In a grueling foot race that claimed the life of one runner, Marco Island's Roger Raymond can attest to the obstacles of the San Francisco Marathon.
Raymond ran the marathon on July 30. In the event, William Goggins of San Francisco collapsed and died from an apparent heart attack as he was approaching the 23-mile mark of the 26.2-mile race, medical authorities said.
"The description of the marathon route and its toughness was not accurate," Raymond said. "They called it moderately difficult. Compared to what, a Pike's Peak marathon? I e-mailed them, telling them they should have a multi-layered description of the course."
Raymond had hoped and expected to run a qualifying time for the Boston Marathon. His age-group qualifying time was 3 hours, 45 minutes. He ran the distance in 3 hours 57 minutes.
"I thought I would run the distance in 3:36 to 3:38," he said. "Instead, I knew I was done about halfway through. I thought I would enjoy the scenery, but the first half was tougher than expected and the second half became almost impossible."
These remarks are by a runner who has run at least six miles a day for 1,355 straight days (as of this past Friday). He has run the Miami, Disney and San Diego marathons.
He and Pam Tanner of Naples, both members of the Gulf Coast Runners Club, trained by running to and over the Goodland Bridge twice and then running the hills of Marco Island every Saturday for 10 weeks.
"We ran about 10 miles a day — at least — in preparation," Raymond said, "plus my regular running."
Tanner ran the San Francisco race in 3:32 — 11 minutes slower than her last marathon. But she had already qualified for Boston, running in last year's Boston Marathon.
In the San Francisco race, Raymond said, "I came as close as I have ever come to stopping. I almost told myself, 'I'm stopping.' But that is not in me. But when I know I'm shot I will slow down."
That came around the 23rd mile.
"In the last five miles, you saw people fall down, get back up and fall down again," he said. "People who normally take liquids on the run, were walking while they drank."
Goggins, 43, who was a former deputy editor of Wired magazine in San Francisco, was running his first marathon. Friends had reported he was in excellent shape.
"It seemed like everybody knew him," Raymond said. "People that knew him said he was fine at mile 21, but he wasn't fine at mile 23."
Goggins was the first fatality in the 29-year history of the marathon. He was one of nearly 15,000 who ran to raise funds for the American Cancer Society.
Raymond said the weather turned out to be a problem.
"We started out in cold weather and foggy. I was wearing a sweatshirt," he said. "By mile 15, the sun came out and we hit the hills. At mile 16, the sun was really bright and many didn't have sunglasses. Just squinting into the sun takes energy. The temperature got up to 75 to76 degrees and it was humid. It wasn't what I had anticipated."
However, San Francisco was.
"I ran on the Bay Bridge side of the Embarcadero two days before the race to AT&T Park and saw McCovey Cove," Raymond said.
McCovey Cove is a watery cove outside right field of the Giants' home stadium. It was named in honor of former Giants slugger Willie McCovey. Actually, he never played in that stadium, built after he retired. But slugger Barry Bonds has hit many prestigious bombs into the cove, 430 feet from home plate. Homers that go into the cove must clear the high portwalk in the stadium.
Raymond, wife Karen, daughter Jenn and her husband, Cory, enjoyed the city, visiting Fisherman's Wharf and seeing famous Lombard Street, used in a high-speed car chase in the move Bullet, starring Steve McQueen. They saw the quaint towns of Sausalito and Tiburon and the city of Oakland.
"We did the boat tour before the race that took us under the Golden Gate Bridge," he said. "With headsets, we learned about the landmarks, including Alcatraz. It made the run more interesting."
The excitement wasn't over for the family as its American Trans Air plane lost an engine and had to make an emergency landing in Albuquerque, N.M.
"When you feel a dramatic slow down at 35,000 feet, it gets your attention," Raymond said. "When we landed there were fire engines waiting for us. It got pretty hot in the plane that had to be towed to a gate not usually used by the airline."
Raymond said a number of people gave airline personnel a hard time about landing there and getting a connecting flight.
"I went up there and told the woman that we were thrilled to be on the ground," he said. "We could have been dust instead of standing in Albuquerque. It certainly clarified my life and what was important."
They changed planes, flying United Airlines, and finished the trip uneventfully.
"It will be a trip that none of us forget," Raymond said.