Earning the SF/Berkeley Challenge Medal
Contributed by Riley Steinmetz, a 2016 Ambassador for The Berkeley Half Marathon.
In the fall of 2015, I had hit a bit of a fitness rut. I’d been running fairly regularly for a few months (documenting my progress on my blog, Riley on the Run). Still, despite making regular gains in speed and comfort in the first few months of running, those were quickly dropping off. I needed something to push me a bit harder in my training. When a runner friend who lived in Berkeley suggested I run the Berkeley Half with her, I figured why not?
It ended up being just the catalyst I needed to get more motivated with my running.
With the goal of the Berkeley Half Marathon in my mind, I was able to find that extra drive when I was struggling to get out the door for training runs. I knew that if I didn’t put in the work now, I was going to feel it when it was time to tackle Berkeley’s hills.
I hadn’t done a lot of running in the East Bay since there are so many paths to run near my home in San Francisco, but my friend had shared many great stories and photos with me from her East Bay runs. As my training progressed, I tried to get out to the East Bay more regularly, running through the UC Berkeley campus and exploring Tilden Park. I already knew and loved the trails of the Presidio and Golden Gate Park, but the East Bay added a whole new element to my training.
The Berkeley Half Marathon rolled around, and I managed to cross the finish line with a PR. When I met up with my friend at the finish line, I saw an extra medal around her neck. It turns out that she had run the San Francisco 1st Half Marathon, too, so that meant she got an extra medal for completing the “challenge.” I was intrigued and made a mental note to check out the San Francisco 1st Half Marathon. And, of course, as soon as I took a look at the website, I was hooked. I signed up immediately and recruited my dad (an Indianapolis native who frequently visits the Bay Area for races) to join me.
Signing up for a race over six months in advance proved to be both a blessing and a curse. Knowing I had another (hilly) race looming ahead kept me motivated when it came to clocking miles, but the fact that it was months off meant it was sometimes easy to put off that long run and head to brunch with friends instead. I ended up signing up for races to keep me going along the way — a half marathon in February, a 10-miler in April, a 12k in early July — and that did the trick. When I had another race coming up (and paid for!), I knew I had to put in the miles to support it.
When the San Francisco 1st Half Marathon rolled around, I wasn’t nervous or anxious. I’d spent so much time preparing for this run (both mentally and physically) through other races, I was able to line up at the start confident that I was in the best race shape of my life. And, sure enough, despite the hills, I was able to knock out another PR.
In the finish area, I was thrilled to receive my finisher medal, but that wasn’t number one in my mind as I snaked my way through my fellow half marathon finishers. Within a few minutes, I located the Challenges booth and was able to pick up the awesome medal that I’d seen my friend grab in Berkeley a few months earlier. As my dad and I took a finish line photo together, it was the SF/Berkeley Challenge Medal that I was holding up proudly. For me, it wasn’t just another medal showing that I had crossed a finish line — it was an embodiment of my new commitment to running and a healthy lifestyle, racing not just to cross another time off my list but to keep moving forward toward new goals.