatorade bottle with half water and half Gatorade, so that I wouldn’t “steal” from the race supplies. I also wore a number from another race, so as not to draw suspicion (though the color was totally different).
When I got to Mile 20, Riva still had not caught up to me, and in fact, on the 20 block out-and-back section, I finally spotted her, and she was a good 2-1/2 miles behind me… so we weren’t going to run together. This was BEFORE my 7:00/mile breakthrough, so it wasn’t any surprising result, it was the race starting 45 minutes late!
Because of that fact, I was running totally by myself for long sections. It was really nice, actually, because when does anyone have the opportunity to run down major SF streets with no cars, no distractions? When I turned onto the Embarcadero, I spotted my folks and stopped, but some people shouted at me not to stop, “You’re in 10th place!” Riva ended up running 3:15, and being the 12th female finisher – I was probably running with the sub-3:00 people!
For the 1998 edition, the course was slightly different (probably from lessons learned) – the same start across the Golden Gate Bridge, but then running along the Embarcadero early, out by the new ballpark, up into Golden Gate Park, down to the Great Highway, back up through GG Park, the 20 blocks out-and-back on Lincoln, and then finishing 3/4 of a lap at Kezar Stadium (the former home of the 49ers). I spent the night in Riva’s SF apartment, which was a mile-or-so walk from the shuttle pick up area (Riva was attending medical school at UCSF.).
At the start line, I looked for people I knew from GVH. One person there was BJ (a really really good runner), who had signed up for the marathon at the Expo. I remember him commenting that he wanted to get in good enough shape that he could sign up for and run a marathon without any special training. I thought that was cool, but not particularly feasible. I also spotted Laurin Beckhusen, someone that I ran with on a regular basis – it was also his birthday! He told me (at the start) that he thought I had a very good chance to break 4 hours (which is what everyone told me before CIM last year (and I ran 4:35)).
Laurin and I decided to run together, because we usually ran similar pace (even though Laurin is 20-odd years older than me). I had my trusty Gatorade 32-oz. bottle with half Gatorade and half water. This served a dual purpose: one, to be able to refuel myself at any time; and two, to keep my arms in a low position (because the bottle was heavy). When I finished consuming its contents, the aid stations were more plentiful, and my arms would stay at their lower position from practice.
Laurin and I maintained an 8:10 pace through 16 miles. It got harder and harder to continue this pace, because (unusually) the weather kept heating up (about 75 degrees at the finish). Right around 16 miles, I started thinking, ‘I REALLY need to walk soon. I need a break.” About that same time, Laurin turned to me, said, “You’re looking great, but I need to take a break and walk. You go on ahead.” The unspoken communication of runners.
I walked before he did, and did a modified (unplanned) Galloway method of walking 3 minutes of every mile for the last 9-10 miles. This was especially helpful on the long and boring section down Lincoln. The cruel trick is that you get within a mile of the end (but you were barely around 20 miles), and then you do this 20-block out-and-back section. I was able to see several people I knew (WAY ahead of me), and also get an idea about my chances of running a PR.
As I entered the stadium, I spotted my parents in the stands and Riva on the track. The clock still started with “3” hours, and from my watch I knew I had time to spare. I felt decently well (and had rested a little walking), so I was able to sprint in to the finish (less fast, and more utilizing my long legs) and my watch said: 3:51:02. However, being the era BEFORE chip timing, my official time was 3:51:53, a 44-minute PR.
I was starting to believe, after my first 3 marathons, that the weather was NEVER good:
At my first, the weather was OK, but I didn’t know what I was doing in the cold.
At my second, it was very windy.
At my third, it poured.
So, finally, the weather cooperated, and I was able to run my best time.