Gold Story: 2 Goals, 10 Years Apart, Achieved In San Francisco

December 9, 2019 | The San Francisco Marathon has a special place in runner Alys’s heart because it’s where she achieved two major running goals — the first, in 2007, when she completed her first half marathon, and the second, 10 years later, when she completed her first full marathon.

Alys started running at a young age. She had a fifth grade teacher who was a runner and a big advocate of jogging who would take her whole class out jogging every morning, so that started the love of running for Alys. In high school she joined the cross country and track teams.

But, then Alys said in her late teens she struggled with depression and anxiety, so she ran to try to “snap myself out of that.”

She said she gained a lot of weight during this time, so she decided that in order to improve her overall health and help her to lose weight she would start to train for a half marathon.

She chose San Francisco because she loves the city. She’s from Chico, in Northern California, but went to school in San Francisco for a time and she wanted to experience San Francisco as a runner.

Goal #1: Train for and finish her first half marathon.

On July 29, 2007, Alys finished her first half marathon — the first half of the San Francisco Marathon.

She says, “I trained for a half. I didn’t do it that well, but I did it! It was a big accomplishment for me. San Francisco is challenging. It was a tough first half marathon and I had some mishaps along the way, but I finished it, and I was really proud of myself.”

She stayed in a bunk bed in a hostel the night before the half marathon, didn’t get much sleep, woke up late, and had to run to the start line.

But, she finished, and her first goal was achieved.

Then later, in her 20s, Alys said she struggled with addiction and mental health issues and was in a bad place for a few years.

She got sober in 2015 and then started getting into running again, and started picking it up with more intensity than she had in the past. She did a 10k, she ran another half, and kept running more half marathons.

“I wanted to see where I could take it,” Alys said. “And then I started seeing a drastic increase in my running ability. I was seeing real improvements.”

But, she still wasn’t sure that a full marathon was her thing.

“I had watched the Olympics one time and I saw someone crawling to the finish line of a marathon, and I thought, ‘That just looks miserable!’” Alys remembers.

But, she had a friend who she met during her addiction treatment who was also a runner and she encouraged Alys to run a full marathon because it was something she hadn’t done yet.

“When you run half marathons a lot, everyone always asks you, ‘When are you going to do a full marathon?’” Alys said. Her friend told her that if she ran one full marathon then she’d get everyone off her back (but she also noted that this is a very bad reason to run a full marathon!).

Her friend was already signed up to run the full San Francisco Marathon in 2017, and because she loved the city and had run her first half marathon there, Alys decided that would be fun to do with her.

So, she came back to San Francisco again to complete this second major running goal.

Goal #2: Run a full marathon in under four hours.

Once she signed up, she said she realized, “now I have to actually train for this thing!” And that was another new experience for her — 20 mile training runs were something she had never done before!

As she was training, she decided that she really wanted to try to run the marathon in under four hours. She wasn’t sure if she could do that, and everyone encouraged her to not worry about the time and just focus on finishing.

But, Alys knew that she really wanted to achieve that secondary goal also of not just finishing, but doing it in less than four hours.

So, on July 25, 2017, at the 40th anniversary of the San Francisco Marathon, Alys ran her first full marathon with a time of 3:58.

Once again, in San Francisco, Alys completed her goal of both finishing the race, and under her four hour goal!

“I crossed the finish line and then, I kid you not, I said, ‘I’m never f-ing doing that again!’” Alys said.

“And then I did one again… two weeks later.”

She was hooked, and she hasn’t looked back ever since.

“It’s this weird amnesia thing that happens,” Alys said. “You do a marathon and you think, ‘I’m never doing that again,’ but then soon after you get that itch again. It really is addictive.”

In the last two years since she ran her first full marathon, she’s now run seven full marathons and over 20 half marathons (she said she’s lost count!).

She’s run the San Francisco full and half marathons several times each, and she keeps coming back to San Francisco because she says, “It’s my favorite city in the world.”

“I’ve been to a lot of places, and I just love the city! I love everything about it, every part of it. I like the dirty parts. I like the gritty parts. It’s just seriously my favorite place. Even the hills. It’s just gorgeous and it’s so fun. There’s a lot of flavor as you go along.”

She chose San Francisco for her first half marathon, and then 10 years later when her friend suggested San Francisco for her first full marathon, she thought, “Why would I want to do anything else? It’s just some place really special to me.”

Alys described her San Francisco Marathon experience saying, “All along the way, there’s something exciting to see – from the Embarcadero, going past the pier, going across the Bridge, going through the Park, through the Mission, and the Haight… I just love everything about it.”

So, what’s next for Alys?

She recently ran the New York City Marathon, which she said was also very exciting. She’s running the California International Marathon this year. And then she said she has some pacing events coming up, which she said she loves doing too so that she can help other people achieve their goals too.

She’s planning on running the second half marathon in San Francisco in 2020.


In honor and celebration of the 2020 Summer Olympic Games that will be happening at the same time as the 2020 San Francisco Marathon, we are telling runners’ Gold Stories.

For many, running in the Olympics may be a far off dream, but we know you have your own goals and achievements that we want to hear about and celebrate, because everyone can have their own version of a Gold Goal!

So, what’s your Gold Story? Share your story with us here and we may feature your story next!

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