The San Francisco Marathon 52.4 Mile Ultra PT. II: Two Sides Of a Great City

Part II of Scott Dunlap‘s review of The San Francisco Marathon’s Ultra. Ready to tackle the ultra on your own, or as a relay team with your running buddies? Sign up today!

San Francisco Marathon Ultra – The Second Lap

The SF Marathon, now in its 40th running, is a BIG race these days. I’ve run it a few times, but the record setting 29,000 runners who showed up today for 10k, two half marathon options, and the full marathon distances leave no doubt this race is now one of the biggies. In the starting corral, I heard no less than six languages, all of them excited to see the historic sites, and more than one busting out Journey’s “Lights”. I was feeling tired from the all-nighter (I am no spring chicken), but their energy was better than an espresso double shot!

The rats were gone by the time this army of runners made their way to the Golden Gate Bridge (thank god), and I wondered if they were under the grates looking at us in a similarly disgusted fashion. The weather was cooler and windier now, the bridge a faint dusting of red in the fog. I assured the tourist runners “it was just there a few hours ago, I swear” as we climbed our way up into the wind.

The San Francisco Marathon FogFour runners came across the foggy bridge in diamond formation, leading the race like the Blue Angels as we begin our out and back. Our own Jorge Maravilla was the lead jet, confidently pulling the pack through the headwind. The fog had a nice cooling effect, and most of the runners around me said it was preferable, despite missing the scenery.

My friend Joe Palubeski miraculously spotted me among the runners (he has a gift!) as he paced his buddy through his first marathon and captured it all on his GoPro. As we made our way across and back on the bridge, I realized this pace was going to keep me close to about two dozen runners around me. A Canadian women with rainbow braids, a 70-year man from Mexico with the coolest mustache, a 30-year-old guy from the Tahiti Tri Club, and a husband/wife couple from Spain with matching outfits, right down to the lycra pants covering their respective thongs (yes, you read that right). Hey, whatever makes you go fast!

Once we entered the park (mile 10), the SF Marathon applied its genius logistics to infuse new runners from half marathons every mile or so. Some were fast, some were slow, and everyone was having a good time. I ran along with a group of 1:45 half marathoners, enjoying the look on their face when they asked “half or full?” and I responded “double”. “What the faaaaahhhh…..duuuuuude!!!”. 😉

It was easy to get around the lake correctly this time, and soon enough we were heading through the Haight again and downhill towards the Bay (mile 18). My energy started to wain (much like it often does at mile 40), and it was fascinating this felt exactly the same as if I hadn’t taken a two hour break. I gorged on Stroopwafels, and leaned into the hill.

An Ultra Finisher

Finishing The San Francisco MarathonThe sun burned bright in the last few miles, and I slowed to a 9 min/mile pace as the sun drained what little was left in my tank. It felt anti-climactic, right up until the announced said “an ultra finisher!” and the crowd went crazy. How fun! So rare to have such an audience at an ultra finish. I had crossed in 3:41:02, good enough for a combined time of 7:17:21 and 2nd Overall in the ultra. The volunteers jokingly gave me two of everything (water, bagels, protein bars, etc.), and when I took them up on two beers, I was asleep on a cot within five minutes. Whoops!

I woke up 20 minutes later, and rallied to come out and cheer on the other ultra finishers and thank the volunteers. Graham Hedger added his fifth win with an outstanding combined time of 6:31, and Stefan Asbock had an 18-minute negative split to come in third in 7:28. Abigail Cannon (9:50), Gabriel Anderson (10:18), and Alyssa Perry (12:32) filled out the Women’s podium. (results) Jorge Maravilla had won the marathon in a crazy fast 2:28:23 (!), with Stanford student Devin McMahon winning the Women’s in 2:52:49. (all results) The finish line was full of bling, with all kinds of extra medals for completing both half marathons, all distances, at least 40 miles, and more. The celebration was in full swing!

The San Francisco Marathon Ultramarathon BlingWas the double worth it? Hell yes. Would I do it again? Absolutely. I have two new sets of memories to broaden my perspective on this great city. One thing for sure, with vampires, scavengers, swooping giant birds, and an unstoppable army, Game of Thrones has nothing on the San Francisco Marathon Ultra. My thanks to Dean, the RD’s, and Immortal Race Crew for making it happen!

– SD

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