Qualifying for Boston at the San Francisco Marathon
I ran my first Boston Marathon this year and I can’t help but thank The Biofreeze San Francisco Marathon because that is where I qualified for Boston last July. I realize lots of runners don’t think of San Francisco as the ideal Boston qualifying course – and maybe it’s not – but it was for me! I’m hoping I’ll be able to convince a few hill-lovers out there to take on SFM for their BQ/unicorn-chasing dream.
I signed up for TSFM without a real strong set of goals. I had come off a year of three tries at qualifying for Boston without success. I wanted to take off the stress of the goal. I took nearly a year between my previous marathon and TSFM. When I started my training, I told my coach (who is AWESOME!) that I really just wanted to run a strong race. All my marathons had felt fairly crummy at some point – yes, I realize that’s bound to happen in 26.2 miles – but I wanted to feel stronger, more fit.
I am lucky to live in Santa Cruz where we have year-round perfect running weather. We also have a climate pretty similar San Francisco with lots of hills. Before I started training for TSFM I had already began incorporating more hills into my weekly runs, but my coach and I made sure hills were a priority. Before last year, I used to dread climbing but there are great routes – just steps from my front door – to take me up and up where I’m rewarded with beautiful views of the Monterey Bay … and being ready for TSFM’s ascents. For those looking to qualify at TSFM, learn to love hill climbing. (But, don’t forget: what goes up, must come down. In other words, all those uphills have a downhill equivalent somewhere in the course.)
When I ran the full marathon last summer, it was the first time I finally ran all 26.2 miles in San Francisco. It was my 5th marathon and 4th time running a TSFM event (I’ve run the 1st half marathon twice and the 2nd half once – love them both!). So while I hadn’t run the marathon in its entirety, I knew the course fairly well. Knowing the course was a great plus for a good race. I knew when the steep climbs were, I remembered when I took the downhill too fast only to pay for it in Golden Gate Park, and that Golden Gate Park is more hilly than we give it credit for. I knew exactly how much further I had to go when I passed AT&T Park. You don’t need to know the route as well as I knew TSFM to do well on a course – but it certainly doesn’t hurt. It also doesn’t hurt to run a course as fun as TSFM – from Golden Gate Bridge to the buffalo in the park to Haight Ashbury – I was entertained the whole way. If you want to PR or qualify (or both!) it helps to find the beauty along the way.
All this was great – it all helped me qualify on a hard course. But none was as great as having some racing buddies. I had touched base with some running gals I knew through another TSFM ambassador (Erin G. is the best) and we all had similar goals for our race. So we met up just before the race started, agreed that if anyone had to drop back or felt strong, we were still running our own race. But having these awesome ladies running alongside me helped negate any race day nerves/self doubt. It felt like a training long run – just what I needed! We called hills bumps in the road and Erin S. kept me laughing through most of the park. And, we told each other where our weak spots, places we had crashed in previous marathons, and pulled each other through it. Every marathon will not have friends to keep you going but if you have them, join them! In other words, sign up with friends! You can train and race together!
Qualifying at TSFM was the best way I could imagine grabbing a unicorn. TSFM feels like a second home to me. In 2014, the hubs and I stayed in the city and felt relaxed and comfortable. We knew our favorite spots. I have always loved San Francisco and especially the heart of this race. It was a hard course to qualify at, but it was oh-so-much-fun!
Here’s my recap of that fateful day: https://laughresearchwriterun.wordpress.com/2014/07/29/catching-that-unicorn-in-san-francisco/
And a link to how my first Boston went:
Reflections on training for SFM: https://laughresearchwriterun.wordpress.com/2014/08/04/reflecting-on-training-for-sfm/
Still not convinced? Here are 10 reasons to sign up for SFM: https://laughresearchwriterun.wordpress.com/2014/01/25/top-ten-reasons-to-run-the-san-francisco-marathon-in-2014/
And recaps for previous years running SFM: https://laughresearchwriterun.wordpress.com/2013/06/20/the-amazing-first-half-of-the-san-francisco-marathon/
Meg is a 2015 The Biofreeze San Francisco Marathon Ambassador who will be running the full marathon on July 26th, 2015.