The alarm goes off at 4:45 a.m., and I am instantly awake. I'm not really a morning person, but for this occasion, a marathon, everything about it allows me to awaken as if I do it daily. The anxiety of getting there on time, the pressure of mentally staying strong, being sure to eat right and fuel for the run, will I make a PR, or will something happen to throw off my time? A spew of thoughts flooded my mind the moment I awakened.
Luckily, it was perfect San Francisco weather. My marathon partner, Val and I made our way down the 10 or so blocks from our hotel to the Embarcadero, the start of the San Francisco Marathon. Runners of all ages and sizes funneled into the start line area. As soon as we snaked our way through the dense crowd and into our corral, the race was on. I turned and asked her casually, "Hey, you want to run a marathon today?" Val smiled as we began our pace and flowed along with the sea of people around us. It was her first marathon, and my seventh.
Along the barnacled wharf, the smell of sea air was strong in the early morning. By just mile four, the San Francisco Marathon had already proven it's character, with its nautical backdrop and vintage brownstones lining the water's edge. The pretty homes painted sunflower yellow and sky blue stood in pride looking over the bay. As we turned the corner, a light fog hovered above the tips of the Golden Gate Bridge. There she was, the big allure of this monumental marathon.
The city is known for it's steep hills. Our first one emerged as the gateway to the coveted venture across the bridge. With our mountain girl attitude, and elevation-trained lungs our feet swiftly ascended us to the south entry of the Golden Gate.
Magnificently beautiful, it's presence was strong, and rugged. Burnt red metal reaching upwards into the clouds. The northbound lane had been closed for our running pleasure, while car travelers passed over the bridge on the other side. It felt surreal to be running amongst thousands, crossing an iconic staple of Americana. I reminded myself to absorb the moment, look around, and appreciate the tiniest of details. I just kept thinking, "This is so cool."
After recording 20 or so seconds of footage, I carefully worked on returning the Flip camera back into my zippered pouch while I ran. Well, apparently not careful enough. In the very next second, I found myself slamming into the cold surface of the blacktop pavement of the bridge. Spread eagle or yard sale as they say, my body flailed on to the ground as the camera let loose from my fingertips in the opposite direction. I hear, as if it's all happening in slow motion, Valerie scream! I couldn't make out what words were coming from her yell, but the emotion behind the scream left an impression that my ego should be more damaged than my body.
Two ghostly figures, a male on each side, picked me up and one handed me my camera. Without even saying thank you, or missing a stride, I sprung back into forward motion. I was in shock. I hadn't even anticipated the fall as I was going down. I just hit the pavement with a stiff realization. There I was, that girl- the one that you tell your friends about later saying, "Oh , there was this girl that ate it on the bridge." Yep, that was me. Embarrassing. And it hurt too.
With road burn on both palms and an instant blood blister, a scraped up elbow, a bruised hip, and a skinned and slightly bleeding right knee, I asked Val, "Am I bleeding? Does my knee look okay?" She gave me the quick once over from both sides as we continued running across the bridge. My knee was swollen and already a deep purple bruise was forming. She kept asking, "Are you okay?" And I thought, "Well not completely, but it doesn't change anything. What am I going to do, quit the marathon over a 'little fall?"