October 19, 2014 – 5:44am
It’s almost 5:45am on a Sunday morning and I have already been up for over an hour. It’s dark out. A little chilly. The coffee isn’t quite strong enough. I’m hungry. I’m in the middle of Union Square in San Francisco and there is a palpable buzz. Especially given how early it is.
And there is good reason for the streets to be buzzing. Today is the Nike Women’s Half Marathon which has become a significantly important run for more than just a couple of reasons. At it’s core, the race benefits “the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society ® (LLS) which is the world’s largest voluntary health agency dedicated to blood cancers. The LLS mission: Cure leukemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families. LLS funds lifesaving blood cancer research around the world, provides free information and support services, and is the voice for all blood cancer patients seeking access to quality, affordable, coordinated care.”
It’s very evident when you are in the midst of the runners that there are thousands of people who are running the race for a cause much greater than simply getting 13.1 miles under their belt. You can feel that there are countless runners running for loved ones, trying to raise awareness, trying to raise funds or maybe trying to honor someone that they loved that now may be gone. You feel it. You see it in the signs. You see it on the faces of the participants.
The race is officially kicking off at 6:30am, so runners and participants are getting ready. There are more than 25,000 people about to run the streets of San Francisco, and all of them are starting at the same location in the heart of Union Square. The sea of runners mixed with the crowd of supporters is getting real thick.
In just a couple of moments the streets of SF are about to be filled with thousands of runners. It’s quiet for the moment, which is kind of odd given that about 100 yards away there is a mass of people that exceeds 25,000. There is an almost calmness about the moment that you know will not last much longer. A couple minutes after this photo was taken, this street was overtaken with athletes, mothers, sisters, wives and their male counterparts flooding the streets and running for something that was most likely much bigger than themselves.
The selfie game was super thorough before the race kicked off. If there was a record for most selfies taken in a short amount of time in the same location, Union Square in San Francisco on this day would have been in the running to be crowned champion. And as many selfies were taken pre race, there were countless folks lined up on the streets capturing moments as the race kicked off that the marathon participants will never forget.
This was our first vantage point of the race after the runners left Union Square. I’m not sure the distance from the starting point to this part of the course, but that doesn’t really matter that much anyway. You could tell that at this point the runners were settling in. Your pace is super important when running one of these things. You need to find that rhythm. Get in that groove. And this is around that point where you can settle. The nervous energy is gone. Nerves and anxiety have been replaced by focus and grit. You have at least a couple miles under your belt. You also have about 10 or 11 miles ahead of you. But you don’t want to think about that. Trust the kid on that one…
I’m not even going to front. I don’t remember the exact time we were at this location. I meant to make a better mental note of it, but I was a little taken by a couple of other things. And those other things are as follows:
1. The runner in the picture below was in the lead at this point. And I’m pretty sure she was in the lead the entire time because she was absolutely crushing it. We showed up like five minutes before she ran past us. It was a Sunday morning and super tranquil. Things were real quiet. It was mad foggy. A couple dudes on bikes strolled past on their morning ride, but that was about it. Next thing you know there is a convertible car with folks sitting on the edge rolling past us and this runner who was running like a gazelle. And this is like mile 10. Or maybe 11. This may have been just beyond the mile 10 hill. Either way, she was crushing this run. It was one of those athletic moments where you just stand back and admire the person for their strength and ability. I don’t know her name. I don’t know her story. But I know she could run. And I also know that the second place runner was at least five to seven minutes behind. She was crushing the game!
I like this photo. It reminds me of those training runs I would do when I was by myself. No teammates. No coaches. Just me and a road (and maybe some random dude on a bike in the background – dude photo bombed this photo – grrrr). But I always enjoyed moments like this. I still do. Solitary moments on a run when there is no distractions. No stress. No to do list that needs my attention. Just me and a road. I would need some headphones and music though. That’s always necessary. And in an ideal world, it takes place in a beautiful place like The Presidio on a cool, foggy morning. But that’s just me…
13.1 miles later. Exaltation is yours. For some, this race is about time. About challenging yourself to do better than the last time. To push for a better outcome than the previous one.
For others, the race is no more than a journey. 13.1 miles are a part of the process. Part of raising awareness. Or celebrating a recovery. Or maybe part of the grieving process.
I’m always inspired by people who push themselves. Those who find a goal and work relentlessly to achieve it. Each and every person in this race pushed themselves in one way or another. And for that, I am inspired by each and every person that took part in this.
Check the Nike Women’s Half Marathon site for more info.