AUTHOR: linda TITLE: SFMarathon Training: Week 16 DATE: 10:55:00 AM ----- BODY:

Today is my first day of training toward the SF Half Marathon, in 16 weeks.

There is a special kind of quiet early on a Saturday morning like this. No pedestrians, no shoppers; only a few cars. The sky is blocked by fog, and a static cold hangs on everything-- asphalt, crosswalk, grocery, parked cars. It's exciting, to be out by myself this early, dressed in synthetic wear, tennis shoes, and a water-bag corset. The whole stretch of street, park and morning before me. A new adventure on foot, though not altogether unfamiliar... I've had probably hundreds of other journeys like this.

The barber shops and sushi places are closed on Irving Street -- except at one vintage spot, where a white-haired man gets his hair cut by another white haired man. The light turns green just in time as I reach the crosswalk, and now I'm in the park. The grass looks greener and the air smells fresher probably because I'm breathing hard from running. I sail by lush shrubs dotted by bloom, ferns as tall as I am, pine trees reaching overhead, and a winding sidewalk taking me downhill to the ocean. The California poppies are closed. A heavy smell of vegetation is in the air... like roast beef that's been cooking for hours.

It's only 2.8 miles but it feels like a far longer journey... past the pond, walkers in hooded windbreakers, the closed-for-safety windmill. As MLK empties onto Great Highway, I start walking. A grey ocean growls on my left; dirty park shrubbery stands stationary on my right. One runner passes by. A single car is parked in the Beach Chalet lot, 1000 Great Highway. At the usually busy JFK corner, I silently turn back into the park and continue running. Heavy fog turns to rain, dropping comfortingly at first, then heavier as I struggle up the gradual rise in elevation. More cars on the road, and runners who offer me an acknowledgement or a perfunctory wave. The bison paddock is active. A crouched cat under a Not a Through Street sign follows me as I pass by.

Soon I'm back at 19th, and approaching the dull stretch of Lincoln Ave. At Funston I stop running and walk the 1.5 blocks back to where I started, a mere 70-some minutes later, still early, still quiet and cold.