Friday, August 26, 2011

Race around Lake Merced in San Francisco

It's actually quicker to run

 It was quite a schlep to get to the start of the race by 6:30pm - it took about an hour and a half from Fisherman's Wharf on San Francisco's quaintly inefficient public transport system. I had to run the last mile and a half to get there on time but it was well worth the effort. When I travel abroad I like to go on at least one "mission" which takes me off the beaten track and submerges me briefly in local life: it could be searching for rare vinyl records on Spanish Harlem or, in this case, taking part in a tiny local race. This was the last in a series of weekly meets organized by the DSE Runners and consisted of a 4.5 mile run around Lake Merced.

As I predicted, my Vivobarefoot Ultras attracted a fair bit of attention. Even so, they were met with less of a raised eyebrow than my Vibram Five Fingers were two years ago in New York: thanks to Born to Run, "minimalist" running shoes are now part of the lingo. There was one guy running in VFFs and I spotted another wearing the Merrel Trail Glove, which he said he had used in a 50km race recently. So, based on my unscientific sample of one, it does seem as though minimalist is here to stay.

At the start of the race the starter announced that we had someone from Spain amongst us, at which point all the people from Latin America came up to greet me in Spanish. I tend to say I am from Spain when I register for a race: I think it is because it was in Spain that I rediscovered running not to mention other life changing events like getting married and having kids. I may never be Spanish but I feel affiliated with Spain.

We went off at a cracking pace and I settled in to my rhythm. It was nice and cold in the San Franciscan fog that had settled down over the lake so my heart rate was pretty much under control. I was in 7th position for most of the race but I got overtaken by another runner as we reached the crest of a gentle hill. I came in 8th position in a time of 27:11 - an average pace of 3:47 per kilometer. Not bad considering it was the shortest race I had run in over a year by a long stretch.

I really enjoyed the after race atmosphere and immediately felt part of something albeit fleetingly. I was given a lift back to the nearest Muni (Metro) stop at which point I gradually slipped back into my role of slightly confused and naive tourist.

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