Race Recap: United Airlines Rock n Roll San Francisco Half Marathon

“Disclaimer: I received a free entry to the United Airlines Rock n Roll San Francisco Half Marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!”

After a whirlwind trip to San Francisco, I am back on Canadian soil and still grinning about my trip to the Bay Area. It was three days of sightseeing, capped off with the United Airlines Rock n Roll San Francisco Half Marathon on the last day. I traveled with fellow BibRave Pro Amanda and here’s what we got up to. (I will make a separate post about the sights of San Francisco so stay tuned!)

Package Pickup

The plan was to go to the expo right when it opens on the Saturday. We woke up early and headed to Embarcadero, grabbed a Philz Coffee, and walked towards Pier 35. When we got there at 9:45, there was already a short line forming.

Lineup outside Pier 35

Bib pickup lineup wasn’t too long at 10 AM

We got inside soon after and picked up our bibs pretty quickly. The timing chip is now built into the bib, which is great! One less thing to potentially lose. We then got our official race t-shirt and it was off to the Brooks area of the expo where you can buy all the official merchandise. I ended up buying a long-sleeved t-shirt. We did notice that the maps printed on the shirts were from the old course. That’s too bad they weren’t able to change the design sooner. Also displayed was the 20th anniversary RnR shoe which could be pre-ordered and then shipped to your door. It looks pretty wild, don’t you think?

20th anniversary shoes

Official Rock n Roll San Francisco race shirt

Official merchandise

We walked to the other side of the expo and played some games for swag at Toyota. United Airlines is a title sponsor and they had a big booth there with a photo backdrop and free illy espresso (score!). I flew United to get here and had I known they were serving illy aboard, I would’ve gotten a cup. Next time! There was even a pet food exhibitor there giving out dog and cat food samples. Even your furry friends were spoiled 😉

Amanda and I showing off our bibs

So happy to see this here…

Last but not least, we admired the Heavy Medals displayed at the end as well as the Rock n Roll San Francisco medal. I love the Lombard Street cartoon design. It’s so playful and bright.

The medal!

Race Day

The Rock n Roll San Francisco Half Marathon was scheduled to start at 6:15 AM so Amanda and I took a rideshare to Pier 35 (where the expo was). We decided to do that to avoid all the road closures at Pier 39. It was a smart move as it was only a short walk to the start line. We left at about 5 AM and arrived at Pier 39 around 5:30 AM. It was quite cold, I regretted not bringing a jacket nor a gear bag. There was a coffee shop open so we got some coffee and just grabbed some seats at a nearby patio, trying to stay warm. A suggestion: tents and heaters would be a nice touch for next year.

Pier 39 at dawn

By 6, Amanda, her friend Kristie, and I made our way to the corrals. We stood there for a little longer than we thought. For some reason we didn’t get going until about 6:30.

We’re almost up!

So it was finally our turn to go and I was pumped… as soon as I crossed the start, water kept splashing in my face and in my eyes and I have no idea why. Apparently the top of one of my soft flasks either got knocked off or exploded, rendering my water bottle useless. I had to toss it into a garbage can within the first 400 meters of the race. I’m so so thankful that I had Nuun in my bottle because it’s sugar-free. I would’ve been sticky all race or have my eye irritated by the sugar if it was a different drink. I tried not to let it faze me but running around in soaking wet shorts wasn’t exactly what I had in mind for this race.

Oh hello there…

I knew really quickly though that this wasn’t a PB race. My legs felt so fatigued, probably because I walked so much the 2 days before race day. I decided to just take in the course and the sights.

The Blue Mile

The Course

Look, trails! Heading underneath the Golden Gate bridge

I watched last year’s course video and it looked a lot hillier than this year’s course. It’s basically an out and back over the Golden Gate Bridge. You start at Pier 39 and run on the streets of the Haight-Ashbury neighbourhood. You then make your way towards the Golden Gate Bridge. Leading up to the bridge is the Blue Mile, which is a hill. I had to walk on that one.

Once you get onto the bridge it’s a long gradual incline that’s not too bad. You can get a good pace on there. By the time you get to the end of the bridge it’s the 10k mark and then you have to make your way underneath the bridge and to the other side. This involved a little section of downhill gravel which was so fun! I heard some people bailed so you have to be careful if you’re not used to it. Afterwards, it’s another hill back to the bridge and you’re heading back to the city.

Once you get off the bridge, you run on a long stretch of running trail by the water towards Fort Mason. Once you reach the gate, you then head back towards the street you were on earlier… but this time it’s uphill. This is the last long uphill and once you turn the corner it’s a steep downhill and turn towards the finish line.

Race Highlights

  • The Golden Gate Bridge – The skies cleared up and gave us a great view of the Golden Gate Bridge. There were SO MANY great vantage points of the bridge along the race route. Just when you thought your race photo couldn’t get better, it does. It was an up close and personal tour of the bridge since you see it from both ends, you run on it twice (once on each side) and you go underneath it. The bridge is also about 3 km one way so with an out and back course, you get a lot of quality time with this amazing piece of architecture. The views of the Marin Headlands and seeing the city on the way back were spectacular. This was definitely my favourite part of the race.
  • Random cheer sections – I loved the hippies at Haight-Ashbury handing out daisies, the Elvises on stilts and race fans who came out with clever signs. My favourite: You’re currently in 1st Place (source: Trump White House) – HA HA!
  • The Blue Mile – The hill was lined with people (former or current troops?) holding American flags. The photos of fallen soldiers were also along this route, which was a moving tribute to their sacrifice.
  • Lots of music! – There were lots of live bands and even the mile markers had music playing. I didn’t notice but apparently the pacers where also wearing fanny packs that played music. That’s one way to stay motivated to stick with your pacer 😉
  • The medal – The medal is great. I already said it but I’ll say it again. I really like it.

Just one of the many rockin’ bands at Rock n Roll San Francisco

How Did I Do?

Physically, I had a bad race. My legs were just not having it and I was having some stomach issues. However, I still had a great experience because the course was so nice. I think my time was about 2:42 something… I don’t even want to look lol, it’s so bad. At the time I wrote this blog post, my results were still not available on Athlinks but I’m keeping my eyes peeled. Once it’s up, I’ll be claiming my results so I can compare it to my past races (and you can too by signing up for an account). Unfortunately we were in a rush to get back to the hotel, check out and make our lunch reservations so we weren’t able to stay for the headliner. However, from what I heard on the way out, it sounded like a fun show!

Relive ‘RnR San Francisco Half Marathon’

Quick Review

Organization – No complaints on the organization. As with other RnR events, there were lots of email correspondence and their website had all the information you need. What I would’ve liked though was a new course video. Normally they have a course preview video but the course was changed this year and no replacement video was made. I didn’t know what to expect so I just rolled with it. Also, please have reserve toilet paper in the porta-potties… just sayin’.

Course – It’s a beautiful, scenic course. You get the mountains, the Golden Gate Bridge, and crashing waves from the Pacific Ocean. There are some steep, hilly sections, this is San Francisco after all. There were some non-technical trail sections (when you switch to the other side of the GG Bridge and a long stretch towards Fort Mason). You do get a hill about 1 km to the finish but the last 100 meters is a steep downhill with the finish line just around the corner.

See the trail that runners are going up on?

Swag – Visit all the booths for the opportunity to get free swag. Toyota had games you could play in exchange for prizes. United Airlines was giving away free illy coffee and a Buff. Honey Stinger was giving out samples of their wide range of waffles. There was even a pet food company giving out dog and cat food samples.

Would I Do it Again? – Definitely. Given the opportunity, I would definitely do it again so I can redeem myself and to experience running the Golden Gate Bridge again. It was an unforgettable moment.

Did you run the race? Make sure to leave a review on BibRave and claim your results on Athlinks.