I am a Bay Area kid, born and raised. I grew up primarily in Cupertino, a less-than-hour drive from Santa Cruz, so I’ve known about Wharf to Wharf for the last decade and a half. Like Bay to Breakers, it’s one of those races that is a big deal for the Bay Area running community. While I knew of some teammates and parents that ran it, I never did. Back in high school, the thought of paying more than $25 to run a race was out of the question. Wharf to Wharf costs $45 (registration may have been a whopping $40 back in the early 2000s) AND would have required me to find a ride that my parents would inevitably veto, so of course that race never seriously made it on my radar.
It wasn’t until last year that I ran it for the first time. It was a spur of the moment sort of a thing. My bib was a Wave 1 bib, so I had a late start after the Elite Wave. My Arete Oakland chapter leader, Teresa, was at the head of the wave with me and told me to chase down the elite corral runners to claim a top 100 spot. Despite a chaotic and crowded start, I got off to a pretty decent aka unscathed start and ran the race as a progression run and finished a handful of people away from woman #100.
Because I had no firsthand experience with Wharf to Wharf, I didn’t know much about the Top 100 jacket business, which are awarded to the top 100 male and female finishers by gun time and not chip. Despite everything Meg and Teresa said about the jackets and earning one being a goal for many runners, I didn’t care about it initially and didn’t think it’d matter if I didn’t get one. After all, it was my first time running a 6 mile race, and I thought I debuted pretty well with a 38:21 despite not knowing the course at all (true to Connie fashion, I didn’t even look at a course map, and didn’t really pay attention to any of the descriptions from Meg and others), and probably could have run faster from the get-go. But of course, all the feelings of being SO CLOSE to the Top 100 finishers set in on the ride back home with Meg, and I realized that I wanted that thing that I didn’t even know I wanted.
This leads me to this April 2018, when our chapter got together for a goal-setting session, I announced to everyone that I wanted to run a sub 40-minute Wharf to Wharf to [hopefully] ensure I’d get a Top 100 jacket. Sure, I knew I was pregnant, but I sure as hell didn’t care. Furthermore, I wanted to name some ridiculous goal that I could potentially not reach during a time that I can’t be mad at myself for not reaching, because…pregnancy. I saw it as a sort of weird, good practice to fall short of goals sometimes to figure out how to reevaluate and readjust goals and expectations.
Meg drove us down to Santa Cruz the morning of the race. We congregated with some more teammates at our friend Kim’s house. Per usual, I had to pee what felt like a million times before we ran our 1-ish mile warm up to the starting line for the team picture. After a photo-op love fest in a sea of Arete race kits at the start, we all shuffled off to continue our warm ups. I went only a little further with Katie and Christina before we headed back to the portapotties at the start and where after one last potty break, I saw Wolfpackers Erin, Janet, Lisa, and my old high school teammate Matt nearby. We hugged, chatted, and made our ways to the corrals with minutes to spare.
In the elite corral, I put myself midway and off to the side, away from all of my other Arete teammates. As much as I wanted to start with them, I knew that A.) My April goal of a sub-40 minutes for a 6-mile race was probably not going to happen and I needed to run my fun run while my teammates ran their races, and B.) I was very frightened of the idea of getting pushed, tripped, and trampled at the start, which would be bad normally, and far more devastating as I was about 6 months pregnant. I made sure that all the runners around me saw that I had a round ‘ole belly, and they very politely gave me a little perimeter of safety.
Despite the mess of feet and a couple of too-close encounters with a few young men pushing past me once the gun went off, I wasn’t once tripped. In the first half mile alongside the Boardwalk, I spotted a couple of teammates and ran with them for about half a mile. The first mile concluded in 7:01, and I told Elise to run her pace while I eased back a bit to not get drawn into the pressure to race for time, and more comfortably take in the sights of the course.
I held a steady 7:02 pace for miles two and three which weren’t exactly flat, but not hilly either. The climbs starting mile 2 and at the end of mile 3-ish were inclines more than anything, and they wound in such a way that as a participant, you could really appreciate wonderful alternating glimpses of both the coastline and neighborhoods.
Going into the next couple of miles, it hit me that I was seeing and hearing bands every few turns or so on the course. I wondered to myself if there were this many bands performing the previous year (Uh, yea there were, and wow I really noticed nothing last year). However, because I was feeling really warm and steaming up my sunglasses like crazy, every few tenths of a mile I moved my sunglasses around so I could defog the lenses. It was a little annoying, but more than worth it to take in all the bands, decorations, spectators and their signs, houses, and coastal views I had missed the previous year. Some spectators pointed at my belly as they cheered. That was kind of cool. Around mile 4, one woman yelled at me, “ARE YOU PREGNANT?” to which I responded, “YES! ABOUT 6 MONTHS!”. I kept smiling and waving at spectators and jiggling my foggy sunglasses as the course took us into a quiet stretch of neighborhood, and where I saw my friend Bob cheering to the side. It was also around miles 4-5.5 that I started catching up with some of people I had lost track of earlier in the course. I caught Elise and Janet. Miles 4 and 5 were 6:50 and 6:57 respectively.
The last mile inclines a bit up subtly with lots of turns for the first half, and then pitches runners down towards the beach in Capitola pretty quickly in the second half mile. I picked up the pace with the incline and let gravity do its thing, taking care to also pick up my feet. I saw Teresa’s family, Sara and her family cheering to the side (I waved or fist pumped the air or something I think), and rolled through the finish with a 6:26 split for the final mile, and a cheesy big smile.
As I went through the finish chute, a volunteer handed me a little pink slip with the number 100 on it. It was the biggest surprise. I had snagged the final spot and jacket, #100! I regrouped with my friends and teammates in the Top 100 section for a photo and to gush at other Top 100 runners. I also snuck embarrassed but awed looks at Stephanie Rothstein, who had finished top American and #4. (I was way too nervous to say hi.)
After picking up my swag bag (LOVE the bags this year) and taking more pictures at the beach, I headed back up the hill with part of the team to Teresa’s parents’ place for mimosas, bagels, and the best hummus I’ve ever had. Afterwards, Meredith and I headed to Beer 30 to hang with the larger Arete group for beer (ok, maybe not for me) and even more food and feel-good hangs.
Overall, it was an incredible morning. The race itself was so much fun, and I was so glad I could really appreciate it for how cool this gem of a local race (is it really a “little road race” if there are 16k participants?) it is. Snagging the #100 spot with my little girl was just the unexpected icing on the cake.