As we approached the beach, we could see the landmark even through the fog. To our left was the Golden Gate Bridge — our scenery and destination for our morning run.
This had been my first trip to San Francisco and Mark’s second. While our vacation had been planned around participating in the 99th Bay to Breakers 12K (see the last entry for details on that) we wanted to run other days, too. Mark is preparing for a fall marathon after setting a personal best in the half marathon last month while I’m slugging out another 70.3 race in July followed by my first Iron Distance race in Montreal in September.
“We are finely tuned machines,” Mark joked as we asked about running routes around the city.
There is something I’ve come to love about running in new places. In theory it’s always been a great idea for me. In practice, sometimes, well, not so much. When you run a route, or an area, with familiarity you can judge things like pace and exertion. You know if you’re having a good run, an amazing run or a survival run.
But in new territory, there is ambiguity. Uncertainty of the course can create pauses or stoppages. The unfamiliar terrain might include hills or twists and turns or two sets of massive stairs which hurt your quadriceps just by looking at them. It’s difficult to set a pace or maintain a pace.
And that is actually the beauty of the mystery run.
You have to surrender to the moment.
Granted, there weren’t huge mysteries involved in our three non-race runs out in San Francisco. The route was pretty self-evident and largely intuitive. On the first day we arrived there, we hit the famous Lyon Street stairs in the first mile (which, according to an article I found on CNN.com state there are 288 steps). Luckily, we started with them downhill. Still, the second set are older and rather steep and the rest of the road progresses in a pronounced downhill toward the water. Yep. The return would be interesting.
A few minutes later we were at the beach with the fog enveloping the Golden Gate Bridge. Picture time. We ran to the end of the path which took us to Fort Point and took some pictures as we took a break from our run and played around a bit in the new environment. (See Mark’s incredible balancing act in the photo on the right.)
We ran back and hit those Lyon Street stairs, this time going up. I chose to walk the older, stepper set of stairs and gently made my way up the other ones. In all honesty, the fun felt good, but I was a bit disappointed in myself. Our pace was slow, even though it was meant to be. I huffed and puffed as we went back up the hill and took my sweet old time getting up the stairs. And I feared Mark would be bored with this run pace. As usual, my brain wanted to take me to the negative places and point out the places where I lacked.
However, I no longer wanted to play that game. And though tinges of it came through at times, I turned to looking at the moment, to enjoying the present without judgement. Because it’s rarely the actual being or doing which causes fear and dismay but what we think about the being and doing which brings about those unpleasant feelings. Changing your thoughts sounds simple, and it is, but doing it consistently is a process.
And one that I got to practice and perfect on this trip.
The next day we tackled the same route at the start but found the elusive stairs just before hitting Fort Point which took us up toward the bridge. We ran under the Golden Gate Bridge. (Seriously, how cool is that?) and discovered trails on the other side which ran along cliffs with amazing views. Another series of stops for photos and a turnaround in order to preserve our energy for Bay to Breakers and not overdue our easy day, despite finishing with seven more miles on our bodies. This time, as we hit the stairs, I took them at a slow run pace. And believe it or not, running up the stairs was easier than trying to walk.
It’s amazing the things which happen when I just decide to trust myself.
Tuesday morning we took our last run down to the water and back. This time, we got to see the entire bridge as the sun was bright and the fog fairly well lifted in the morning light.
And I looked a bit different to myself.