The North Face Endurance Challenge Marathon Relay

If you told me a year ago that I would be running a trail race in San Francisco, I would think you were out of your mind.

I’m incredibly thankful for such a tight running group. We all get along so well and I think that’s a huge reason why my outlook on running has changed so much. It’s really not about how far your run or how fast you run; it’s about enjoying the company of other runners while getting great exercise and pushing your limits to see how good you can be.  At the beginning of November, one of the girls in our group mentioned that she wouldn’t be able to run the marathon relay in San Francisco. When she said that, I thought to myself ‘I just did a half marathon, I can totally do a 10k trail race.’ So i jumped in and said that I would take her spot in the marathon. That was it. My next thought was, ‘I should probably get out on some trails.’

The next 4 weekends leading up to the race consisted of a longish run on Saturday and then a trail on Sunday. I really wanted to get some elevation on my legs and get my lungs up to speed. This was hard but I really enjoyed it. I was able to get out on some trails and see some sights around SoCal that I had never seen before. The more trails I did, the more I loved it. Climbing up was hard but the speedy run down the hill at the end made it all worth it.

Before I could realize, Thanksgiving had come and gone and the following week was race weekend. I started to panic thinking I was not ready for something like this and started doubting why I had signed up for it in the first place. I kept looking at the trail map and the elevation gain over and over until I told myself that this was supposed to be fun, not stressful. There was not pressure from my other teammates to try and win. We all just wanted to have a good time and enjoy the scenery.

My good friend Sara and I had planned on getting up to San Fran on Friday night. After a delayed fight and a long wait on the BART we rolled into our hotel room around 8:30pm. Everyone was pretty tired and had to get up super early so we all packed our bags for the morning and called it an early night. Some of us in the group was running the marathon in the morning and my guy was doing the 50 miler (crazy right?!).

The only way to get to the race was via shuttle from a local school a few blocks from our hotel. The marathon relay didn’t start until 11am but we decided to head to the trails early to try and catch the the marathoners on their run. Soon enough it was time for us to get ready.

The Race:

4 of us divided up the distance of a marathon so that ends up being about 6.5 miles per person. We were all doing the same loop and had to hand off an ankle bracelet each time a new person started. I was the 2nd leg.

First leg was Chris. He’s fast on the trails and was another person who hopped on the team last minute because someone else had to drop out. He was hoping to finish in under an hour and I think he clocked in around 54 minutes.

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Chris killing it on the trails. Look at that point!

Next was me! The nerves were definitely there but it was time for me to take this bull by the horns and just do this race. I knew what was ahead so I had to play this smart.

Mile 1- Down hill! YAY! My favorite (hahaha). The first part of this was actually down a cement path and once we got across the street we hit the trails. Everything felt good.

One thing that definitely sets trail running apart from the road is the scenery. The rolling hills, dark woods and cliffs keep the run interested and sometimes takes your breath away (in a good way). There were a few moments during the race where I was completely alone and that never happens during a road race.

Miles 2 and 3- Wow. All I can say is wow. Not only was I completely alone for a chunk of these 2 miles but I cannot express how beautiful it was to look at. Even though the climb started here, the scenery was worth it. I worked HARD on these miles. Every fiber of my being wanted to slow down but I kept telling myself that getting to the top and coming down was going to be worth it. We hit the top right around 3.7 miles and there was an aid station right there. By this point the marathon relay-ers had merged with the marathoners, 50k racers and the 50 mile racers. It was so cool running on the same trail as them. I filled up my water bottle at the aid station, sucked down a Gu and started the decent.

Miles 4 and 5- SO MUCH FUN. The trails had gotten really muddy here but thanks to my trust Brooks Running Cascadia shoes, running down this mud was easy as pie. Both of these miles clocked in around 8:45 min/mile. I was ready to FLY.

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Smiling after 2 fun and muddy miles!

Mile 6- The course had started to flatten out at this point and I could start to see the road where we crossed so I knew I was almost done. I looked down at my watch and saw that I was at just over an hour. That was quick. I figured that I would take at least an hour and a half to get this done. Boy was I wrong. I didn’t want to kill myself getting back to the hand off so I cruised on my way back and handed the anklet off.

Next up was Britt for the third leg! Britt and I have become close running buddies because we’re both about the same pace and we were both equally nervous about this race. She clocked in around an hour and 15 mins like me and I think we both really surprised ourselves at how well we ran.

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Britt looking fly!

Last leg was Jaime who was also a super experienced trail runner. We knew we were golden once Britt handed off to him. He took off like a bullet and beasted the trail in like 49 minutes. Unreal!

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Jaime with a thumbs up through the woods.

I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun at a race. There was no pressure, everyone was so supportive and the scenery was breathtaking. While running a spectacular race, I also got to really discover the city of San Francisco. What an amazing place! This city had so much character unlike anywhere else that I’ve been. We had a great group of runners who all ran phenomenally and my guys finished his 50 miles in 9 hours! I don’t think I could have asked for a better weekend.

Happy trails!

xoxo

Stephanie

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