Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Half Marathon

Hey there! Long time, no talk. I've gotten into a (relatively) steady rhythm of running and yoga and, when you throw in the fact that I started a new job in January, I just have been tired and haven't felt like I've had much interesting to write about. But I did run my fifth half marathon a few weeks ago, so I felt like that warranted a post.

So, without further ado, the Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Half Marathon!

Probably my favorite post-race picture I've ever taken!

I signed up for this race in late December when my friends Kim and Brent told me that they were going to run it. What I didn't think of at the time, though, was the fact that Super Bowl 50 volunteering was going to end up taking up the majority of my free time in January. So, my training got a bit derailed. But, having just PRed the Berkeley Half in November, I wasn't too worried. I knew I was in decent shape, and I was completely okay with having to walk if needed. I was essentially just looking at this race as a motivator for keeping in running shape through the winter. 

So, when I woke up at 6 a.m., I was probably in the highest spirits I've ever been on a race day. I knew what I was getting into (Berkeley and its killer hills were still very fresh in my mind), but I had zero expectations for myself. The weather was also cooperating incredibly after a few rainy, El Nino-soaked weeks — it was 60 degrees and sunny! 

I threw on my usual Nike tank top and some relatively new Oiselle crops, laced up my Newtons and drove off to the starting line with Kim and Brent. We ended up parking a little ways away from the start, so we got a nice warm up walk in before kicking things off.

All smiles at the starting line.

When the race started, it was a bit chaotic. There was a 5k going on at the same time and, for some reason, they decided to start everyone at once. They also didn't have any real corrals for timing. So, even though they politely asked people to line up by their target pace, people really didn't pay any attention. Despite being lined up with the 9-9:59 minute/mile pace group, there were a ton of walkers in front of me from the very beginning.

So, the combination of the crowd, my lack of training, generally laid-back approach to this race and the fact that it was still pretty brisk in the morning (I wore a hoodie for the first few miles) meant that I started out quite slowly. And I was completely okay with it. I watched the other people. I looked around for anything interesting on the side streets surrounding the race course. There were plenty of things to look at, so it made for an easy start to the race.

However, my ankles were pretty tight and not warming up very quickly. So, around mile 2, I realized it was going to be a long race and took my first (albeit very brief) walking break. For the first half of the race, I was running 3-4 songs and then walking for maybe half of 1 song (I always time myself with songs while I run). When we got to the Great Highway portion of the race, the course looped back on itself, so I distracted myself by looking for Kim, Brent and my friend Jane (who are all three way faster runners than myself).

Lovely views, but I'm super glad it wasn't windy! That sand would've been brutal.

This part of the course got a bit tedious because it was one long, flat road with no variation in scenery for about 5 miles. It was, however, around this point that I realized that my pacing was way better than I had expected. In fact, I was pacing well enough to get a time below 2:30 again! So, I picked it up a little and put some pressure on myself to run rather than walk.

When I turned into Golden Gate Park at the end, the slight incline felt particularly cruel after 10+ miles of flat and fast running. However, I knew the end was near and, at this point, nothing was going to get between me and another sub-2:30 half marathon. I cranked the tunes up loudly, switched to a super upbeat song, and pushed through the pain for the last two miles. I was so in the zone that I didn't even notice Kim and Brent cheering for me at the finish line! 

I ended up finishing in 02:27:15, which was far better than I expected! I guess this means that I need to up the ante for my next half marathon (which I've already signed up for...it'll be in July!).

Post-race, I had some chocolate milk, a banana and a little acai bowl sample with Kim, Brent, and Jane. We chatted and mulled around for a bit, then made the trek back to the car and home. All in all, with the walking to and from the start and finish, my Apple Health tracker thing clocked nearly 20 miles of steps throughout the day! Needless to say, I was a bit sore the next day.


So, onto my critique of the race itself. First, the positives. The course was great! It was very flat and had plenty of good scenery. There were a few parts that got a bit tedious, though (namely Great Highway). Had it been cold and windy, that portion of the run would've also been brutal weather-wise. But, with the temperature warming up to 75 degrees over two and a half hours, it was perfect. It was everything I could've asked for in race day weather. The course was also well-marked and the volunteers were lovely.

My biggest problem with the race itself was probably the lack of electrolytes on course. There were only 3 electrolyte stops the entire race, I believe, and they were all stacked towards the end. As someone who pretty much always trains with electrolytes rather than water, that was tough! I forced myself to drink water after not stopping at the first few water breaks in anticipation of electrolytes ahead, and my stomach was none too happy about it. Unless I missed it, they also didn't offer any gels or Shot Blocks along the way. That wasn't a big deal for me (I don't train with them and don't use them in races), but I'm sure it would be for some people. I was also a little unhappy with the race shirt — it was a cotton long sleeve T shirt. I wouldn't have cared at all if it were a 5k or 10k, but I definitely expect a technical tee for a half marathon.

All things considered, it was a great race that I'll probably run again. My grievances with the course are ones that I can resolve myself (I'll just know to bring my own electrolytes along next year!), and, for only a $65 registration fee, I understand why it was a little low in the frills department.

Onto the next race!

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