The Guardsmen is a non-profit, volunteer based group of Bay Area men that work together to assist and improve the lives of at-risk/inner-city youth through educational and outdoor activities. I found out about The Guardsmen last year when I ran their Presidio 10 fundraising race- it was, and is, one of my most favorite races to date! So when I caught their Free Training Run event on Facebook, I signed right up and anticipated a mellow 10 miler.
Yesterday morning, Andrea and I drove out to the Inn at the Presidio in San Francisco to run with The Guardsmen. I’m not sure what those Guardsmen are training for but I haven’t run a course this difficult in… hmmmm… NEVER!
We enjoyed some coffee, did some warm ups and stretches and then the run began. There were 3 groups- 3 milers, 5 milers, and us crazy 8 milers- and once we introduced ourselves to our leaders, off we ran. Straight. Up. Hill. By half a mile, I needed a hike break- I couldn’t believe how steep it was in JUST THE FIRST MILE! While I’m more than positive that Andrea could kill the hills, we promised each other that this would be a fun run and to make it such, we stayed to the back of the pack and took our time while I snapped
lots of way too many pictures.
It was a gorgeous day! Perfectly clear, slight breeze, not too hot and that is pretty rare for this time of year in the city- it’s usually foggy and misty. We ran/hiked up through part of the Bay Area Ridge Trail, neither of us had been or run here before and it was beyond gorgeous. Once we completed the mountainous crest, we plunged deeper into the trails and the scenery changed again.
And on we ran, up, up, and up. The trail was very rocky and narrow so we had to stay very aware of our foot fall, often having to run single file to allow other pedestrians to get by. Again, I was not at all prepared for this type of terrain and really took my time- hiking a lot and stopping for pictures whenever the moment moved me.
This Lands End trail was all along the coast, and the wind whipped through the trees and the waves crashed beneath us. I kept saying, “THIS IS SO FREAKING PRETTY!” And stopped to catch my breath and take more pics several times. And we were only at mile 3.
Right around 3.5 we came to a set of stairs. Not just regular stairs but wooden, very sandy, very rocky and about 200 of them. Down we went and then back up again and my quads screamed in pain! People RUN these??? Wow. Little did I know this was only one of several sets of stairs we would be tackling that day- by Andrea’s count, we climbed about 1,000 of them in all.
Conquered the stairs and started to head back at mile 3.6- as we were the last ones in the group, we figured the front runners would meet up with us by the time we emerged from Lands End. And we were right- met up with Bobby again as we went from trails to the road. I was so relieved when we hit the road- down hill through a residential area- and my feet rejoiced in the familiarity. I love the challenge of trails but I love the ease of the road even more.
Then we had an option- head back towards the Inn on the road or take the loop and run Baker Beach. Running on the beach sounded like a great idea at the time, so Andrea, Bobby, Paul and myself headed on down after being told by our leader, Stu, that we should cross the beach, then head up the sand ladder in order to meet back up with the group.
I have never run on sand before. And I don’t think I ever will again unless it’s a life or death sorta situation. Maybe you already know this but I had no idea- that sand is SO ROUGH to run through! It’s like taking 2 steps for one, tilting and veering all sorts of directions as my shoes started getting filled with those pesky little grains. Totally over that, I walked and YES took more pictures!
And then we found the freaking sand ladder. Another set of over 200 stairs. Wow. But just like a race, you’ve got no control over the course and if you want to get back to your car then you’ve gotta do it! So up, up, up we climbed…
Got to the top and took a brief break until our leader Stu said, “So now we go up…” Are you kidding me, Stu??? UP? What do you mean??? Didn’t we just…????? He meant more stairs- another set of over 200. I didn’t take many pictures from this point on because I was getting so very tired. So much climbing… so much for my mellow 10 miler…
Took every last bit of my willpower to get up that flight and we all took a brief break to high five each other at the Inspiration Point overlook before heading back towards our starting point. Mostly road (aka relief!) and downhill from there, we ran with a couple other people we had just met for the final 2.
Andrea asked me earlier in the day if I wanted to do 2 additional flat miles on our own once we got back and initially, I agreed I would. At this point though, I had to tell her I lied. I did NOT want to do ANY extra mileage- my quads had given up, my lower back was aching, and my calves were in knots. We finally finished, clocking 7.58 miles by my watch in a little over a hour and a half- although I was moving so slowly up the endless hills and stairs that my Garmin would pause as if I wasn’t moving at all! That 7.58 felt like 20. Seriously. WOW.
The Guardsmen are so awesome- when we got back, there was ample champagne, orange juice, water, coffee, an outdoor fire pit, music- so we hung out for a bit, sipping our mimosas and talking all things running with our new friends. Really a great event, I am so glad we participated and were able to see the city I’ve lived in all my life in yet ANOTHER awesome and spectacular way. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU Guardsmen!!!
I wasn’t planning on running the Presidio 10 race this year as I have 2 other races scheduled for April but, because of the cause and the scenery and the friendly people and I guess the mimosas, I think I need to sign up for the 10K. And if you are free on April 21st- you should too!!!