The other reason we flew out on a Friday, and also the reason we were both taking it easy at parkrun, was because on Sunday we were due to run the Bridge to Bridge 5k from the Ferry Building to the Marina. Again, I had missed out on this race two years ago because of injury, but Mr. Duff had run it and done well. He reckoned his 5k times just lately would stand him in good stead in his age category and was planning to really go for it.
It was an interesting race. There were options to run 5k or 12k, and plenty of people walking it. The runners for both distances lined up together at the start and there was a bit of chat from the 12k runners about how the 5k was nice for beginners or kids…again it struck me that maybe 5k isn’t seen as a competitive distance in America – I could be wrong but that’s what it sounded like. Weird really, because in the UK we wouldn’t race 12k, that’s such a random distance!
The race day organisation was pretty faultless – they had carrier bags for you to ‘check your sweats’ for after the run, lots of loos, and a start area water station. They started moving us to the start area with 20 minutes to go, which was a bit odd and had the effect of giving you time to get nervous. Especially if like me you’re nursing a niggle that’s threatening to become an injury ( not my arse-itis, this is a new one) and you really don’t need any more time than necessary to stand there fretting about what’s twinging in your lower leg.
Anyway – off we went pretty much on time, to an anticlimactic squeak from a mildly malfunctioning airhorn.
The race goes right down the Embarcadero, the main route in front of all the various piers along San Francisco’s waterfront. We got to the Alcatraz landing super fast and I guessed that we’d be nearly halfway once we saw Pier 39. Despite it only being 9 in the morning, there were some tourists at Pier 39 who became the first of the cheering spectators. They were a very welcome sight on what had been a quiet route so far.
Along a bit further and the slope in front of the Ghirardelli building meant only one thing – we were nearing the dreaded hill! The race route is virtually dead flat, but for one very nasty short sharp hill at around 2.5 miles. It only lasts about 100m, and I knew full well it was there having panted up it just walking several times and on one notable occasion having to get off a bike and push because there was just no way I could pedal up it. Despite being very familiar with this absolute git of an incline it still messed me up by being longer than I remembered. I’d forgotten it swooped round to the left and kept bloody going up. I’d been managing nice even 8:55’s or thereabouts to this point but a glance at my watch at the top of the hill showed me I had slowed to an 11:20 pace! I wasn’t the only one either – plenty of people walked up this hill making some extremely concerning noises, and had I been doing the 12k I think I’d have joined them.
Then an almost as steep downhill into the Marina area and I knew I was nearly home…and I was on for 28 something I thought….but then I saw my watch start to get close to the 5k point but the finish line was nowhere in sight! How could this be? This race has been going 40 years – how can the distance be wrong?!
My time at the line was 29:38. The distance both me and Mr. Duff recorded on our Garmins was 3.25 miles. Really quite a long way over 5k. Annoyingly, my watch beamed happily at me that I had run my fastest 5k within this race – at the actual 5k point I had run 28:13. Brilliant – that’s my fastest ever 5k time that wasn’t either parkrun or track, and actually so was my official time, but the distance being so badly out did slightly mar things for me. I’ve now run 3 5k’s this year which were either long or short. Parkrun in Crissy Field the day before was 3.11 miles – bang on. I think out of all the parkrun courses I’ve done the longest has come in at 3.14. How come a group of volunteers without fancy measuring kit can get these distances so right but official race organisers seem to find it so difficult?
Anyway – in reality it’s all relative since everyone else had to run the same long course. Mr. Duff, having put his foot down just the right amount, won his age category, came 9th overall and was the first international runner over the line. He got a fancy ‘gold’ medal and I was extremely proud of him.
For my part I was chuffed with my more modest placing of 53rd female and 14th in my age category, 173rd overall. In a field of over 700 runners, that’s the best result I’ve managed in a race by a long way – I got an inkling I would place quite well at the start when I saw a sign saying the ‘mid-pack’ runners were categorised as between 9 and 12 minute miles. Me, mid-pack for once, who knew?!
The finish area was fantastic and absolutely full of freebies – we came away with a huge haul of dental floss (the race is sponsored by Oral B!), headphones, a fab Golden Gate poster each and various other exciting goodies. There was also live music and free Nesquick, courtesy of the actual Nesquick bunny, amongst other things. Everything was brilliant about this race, except the dodgy distance measuring.
We finished off the morning with the unexpected pleasure of a ride on a classic yellow American schoolbus driven by ‘the best bus driver’, Mike, who played us ‘The Wheels on the Bus’ and the Jackson 5 on the stereo as he delivered us back to the Justin Herman Plaza. This guy making the bus kangaroo hop down to the Columbus/Bay intersection in time to ‘Uptown Funk’ with us all singing along and laughing might just prove to be one of the highlights of the trip!
You don’t get that sort of treatment on the everyday tourist buses. Certainly not whilst one of you is clutching a gold medal anyway.