Since I love trying out new races, I usually pick a few each month. Although, never have I run two races in one weekend. This was definitely a first for me!
A few months ago my roommate Allie and I decided to sign up for The Big Sur Mud Run- a 5 miler with drill sargents, lots of mud, obstacles, and more. I thought it’d be a great way to try out something new and have a fun run before beginning training for my next full marathon. A few weeks later, Abe invited me to run the Oakland Half Marathon, and since it sounded fun, I signed up for that too!
Lately I’ve found that all races have very different purposes. Some races require months of training and dedication to reach the finish line, some are a tune-up for another race, some are meant to test limits, some are just for a good time with friends, and some are to make a difference in the community. Also, in my case, running is “research”. I like to go out a see what makes a race fun, what do runners like to see when they come to race. Libby, Abe, Natalie, Roslyn, and Michelle are the same way, so it really helps us stay creative and always looking to improve the runner experience at The SF Marathon.
Saturday began at 5:30 as I groggily scrounged up my oldest running clothes I could find, laced up my old running shoes (the ones I thrashed a few weeks ago at the Woodside Half Marathon) and hopped into the car. Allie and I drove South (just under 2 hours) to CSU Monterrey Bay. When we arrived, the announcers were already on the mic, warning us of the obstacles we’d encounter when the gun went off. About 45 minutes later, the announcers lead us through a warm up- Military Style.
Then, the gun went off, and Allie and I were running! There were drill sargents all along the course, some cheering, some yelling for us to continue. About a mile in, we hit our first mud pit. With a little hesitation, we jumped in and crawled over the barriers. Shoes soaked and legs dripping with mud, we continued up the sandy path. The route wound through the hills for another mile or two and we arrived at mud pit #2, this time there was a wall to climb over, and then another long swamp of mud. The drill sargents yelled “knees and elbows, knees and elbows” as we crawled through, covering ourselves in gunk. Thankfully, we were rewarded by a beer stop at around 3.5 miles. Two more mud pits followed, we walked a wood plank, did push ups, and climbed another wall. When we reached the final stretch, we crawled through the mud under a net, mud splashing all over us.
We ran to the finish, drenched and dirty. Allie and I collected our medals and t-shirts, laughing uncontrollably at the sight of each other, and hurried over to the shower line to clean up a little before heading home. It took about twice as long to scrape and scrub all the mud off as it did to finish the run- but we had such a good time!
Check out that “mud-line” on my ankle!! (that’s after the first shower!)
After all the muddy mess, I was ready for the next challenge. At around 7:30am Sunday, I met up with Abe and another running friend to drive over to Oakland. We got there with lots of extra time, and wandered around a little bit, checking out the “festival” all around the Start Line. We decided on a meeting place in case we separated during the race and checked our gear in the tents. At 9:00, we were off running!
I started off a little bit slower, weaving through the crowd and warming up a little. As I wove through the crowd, I counted the SF Marathon shirts on the course, I know it’s a little bizarre, but I somehow always get the urge to high-five these runners and say hello… Still haven’t built up the courage, but someday I will. 🙂 After the first mile, I picked up the pace and tried to keep a consistent speed. The crowd support was great- spectators and cheer stations were dispersed all along the course!
About halfway through the run, one of the pacers from The SF Marathon Training Program caught up to me and said he’d been running with Abe and the others. We ran and chatted for a while, and it was great to have someone to run with and keep me at a consistent pace. Eventually, he was off searching for other running friends, and I was almost to the finish line. I ran along Lake Merritt, up a short hill, and took one last turn towards the finish. Pushing to the end, I finished in 1:44, a new PR! I grabbed some water and waited for the others to come in.
Oakland was a great lesson for me, I haven’t run very many half marathons since I started running full marathons (my personal favorite). Although I love running the full 26.2, the half marathons are great for me to test my speed and tune up while training for my next full. For me, it is a way to test my speed and improve my pace.
I have no plans to run 2 races in the same weekend again, but I will say, it was definitely an adventure. Every race is a new opportunity to celebrate our sport with other runners. So, if you ask me, we should all get together and celebrate a little more often.