How NOT to Train for a Half Marathon

Race Days: That Time I Ran a Half Without Training

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Yesterday started out one cold and foggy morning. It was probably fitting for all those people I saw returning to their homes after a wild Halloween out at the same time I was rising to start my day. But not for me: Every race I’ve ever run in San Francisco has been relentlessly foggy, which does nothing for the $100 views I paid for when signing up for in the first place.

(All those weird birds that inhabit Crissy Field—it’s like a bird breeding ground, I swear it—didn’t seem to mind a little haze.)

But just half a mile after I passed my sunglasses over to spectator SVV to hold for me, thinking I wouldn’t need them the entire day, the fog gave way to glorious sunshine, and blinded me until I saw him again on mile 11.

SVV is such a good sport. He willingly gets up at 5:30am, sometimes earlier, to accompany me to every race I run, then rides his bike around taking pictures of runners, pet cemeteries and the like.

To clarify, I’ve hardly been running since May. There were two months straight when I was on the road (and I never run on the road, no time), then two months straight when I suffered from that pesky lymphocytic disease, then another three weeks on the road. So, since I had to bail on the Marine Corps Marathon in D.C. last week, due to the aforementioned auto-immune disease, I thought why not squeeze a half in with little to no training? (Ever since my marathon last year, I kind of laugh in the face of a mere 13 miles anyway.)

Surprisingly, I felt good the majority of the race, even though the course was VICIOUS and far worse than the routes the San Francisco and Nike Women’s Marathons follow. The start line was on a steep 40% (how rude!), then shortly after there were the Presidio hills, the Golden Gate bridge which is a hill itself, then the freakin’ Marin Headlands. Then, in the homestretch when you’re looking forward to sprinting the last half mile, there was the Fort Mason hill to conquer. Blah.

Terrain ran the gamut of asphalt, sidewalk pavement, sand, dirt trail and gravel.

Still, it was one of those frequent days we have out here that’s so stunningly beautiful, I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to leave this city by the bay. (Sorry, Mom.)

This bridge, for example? I will never tire of it. EVER.

And I fear I’ll never be happy anywhere landlocked when my daily runs consist of ocean and bay views galore.

I ran the race in 2:03 (pace 9:27/mile), which is five to eight minutes slower than I normally run a half. But considering the facts—no prior training, bitch of a course—I cut myself some slack. If nothing else, it was a great jumpstart for my training for the Napa Valley Marathon in March. (Who wants to join me?) And I actually felt pretty darn good and wasn’t winded at all the whole way.

Don’t get me wrong, today I feel like someone did a tap dance on my bones and major muscle groups. But hey, a girl needs some motivation to fit in her wedding dress after all.

  • November 2, 2009

    Good job…Excellent pics! I’m from SF, and my family is still in Petaluma, so I get down there occasionally. I live near Seattle now…also an awesome place with mountains and plenty of water. My first marathon was Napa Valley Marathon…great course…have fun!!

  • November 2, 2009

    Um, hello – I think 2:03 is a kick ass time! 🙂 Awesome job!

  • November 2, 2009

    Congratulation! I couldn’t even do 5K without grasping for air. 🙂

  • November 2, 2009

    Congrats! I’m a new runner and watched and cheered for the runners in the NY marathon yesterday. We’ll see if I’m ever brave enough to commit to anything beyond a 6k (my next race!). By the way, the photos are beautiful!

  • November 2, 2009

    Way to go you stud! You are inspiring me. Not to run a half marathon, just to get back into running shape.

  • November 2, 2009

    Um yeah…you kick ass!

  • November 2, 2009

    Awesome! I’ve been reading Kristin Darguzas’ posts at Aqufit lately and she’s almost – ALMOST – got me convinced to take up running again even though it hurts. Though frankly, if I ever run for 30 minutes straight I think I’ll need to throw a little celebratory party, so I don’t see any half marathons in my future. But I might try running just for the sake of my health anyway. Maybe.

  • November 2, 2009

    go you! geezus – 13 miles. crazy.

    i love love love the presidio/bridge – i never get tired of it either. it’s totally where i want to get married too. 🙂

  • November 2, 2009

    Congrats! Looks beautiful 🙂

  • November 2, 2009

    Congrats! You did awesome!

  • November 2, 2009

    I am super impressed, I think I got sore just reading this

  • November 2, 2009

    CONGRATS!!!!!!!! I’ve gotten back into running myself. I was so proud of myself the other day when I ran 3 8 minute miles back to back. Can’t imagine running 13 9 minute miles back to back. 🙂

  • November 2, 2009

    Alright, so I have run 5 half-marathons. The first two I trained like crazy for, and the last three I got up through the 9 mile long run and jumped right ahead to “F–k it. See ya on race day.” Definitely my best times and by far the most enjoyable.

    I’m so psyched you got this in before your wedding. I haven’t run for about a year due to knee weirdness (lack of proper training, anyone?), but this motivated me to finally get to the doctor. Meet me in Sydney for City to Surf!


    p.s. Regarding the full marathon, you should know that the first thing I said to my family at the end of my first and ONLY marathon was, “that was ridiculous! Half-marathons are plenty!” I’m just sayin’…;-)

  • November 2, 2009

    You are amazing!

  • November 3, 2009

    You rock! And you look pretty amazing at the end of the race – leave it to you to look good after running 13 miles. 🙂

    I love the idea of sitting in Napa Valley and cheering you on!

  • November 3, 2009

    Tell me your marathon schedule for late 2010 — I have some goals I’d like to add to my list.

    My dad used to work on the half-marathon, and I don’t know if it’s the same course (I think they change often), but he always talked about it being quite the killer. I even have a t-shirt from an old SF half, so I can pretend like I too ran it! (When I was like 10 or something.)

  • November 4, 2009

    Congratulations on a well run race. I couldn’t run a mile if I had to, if I were ever chased by a Bobcat or Javelina, I might as well hand them a fork and knife because there’s no way I could outrun them. :o) But, in case I ever increase my walking/hiking speed, I did want to ask what brand of shoes you prefer to run in? hugs from Hundewanderer

  • November 9, 2009

    I kind of hate you that you can just run a half, just like that…while I’m shitting in pants in anticipation of mine…

  • November 13, 2009

    Clearly, you are not human. Superhuman.

    No, that’s not fair. You’re totally human, and you work hard and kick ass. I shouldn’t deny you that.

    But I sort of wish you were superhuman, because then I’d be able to say, “but I’m only human! of course I can’t do that!” and my universe would make sense again.

  • November 18, 2009

    I love the ocean! It was one of the things I missed most about Sydney when I was living in London. At least now I get to live in San Francisco (though my heart belongs to Sydney Harbour and that other famous bridge).

    I love Teej’s comment! I’ve been thinking about training for a triathlon – am I mad?

  • November 24, 2009

    That’s faster than my best half marathon time, and given your lack of training, I’m truly impressed!
    I just found you through a blog search of others training for Napa. I’m signed up and it’s my first marathon; last night I had to force myself out the door for a 7 mile run so I thought I’d look for others in the same boat!

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