RUNNING IN SAN FRANCISCO: My first NIKE WOMEN’S MARATHON!!!

Well, it’s two days post recovery from my first FULL marathon and I am still breathing!  ALL of my members are intact (hips, legs, ankles, metatarsals, heart, head…get it?)! That SF Nike Women’s (with a few trickling men) Marathon (NWM 2011), was most exciting at the beginning,  rough as hell in the middle, and almost…well, I had mixed feelings at the end.  I thought I was gonna collapse, but after catching a glimpse of the two handsome firemen SPECIMENS dressed up in black tux-and-tie attire with that Tiffany & Co. necklace in hand at the finish line, I decided to live once again.

Literally, figurative, and earnestly, I was unprepared for a full marathon.  You’ve probably guessed that too.  Many of you twisted your brows at when I broke the news.   MaeMae, you were right!  I am crazy!  ME PERDI LA MENTE (I lost my mind)!  Tina RN, you were wrong.  That course was nothing like running up the Bernal overpass in San Jose.  NO WAY! Okay, time to take a breath and re-direct my biochemistry.  I can feel my heart racing at the thought of those dreaded hills!  BREATHE!  I am breathing.  Breathing is good.  This is how the story goes…

Tiffany’s & Co Bldg.
Full Marathon red bag

It was a strangely beautiful, not-so cold-day in San Francisco on October 16, 2011 (Also my beautiful Cousin Sherron’s birthday, which I forgot.  SORRY girl!). I felt good.  Excited!  Adrenaline quantumly oozing through my veins from the time I jumped in that van from San Jose until I merged with 22,000 participants—what the announcer called “the largest marathon ever!” I got there and checked in my little red bag that identified me a full-marathoner (or a great pretender).  Thank God I remembered to eat a good healthy breakfast this time, and I did so 2-3 hours prior to the event so not to run with grub on my chest (will have to update you on what happened to me in 2010 MIAMI ING half marathon some other time in the future).

I found my spot in the 10-11.59 min/mile or so line, this because I’ve never ran a full marathon, and my average pace for my training has been between 8:50 and 9.10 minutes/mile (HALF MARATHON). Come to think of it, I should have re-located to the back of the line at the 15-18 min/mile line (Oops!  I don’t think it existed).

I wanted to give myself the extra time because I hadn’t run since the Oleta River State Park Run in Miami, Florida.  Somehow then, my ankle and the left metatarsal was bothering me and I did not want to risk the chances of messing up my opportunity to run NWM this time around (Last year’s metatarsal fracture caused me to miss it).  So I took a little over two weeks hiatus from running while engaging in other exercises of course, and the pain slowly went away into oblivion from whence the Devil sent it.


NWM is an event to raise funds and awareness for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Societies.  The proceeds goes to the REAL SOLDIERS who fight these dreaded dis-eases on a daily basis, some of which also had the audacity and tenacity to run or walk the marathon.  Some of their family members did the honor of running and walking for them or in honor of those who passed with such ailments.

Warm up time!

After a few Kaiser Permanente announcements, Nike hype (Nike being a big sponsors for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society), a brunette instructing the crowd to on a warm up, a cheering done by Ms. Samuelson, a true soldier herself, and a power-song by Beyonce, “Girl (RUN THE WORLD),” we started our L-O-N-G journey to the finish line.

I was feeling estrogen-strong empowered, content, centered, and keeping a speed of 8:30 (according to my Nike Plus) or so, ‘taking it easy—so I thought’, and energetically encouraging a few tired-after-running-the-first, second, or third mile runners…until about that 4th or 5th mile.  The hill…  “Yeah”, I thought to myself, “That’s the hill Tina RN told me is like “running over that overpass at Bernal Rd where I did much training.”  Piece of cake!  So I thought, and I focused on my Breathing.

The NWM course map would take us from the start line at Union Square in SF, pass Embarcadero, curving around Ft Mason, then onto JFK Drive and Rose Garden at the half marathon marker where it seemed like a never-ending loop, to the beach, looping around Golden Gate Park?, then to Lake Merced, then finally back around to Great Highway and Lincoln.— a 26.2 miles course I was not familiar with nor made much efforts to study prior to my run.  NOT A GOOD IDEA!

So I made it up the first part of that hill with a bit of hard work.  I was still feeling euphoric, weaving good karma, and most of all, I had no pain.  NO DOLOR!  I took a minute to take in the scene and a few pictures. Feeling grateful, favored, and in a state of ANANDA (bliss).  The view of Alcatraz island and the bay area was truly breath-taking! I was simply RUNNING TO BE FREE, and running to finish free of injuries too.

Up until the time where the hills (Yeah, it was more than ONE hill!) began, along this course, there was a volunteer choir, a few break dancers, and coaches cheering “GO TNT (Team In Training—official promoters/fundraisers for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society)!  After this the course quickly transmuted into rough breathing and well…the largest crowd I’ve ever witnessed walking in a marathon!  There were hills at mile markers 4 or 5 through 9! I am sure the pros ran those hills without breaking a sweat, and this may be what separated the runners from the wanna bees.  LAWDIE!  So many people walking…  I was just praying I could make it over just another hill jogging, but No.  Couldn’t.  This proved to be a mountainous feat!  Just couldn’t do it!  So I started praying I wouldn’t  pass out or have to resuscitate anyone on the course.  After all, I was off duty and needing some life support myself.  Would have to turn a seriously blind eye on the good ‘ole Samaritan Law should anything collapse out there (Okay, maybe not quite a blind eye).  I was told that one of my former assistant managers, Sharon, was at “the Defib” station, and I had a good eye out for her, but somehow she must have disappear or moved her station as far back as San Jose.  Never found ‘ole girl.  Nope.

We passed many crowded intersection where people cheered and gave our sluggish energy a good boosted.  At about mile 10 marker, Kaiser Permanente and their volunteer cheerleaders squatted on the side of the road and passed out pieces of oranges.  At the time, I was groping, really dragging. My energy was at a critical low from crossing those dreaded hills.  Even granny with her “Follow Momma,” shirt passed me up.  I stopped to eat a piece of KP orange and decided to gulp down another two pieces (all except the rind of course).  Half a mile up the road, one piece of nausea hit my tired tail and I felt like vomiting!  Luckily, I chucked down a good ole piece of free Gatorade Seris Pro 01 Prime Orange Carb Energy—High Fructose saturated—Chew, which helped to ward off the nausea, and I prayed I didn’t catch an E-coli from the KP orange folks.  They passed them out with bare hands.

Due to the course of the hills from mile 5 to about 9 or so, every single member of my fatigued body (even my teeth) hurt!  Seriously! One thing that helped me at the time was the thoughtful and nicely written Kaiser Permanente THRIVE cheering signs with 1-13 REASONS for running the marathon.  Some were funny, encouraging, and others thought-provoking.  Reading these really helped occupy my mind and helped propelled me along the way.  Thank you KP, but at that moment, I didn’t feel like I was “THRIVING” so well.

When we finally approached the marking that separated the Half Marathoners (yellow arrow) from the Full Marathoners (red arrow), I was greatly tempted to step to the right, but that Beyonce song–”TO THE LEFT. TO THE LEFT’–kept reverberating in my mind and was blocking my progress to a quicker finish line.  I had to turn two blind eyes and two numb legs to the left.  By now, you might conclude—and rightly so, I was not having as much fun as I had anticipated.  NOPE!

Needing much prayers and grace

I felt like it took mastodon years to reach the half-marathon mark, at which point my IPOD battery was very low, my energy–low, my posture–hunchback low, and my muscle—numb and AGONAL!  Yes, I asked myself why.  I spoke to myself.  I cursed blessed myself with a few good words.  I ran/walk/ran/shuffle/walk/jog/ran/grimaced/stopped-to-stretch/cursed blessed-the-course/walked, then stopped at the 18 mile marker where there was a first aid station.  Before this, I was tempted but grudgingly passed up many First Aid stations, fearful that if I stopped that would be all she wrote.’  So, I kept going until this marker.  What stopped me?  Well, that black chair that had my name written all over it, “FOOL SIT DOWN AND GRAB SOME MOTRIN!”  That’s what it said.  Well, that’s what, in my delirium, I read.

Beach

Anyways, when the paramedic lady and the guy approached me, I begged for a pair of new legs, a couple of Motrin, and a scissors.  What I got was a couple of Tylenol (“nothing else but Tylenol left”) which fell on the ground and I took ‘em anyways for fear they were the last ones left, a few inches of BENGAY-like substance (Biofreeze?) the guy was handing out to rub my fatigued muscles, and a pair of scissors to cut every toenail I had off-to-the-blessed-knob!  After all was said and done, and what seemed like a half-hour later, I thanked those generous encouraging guys, painstakingly got up from that heaven-sent chair, and shuffled like an injured retard to the next mile. I imagined I looked like someone walking with seizure.  Poor me.  What ever happened to all the GIRL POWER jargon that had us all pumped and hyped earlier in the morning?

Mumbling a prayer…

So I joined the line and kept on the right where the slower folks NEED to be.  This is when every thing and almost everyone, but another granny who passed me, seemed to have slowed down to a near halt.  I thought to myself, NIKE WOMEN’S MARATHON may have to rename this one to Nike Women’s Walkathon.  We walked, and we ran jog (indeed there’s a difference between running and jogging), and we shuffled, and the cycle continued down Great Highway by the beach (18-19 marker on my side), across which you can see the 25th mile marker (we had to travel parallel to those folks who were almost there), to the loop where we circled that dreaded god-awefull-long-and-wide-lake (I cannot remember the name of this one.  Should you be interested, LOOK IT UP on the map I posted above), and finally back to Great Highway, pass the brown colored-sandy-cold beach (no doubt a beautiful course if you are feeling fine and dandy) to the finish line.  In those last two miles, I fought Satan himself sitting and grinning like Cheshire Cat.   I recognized I was wrestling not against flesh and blood, but principalities here.  Yup.  I had a come-to-Jesus-moment.  I surrendered all:  the numbness, the pain; the cold; the long memories of 0700 AM cheers; the stomach-upsetting sweet Orange KP handed me; the generous high fructose Gatorade stands; the grannies that passed me by as if the course was like eating ice-cream; all the first-aid-stations that I adamantly passed up; the marathoner finishers that were sitting and chilling at the sideline with their families; wanting to catch up with MaeMae and her man.  All these I surrendered to the moment.  Like the hymn begs, I SURRENDER ALL.  And EVERY EXPERIENCE from then on seemed like a forgotten scene from the Twilight Zone. Why?  Well, it was then that I remembered why I run.

Tiffany’s & Co Necklace.  YEAH!

OYE!  I RUN TO BE!  I RUN TO BE FREE!  I run for all of us to be free of chronic diseases.  This run I’d dedicated to my awesome and loving Mom, that she may be FREE of that cancer that has been plaguing all of us.  I ran that the people who have Leukemia and Lymphoma may be FREE from their situation as well.  EVERYTHING IS POSSIBLE!

Six hours, one minutes, and a forty-six seconds!!!  I couldn’t so much feel my feet, legs, and thigh, but I was feeling pretty chocked-up…until I spotted those two FINE FIRE MEN dressed in tuxedos suit and a tie, with a little Tiffany’s & Co. green box elegantly tied with a white ribbon around it. “I DO,” is what I thought aloud, “these are my extra rewards.  I am taking them ALL home with meh!”

Overall, I am thankful I was selected for the lottery drawing, and absolutely would attempt this run all over again.  At the end, it was sure worth it:  numbness, pain, stiffness, and all of it!  We are are wonderfully made!