Starting Line. The notorious San Francisco fog continued to roll in, sending chills up and down my back. I continued to stretch muscles that had already been stretched, checked my shoelaces for the tenth time, and attempted to pace within the diminutive space which I had managed to secure, as 1,766 other runners performed the same rituals.
Packed into the masses at the starting line in Golden Gate Park, I contemplated the task that lay ahead, my first half-marathon. Little did I know that the next 13.1 miles through the city would reveal future aspirations, hopes, and longtime goals that I continue to strive towards to this day. Miles 1-5.
Adrenaline from the start gradually transformed into a rhythm as I concentrated on putting one foot in front of another in order to reach my goal mile time average. My family had arrived in the Bay Area only a few days beforehand, it being my first ever trip to the West Coast. For the last twelve weeks before our arrival we had trained together, sweating buckets and getting in our daily mileage at a local cross country course before the general population had even awoken.
We had pushed one another, shaken awake each other within the darkness of a Sunday morning to go run nine miles, and motivated each other’s personal goals, all with the mindset of successfully completing the San Francisco Half-Marathon, the main event of the trip itself. As I calculated my way through the throng of competitors by the Conservatory of Flowers, I realized that the weeks leading up to that moment were as equally rewarding, if not more so, than the race itself. Training had brought our family together, and it dawned on me that any solid period spent together was time well spent and a reward all its own, even if it did occasionally involve severe cramps and physical exhaustion.
Miles 5-9. The first signs of discomfort began to set in and the countless slaps of my running shoes against the pavement were taking their toll. The winding course began to make its way out of the park and into the hustle and bustle of the city, the real San Francisco experience.
The dynamic cultures of the city seemed to change with every block, a variety of atmospheres, smells, and the spectators themselves who shouted and clapped from the sidewalk, or quietly watched from a lawn chair on their front stoop. I passed Sharon Meadows, where a plethora of free rock and experimentation had taken place throughout the 60’s, the famed Haight-Ashbury District, known for it’s influential role on the beat movement, the Mission District, alive with the sounds of echoing salsa music and brightly colored murals, and through the various unidentifiable, but yet delicious-smelling food stalls of the Potrero District. It was these miles spent running through the diverse heart of the city that made me fall in love with the place, and as each step brought me closer and closer to the not-so-distant finish line, I realized that this is where I wanted to be, to be a part of what existed beyond the limits of Pittsboro, N.C.
Miles 9-13. The crowds swelled and grew increasingly exuberant as ATT Ballpark came into view, the last major landmark of the race. Spectators packed either side of the metal dividers and emitted a continuous and frenzied cheer, music to my ears.
I crossed the finish line exactly 1 hour and 47 seconds after my anxious start in Golden Gate Park. Although my first half-marathon was completed, it served as a starting point to something more as well. As I made my way through the crowd of finishers and piles of discarded space blankets, I felt like I had found my calling.
I wanted to run, and keep running after that. My hilly Half-Marathon through the city motivated me to make jogging with my family, training with teammates, and long distance races my ultimate passion and one of the top priorities in my life that continues to this day. Finish Line. My run throughout San Francisco made me realize what I wanted to do in life, what I could work for, a taste of what there was to be seen and experienced first hand. I left later that week with high hopes of the possibilities that lay ahead down the road; I just had to navigate myself there.
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