The Berkeley Half Marathon was originally my one half marathon for November (which turned into 3 in a compulsive need to add a couple more races). I intended to push my time on this one, to see if I could get under two hours. It was the inaugural race, put on by the same organizers as the San Francisco Marathon.
I had my long bike ride the day before, and I rod my bio to the race. Both of these were working against me, but getting the rides in were more important than my time goal. I treat my times as fitness measures, ways to challenge myself, and as fun numbers games. Small things in the rest of life often win out over a strict effort to hit a time goal. Although I’ve gotten better at tapering normal training runs in the week before races. But for how many races I’m running this fall, this means every other week.
Back to the Berkeley Half Marathon. I arrived at Civic Center Park and stowed my bike, immediately finding the Tough Mudder crowd, the first of many people I know who I would run into at this race. I was less early than usual, so after stowing jackets and such, we went straight to the finish line. I was in the third wave (2nd non-elite wave). We started off around a multi-block loop over to U.C. Berkeley, and we then headed downhill along University Ave., zig-zagging into neighborhood streets here and there. I started off a little faster than needed, anticipating the hill at the end and expecting to gradually slow during the race. Around 4 miles in I settled into a more consistent 9 minute/mile pace.
The course headed out across 80 and went south along the east bay shoreline frontage road, into Emeryville and turning around just before the art.com building. This would be the first of many out-and-backs along this trail. We ran back north, crossing 7 miles before heading out towards the Berkeley Marina. It was pretty steady going, in that I was constantly close to my limit for this distance (at least for that day), and I was well challenged mentally to hold the pace for the rest of the race.
The course went out and around Ceasar Chavez park, which is one of my favorite running routes, although I haven’t run it much since last spring. The wind-and-water drama I’m used to seeing here was replaced by nearly flat water, more normal for this time of year and this time of day. We headed back in, back to the bay trail, before making at least three small out-and-backs on the gradual progression north. On the less-than-great side, an ambulance was in the middle of the course, with paramedics treating a passed-out runner; I read later that he was hospitalized, but ok.
The course wrapped up by heading up the hill near Golden Gate Fields and dropped down the north side of the parking lot. Being the end of the course, I just pushed hard up the hill. I don’t think I slowed at all, in that I was more muscle-bound for most of the race than endurance-bound. The final run down the hill to the finish was a nice end, since I’ve gotten much better at taking downhills with speed the last few months. Crossing the finish line, I stopped to the side, and bent over to catch my breath for a couple minutes, which is for me a sign of having pushed myself well.
I came in at 1:58:56, just under my goal. Being the first time I’ve made a point to pace myself, it worked out well, and I apparently kept a pretty steady pace. Another runner came up to me afterwords and said I was a great pacer, as he’d been following me most of the race. I caught up with many people while recovering a bit, before heading out. I picked up the bonus SF/Berkeley Challenge medal too, having run the SF Marathon this summer. I ended up 1915 out of 4664, also inside an ongoing percentile goal I have.
Then there was the long line to get on the shuttle back to the start, as well as the long, very slow bike ride home. Riding 1200 feet uphill after a hard 13 mile run isn’t the easiest thing. :-)