Berkeley Half Marathon

Last weekend, I crossed the finish line on my fourth half marathon, the Berkeley Half Marathon. It was a challenging one!

Although my posts have been a bit infrequent lately, I've shared (mainly on Twitter) that I had a few mishaps in training on the road to my half marathon. Some old tendonitis issues flared up again, which meant two weeks away from running. I also took a last-minute vacation to Australia and New Zealand and, with my busy schedule while there, really didn't have time to do much running (although I did a ton of walking, so I stayed in decent shape). By the time half marathon day rolled around, I hadn't run in two weeks! My longest training run was only a little over 8 miles. So, I was a bit nervous about how it was going to go.

It had a relatively late start for a half marathon (8am), and the starting line was conveniently located about 10 minutes from my friend Laura's apartment where I was staying. It was a great way to start the morning (and a nice change from the usual frantic routine of waking up early and dealing with either public transit or parking issues). Once in my corral, I only had to wait about 15 minutes before the race got started. It was such a welcome change from my last half! The elites went off, then the super fast people...and then it was my turn.

The start was rough. Immediately, the course went uphill for about 2-3 miles. I took it very slow, which ended up being a pretty smart tactic. Once we got to the top of the hills, I was anticipating a pretty steady downhill — but I was wrong. The next 3-4 miles were rolling hills, with lots of ups and downs. Those were not terribly fun!

After what felt like forever, we got to the steady downhill that I had been looking forward to. As far as downhills go, it was perfect — not steep enough to be painful, but substantial enough to feel like a nice break and opportunity for speed. It was sadly all too short, though, and spit us out onto a frontage road along the San Francisco Bay. The views here were wonderful (as long as you looked out at the Bay and not at the traffic backed up on the highway to the other side), but other than that, it was a boring stretch. It was difficult to gauge how far you were going, and the road seemed to stretch on forever. The one redeeming factor was the fact that, since this particular part was an out-and-back loop, other runners were coming towards us and it was a fun distraction trying to find Laura in the mix of them all.

Just after mile 10, the flatness gave way to a gradual uphill and I hit a wall. Hard. Up until that point, I had been motoring through everything at a slower pace than I would have liked, but I was still on target to finish below 2:30, my goal. I gave myself a few 30 second walk breaks here, keeping an eye on my time to make sure I wasn't getting too behind. Every time I began running again, I felt so incredibly slow, but I knew it was almost over. I tried to ignore the hills and just pretend like I was running on flat land, but when that failed, I just cranked up my tunes and tried to drown out the pain (sorry, ears). 

When the finish line came into view, I could see the clock counting down in the distance — the time was 2:40.05. Knowing I had started 10 minutes after the first wave, that lit a fire in me to dig deep. Unfortunately, I had basically nothing left in my tank. Still, I managed to find a little bit and half-stumbled, half-sprinted to the finish line while seeing stars and feeling like I could pass out and/or puke at any moment.

My time? 2:29.36.

I FINALLY got past that two and a half hour mark!

In the finish area, I immediately beelined for the results tent to verify that I'd hit my goal (my MapMyRun race results were a bit different from the official ones) and called my family to share my excitement. After a banana and some water, I found Laura and we painfully made our way back to her apartment — the hills were tough on both of us!

So, my final verdict on the Berkeley Half — it was great! I'm already thinking about signing up for it again next year. Although it was very challenging, it was well-staffed, well-marked and had a really great, positive energy. There were a lot of people running, but it had the friendly feel of a small race. As far as pre- and post-race activities go, they were very well organized. Packet pick up was speedy and easy to access and, although I'm not a post-race beer drinker, it looked like there was a nice, festive beer garden that people were enjoying (runners got free beer, too). I really loved that they sent you your race photos for free, and the shirt was nice. Overall, I definitely recommend it to people looking for a half to tackle next year...but make sure you prep for the hills!!


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