A Runner’s Experience Of The Biofreeze San Francisco Marathon
For me, marathons generally fall into one of two categories: a race that I remember because of the actual footrace, itself, the ground that I covered over the course of 26.2 miles, or a race that I remember because of the actual experience, something that includes the actual race distance (of course) but also all the other “little things” that go into making a race and its weekend unique.
The Biofreeze San Francisco Marathon, my friends, has earned a special place in my heart because of the sheer experience and magnitude of it all.
I first ran TSFM in 2010, and had flown in from Chicago for a quick weekend trip—literally only coming to SF to run the race—and I had no goals or expectations. I had never been to SF before (or California, for the matter), and I thought that run-seeing my way through the city by the bay, on a perfect Sunday morning in late July, would be the best and fastest way to explore all the city had to offer.
It didn’t disappoint. I was impressed with the experience of running past SF’s icons over the course of my 26.2 mile adventure, including:
- The quiet of the Embarcadero in the early, predawn miles;
- The hills of Fort Mason before making our way to the breathtaking views (obscured that morning by some equally beautiful late July fog) offered by the one and only Golden Gate Bridge;
- The US’s largest urban park (bigger than Central Park in NYC), the esteemed Golden Gate Park;
- The enormous downhills on Haight Street and the hippies and counterculture vibe that only the Haight can bring;
- The Mission District;
- AT&T Park, where you know you’re so close to the finish line but still have some work to do;
- Running under the Bay Bridge,
- Finishing at the Embarcadero, adjacent to the water, in the city by the bay.
SF is only seven square miles, but I remember being absolutely stunned at how much we saw in that little area.
As I finished in 2010, I knew I had to return; that this marathon was special.
Four years later, in 2014, my family and I had relocated from Chicago to the Bay Area, and I was a social media ambassador for The Biofreeze San Francisco Marathon (TSFM) 2014 and was eagerly looking forward to running TSFM for the second time. Over the preceding 7 months, other social media ambassadors and I had talked up the race weekend and were anxiously looking forward to all converging in the place where we all loved to run and have a hella good time in the process.
My 2014 memories of race weekend are punctuated by the memories friends and I made during training for and running the race. Before the race even began on Sunday morning, friends and I had already connected with the flurry of runners who came from literally all over the world to run SF. Some highlights include:
- Running with the self-described “mayor of running,” Bart Yasso, along Crissy Field on Saturday morning, with a couple hundred of my new BFFs;
- Connecting with a few thousand runners at the expo, some of whom were looking forward to running over the GGB for the first time, as well as those who were absolutely terrified of the hills and wondered what they had gotten themselves into (spoiler: the hills aren’t so bad. Just train accordingly);
- Meeting up with a longtime friend, whom I hadn’t seen since my family and I left Chicago, who had flown in from the Windy City specifically to run SF for the first time (and who went on to rock it!);
- Sharing dinner with girlfriends old and new who were planning to chase some pretty impressive unicorns on race morning: personal bests, Boston-qualifying (BQ) times, or a 35th marathon by her 35th birthday.
When I think about my 2014 TSFM race experience, I remember all the landmarks I’ve mentioned—the things that make SF such a cool place to run—but also having so many friends and acquaintances new and old partake in the weekend with me.. While my actual race performance was strong for me—one of my fastest ever times and a top 20 women’s finish—what stands out most are the memories that the only full marathon race in the city by the Bay afforded to my friends that weekend.
Some friends also served as pacers for the half or full marathons—and seeing so many of my pacer friends and racing friends on the out-and-backs along the course was just awesome. My racing girlfriends unsurprisingly chased down those aforementioned unicorns on race day—earning themselves a trip to compete at the coveted Boston Marathon, the self-satisfaction that comes with a PR performance, running a smart race over a tough course, and the incredible accomplishment of running 35 marathons before turning 35 years of age—and for that, I couldn’t be happier or prouder.
As you plan out your 2015 San Francisco Marathon race weekend, I encourage you to partake in all that the race weekend and race experience has to offer. Better yet, especially if you’re not local, as was the case for me back in 2010, make a “run-cation” out of it and consider spending an extended weekend here. Doing the race with friends will surely make your weekend even more memorable, but don’t worry if you come solo, because I guarantee you that you will quickly befriend the thousands-strong running community here over race weekend.
We say that The Biofreeze San Francisco Marathon (and its half marathon races, ultra, and 5k) are all “worth the hurt.” It’s true. What’s worth more than the mental and physical strength and fortitude you’ll gain from triumphing over some hills is how much fun you’ll have and how fondly you will remember your time racing here in San Francisco.
Race recap from 2010:
Erin Mink Garvey has run 25 marathons and more than 30 half marathons and loves The Biofreeze San Francisco Marathon. Besides running, Erin digs spending time with her husband and young daughter; writing on her blog; or cooking and baking vegan deliciousness. She and her family recently relocated to San Jose, California, after living in Chicago for more than a decade. Connect with her on her blog, runningruminations.com.