It's the US Half Marathon this Sunday, a 13.1-mile course that begins in Aquatic Park, crosses the Golden Gate Bridge and winds its way back through the Presidio to the starting point (check out an interactive course map here). 5,000 people have entered, and the times to beat are 1:08:20 for men (Fernando Cabada of Fresno, CA in 2007) and 1:18:58 for women (Jane Kibii of Kenya in 2007). Intense. But even if you're not out for a record-breaker, the course, one of the most picturesque in the country, can be challenging. We chatted with Ryan Dawkins, ultra-athlete and president of Project Sport (who organizes the race) about tips for beginners, the hardest marathon in the nation and his experiences in the Race Across America.
What's the hardest part of the course, in your opinion?
When you're approaching the Golden Gate Bridge from Crissy Field, you tackle the first climb up Long Ave. When you get to the top at Lincoln, you see the Golden Gate Bridge entrance on the right, but we take you left, back down to Crissy Field and then up McDowell Ave to Lincoln. It's not necessarily the difficulty of the climb, just the fact that it's only mile 3 and mentally they think "...and I have 10 miles left?"
What advice would you give to first-time half marathon runners on this course?
Drink plenty of fluids and have fun. If you've prepared your body for 13.1, it'll be the most gorgeous course you've ever run.. If not, put PSOAS Bodywork on speed dial.
What's the US Half Marathon "The Other Half" in April?
2010 was the inaugural year and the concept was to create a full marathon, but split... one in the fall (9th annual) and then one on the spring, exactly 6 months apart. The idea actually spawned from the idea of how cool it would be to do a first of its kind "yin & yang" style medal, where you would obtain the first "Half" in the fall and "The Other Half" in the spring and then they could merge together to create one - hence the name and our "Run 2, Make 1" tag line.
What do you think is the hardest marathon course in the country?
Personally, I thought the Midnight Mayors Marathon in Alaska was really tough. It's 50% road and 50% trail and what felt like 100% uphill. It was awesome community and spectator support that saved me.
You've done a lot of competitive racing. What's the hardest thing you've ever done athletically?
Last week I rode 620 miles from San Francisco to San Diego to help raise $1.3M for Challenged Athletes Foundation and while difficult, it brought on flashbacks from Race Across America that took 20 teams of 4 riders on a 6+ days, 24 hours / day race from San Diego to Atlantic City for a $25,000 prize purse. We took 2nd place, but hit rough patches of sleep deprivation, inability to eat and hallucinations. Definitely found how far you can push the human body.
Um, yeah. Good luck to all the runners this weekend!