2012: Zazzle Bay to Breakers

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“Zazzle” it may be called, but the race was razzle-dazzle for most of the way and frazzle at the end for many.  In fact, the race, or more accurately race-run-jog-walk, depending on ability, was better organized than in past years.  The 40,000 participants were corralled in streams by ability—elite, good, slow, very slow, extremely slow, painfully slow runners and walkers.  The starting times were also staggered, although the first four groups started at the same time.  Despite these improvements, it took about 10 minutes to get to the starting line because there were so many people.   Not that it mattered because most of us were busy listening to rock music, playing Frisbee with tortillas and watching a dizzying variety of costumes and colors on people of all ages, shapes and sizes.  There were nude runners, but sadly they were all men, mostly old with sagging flesh or overweight with wobbling fat.  Why would they want to be seen like that?More interesting were the teams connected to each other as snakes, dragons, a Bratwurst sausage and a wedding party complete with bunches of empty beer cans dragging along the street.  Among the women, popular outfits included superwoman, flowing see-through pantaloons from Arabian nights and skimpy bikinis.  I met and chatted with a Confidence Fairy that Paul Krugman says exists in the minds of Republicans in the US, Tories in the UK and Angela Merkel who think that austerity will rejuvenate investment and growth.

I had injured my Achilles tendon three years ago and was advised not to run.  Although playing tennis was allowed, I needed to ice that area afterwards to calm the inflammation.  Feeling constrained, in early February I challenged my doctor’s advice and set the goal of finishing this race and started to train for it.  I was ready by the end of April, but pulled a muscle playing tennis early in May.  With help from a great physio-masseur, I felt sufficiently recovered to at least give it a try.

I kept pace with my very slow group until we hit the dreaded Hayes hill, about half a mile of steep climbing.  After a couple of hundred yards, we hit a logjam because many in front began to walk.  I had prepared for the hill and was determined not to join them, so I plodded on bobbing and weaving trough the walkers.

After the hill, the route is flat for a mile and then goes downhill for about four miles through Golden Gate Park to the ocean where the race ends.   At the park’s entrance, wind stamina was no longer an issue, but leg strength was.  To make matters worse, I felt an ache in the muscle I had pulled.  I chose to ignore it hoping it would fade and luckily it did.

The sight of the ocean was a relief.  I knew I would finish and had enough left in me to accelerate my pace from very slow to slow for the last half mile.  This small thrill reminded me of the last half mile of my first marathon in New York in 1979.  When I came into Central Park South and felt sure I would finish, I was overcome with emotion.  I have not felt that sense of achievement in anything else I have done.  Little things please little minds, I suppose.

Another benefit of training for this race has been the ramped up production of endorphins that has improved my mood greatly.  Because I saw many other runners who looked well into their 80s, and maybe 90s, I am comforted by the thought of having, at 73, many years left of running and feeling great.

At the finish line, we got a nice pewter medal and coconut juice.  But it was a long walk to the bus organized to take us back to the start and an even longer trip on the bus snailing its way through snarled traffic.  I was lucky to sit and chat with three Irish Thoracic surgeons who were attending a conference in San Francisco and took the opportunity to run the race.