The Nike Women Half Marathon is a famous race in San Francisco. It has always been on my list of races to someday run. However, in the fall of 2012, there was a rumor floating around, that the race was coming to the East Coast. And just my luck, to my very own home turf, Washington, DC.
For a while the rumor, stayed a rumor. There was no information or advertising on the race. The only way people found out about the possibility of the race was through word of mouth – one girl runner telling another.
Race organizers kept us in suspense.
However, finally the day came when race registration became available. It was interesting because they did not have a website, instead you had to “like” their facebook page, and click on the registration link. Getting into the race depended on a Lottery system based on a random drawing. The registration was very long, asking questions about ethnicity, income, and what shoes you run in. I am guessing this was a marketing tool for Nike to discover who their consumer is, and what brand is used by the majority of female runners. The registration fee also came close to $200.00, which by far is the most expensive race I have run.
Anyway, two weeks went by, and finally I was notified that my registration was accepted, and thankfully L and E got in as well. During the time between registering for this race and finding out if I got in, registration opened for my 2 other favorite spring races, so I registered for those as well. Cherry Blossom 10 miler is also a lottery, and race day was scheduled for the first weekend of April. The Parkway Classic 10 miler, a first come first serve registration, had a race day scheduled in the third weekend of April. And then Nike Women Half Marathon race day scheduled for the last weekend of April. That means the Washington, DC area would have races 3 out of 4 weekends in April. The only reason why they left the second weekend free of races is because that weekend is the weekend the Queen of all Marathons is scheduled, the Boston Marathon (Boston Strong.)
I ended up getting into all three races I registered for, which was perfect because my 10 milers became my training runs for the Nike Women Half Marathon!
At the end of January, I started the Livefit trainer. The first 4 weeks of the Livefit trainer (Phase 1: weeks1-4) it is advised that you do NO cardio of any form. So I took a month off of running (not running was torture for me) but I focussed on lifting weights and building muscled (and loved it.) The next 4 weeks of the trainer (Phase 2: weeks 5-8) I still focussed on building muscle but was able to include my running. Currently, I am on week 9 of the Livefit trainer (Phase 3.) I should be further along, but because of my races I am starting from the beginning of Phase 3 repeating week 9. I am ready to complete this phase as intensely as I can!
I do want to say this though, building muscle has taken my running to the next level. I always thought when it came to training, the more running I did the better I would be. But by doing the Livefit trainer I have proved that, this is not always the case. Training is not about how many miles you can log a week, but rather are the runs you do, high quality. Too much running, can lead to over training, and injury- which gives running a bad rep. More muscle and a stronger body, along with high quality training runs, leads to faster and stronger running, injury free. Running less, does not mean I did not train hard. I did high quality training runs, and intense lifting. My PRs are my proof.
The expo for the Nike Women Half Marathon, was available to runners on Friday and Saturday. Because L and I both have friday off from work, we headed to the expo on friday, so we could beat the crowd. The location of the expo was perfect, right along the Georgetown waterfront. This allowed us to park in the neighborhood and do a quick training run along the MVT before walking over to the expo.
Of course we hit up the Nike Georgetown store on the way down to the expo. We had to stock up on our Nike Women Half Marathon apparel. I loved how Nike didn’t have a trace of pink in the store. Yes! We are women, but enough with the pink, we like other colors too. My favorite color combo that Nike had available was blue and orange!
They also had a variety of Nike Frees available. I have always been interested in the Nike Free, for weight lifting, but when it comes to my runs, I am pretty obsessed with my newton shoes. Anyway, they created a Nike free in a light turquoise color with white ribbon as the shoe laces. ¬†The inspiration behind these shoes came about, because the finisher swag for the Nike Women Half Marathon is a Tiffany’s necklace. I think this is a really fun idea. I also like how they included the phrase, We Run DC on the tongue of the shoe. This phrase was important because the original race is held in San Francisco. There were tons of ladies, from California, Denver, and other places who had already run the Nike Women San Francisco, who were excited to now run the race in DC, and was on the hunt for any race apparel that had this phrase on it.
After we hit up the Nike store, we headed down to the waterfront. On the way down to the expo they had a huge wall with every race participant’s ¬†name on it. What a cool idea! L and I searched for our names and finally we found them.
The photo below is a photo of the expo. Picture found on the NWM facebook.
They also had nuun available to sample. Instead of gatorade, they would be providing this on race day! I actually prefer this over gatorade, but when it comes to hydrating during my races, I stick to water. Nuun was really delicious post race though.
After the Expo L and I had an amazing lunch at Farmers Fishers Bakers located along the Georgetown waterfront. This is a “must try place,” So delicious, especially the sushi.
Night Before the Race
Just like every other race, I have my night before race ritual, where I lay out my race clothes, and prepare/organize everything for race day.
I always have a hard time sleeping ¬†the night before a race, not because I am worried about running the race, but more worried about waking up on time. Turns out that this race started at 7:00 am, an hour earlier than most races. Plus because I had never run this race before I decided to wake up by 4:30 am.
I ended up throwing E off a bit when I showed up at her house at 5:00 am, 15 minutes earlier than I said I would be.
We then met L at the metro and headed to the start of the race.¬†
When we got to our corrals, we packed on in.¬†I knew it was going to be a crowded race. While I was at the expo, I actually tried to get my pace corral changed from a 9:00- 9:30 minute mile to an 8:30. I wasn’t able to change my corral, so L and I squeezed as close to the front of our corral as we could.
While waiting for the gun to go off, we took some race photos.¬†
After the National Anthem and a moment of silence in honor of Boston. We started running. Immediately, I was annoyed and wished I had moved to a faster pace corral. It was extremely crowded, and impossible to run at the pace I wanted. I sucked it up and politely weaved in and out, trying to pass slower runners. It started to space out around mile two, but there still were times through out the race when I felt squished. Although, this is a negative aspect about the race, this is also something that is totally out of race organizers’ control. Really this is just how large popular races are, and there is nothing anyone can do about it. I totally expected it and wasn’t shocked when it happened.
Below is a picture I found on the NWM facebook page, proof to show how crowded the race was at the start.¬†
Finally, I was able to get up my speed. My first split, 5K (3.1 miles) mark was 0:25:19 which meant I was running around an 8:12 min/mile. My second split, 10K (6.2 miles) ¬†mark was 0:51:48 which meant I was running between an 8:30 – 8:48 min/mile. I was feeling really good about this pace, and refueled with water and beans at this point.
It was around the 15K (9.3 miles) mark, when I¬†started to slow down a little. I got to the 15K mark at 1:21:05, it was then that I realized I wasn’t going to PR at 10 miles. At this point my legs started to feel heavy and my feet started to hurt a bit. This annoyed me, because my lung capacity was perfectly fine, I just desperately wished my legs were capable of moving faster, but they really couldn’t. I tried to focus on my form, and even did some high knees, but could only maintain that for a short bit. The only thing that could cure my heavy legs was a down hill.
Most people really love fast flat courses, I on the other hand love hills. It was at this point that I desperately began wishing for an up hill then a speedy down hill, just to mix things up a bit. But the hills were nonexistent, there was one small hill towards the end, but no down hill to follow. So I was just chugging along with heavy legs, on the boring flat pavement of Washington, DC.
Picture below from NWM facebook page.¬†
My 20k (12.427 miles) split was 1:50:49 – not bad, but not a PR. I could see the finish line straight ahead, but I kept chugging along with heavy legs, and I finally made it there 13.1 miles in 1:57:03.
This is not a PR for me, but it is my Second Best half marathon time! Yay for that!! My last half, the Annapolis Half Marathon, that I ran on 12/1/12 was a PR 1:51. But before that I had never ran 13.1 in under 2:00:00. So to run two half marathons in a row in under 2 hours is a big accomplishment. I think I am done with running 2 hour half marathons, and on a different level now. Both of these races were also run in my Newton shoes, after months of focusing on my natural running stride, it proves that working on running form really does pay off in the end.
Honestly, most races that are held in DC, the course always ends up being the same that I train on daily. So there are really no surprises. ¬†Sometimes this is an advantage, while other times it ends up being a disadvantage. ¬†Why? The advantage is this is my home turf, and I know it inside and out. The disadvantage is that I have run it a million times, so it can become very boring.
Picture found on NWM facebook page.
We ran over Memorial Bridge, which I have run in many other races including Cherry Blossom 10 miler earlier this month. I also run this bridge often in one of my regular 5 mile training loops. We ran Hains Point, which again I ran during the Cherry Blossom 10 miler. The only point of the race that I had never run before was when we ran in the 3rd street tunnel. This tunnel is a very long dark tunnel, a never-ending tunnel. Most of the girls, including E, thought this was the best part of the race. We ran through it in the beginning of the race, probably with in the first mile, and then again towards the end. The first time running through it, I hated every minute of it, and actually experienced a bit of anxiety. The reason for my anxiety was that in the beginning of the race it was so extremely crowded, I couldn’t run fast and I was behind slower runners, so we were all squished in there elbow to elbow. It was also extremely dark and loud. They had a band under there, made up of drummers, the noise was so loud I had to turn off my ipod. The sound echoed over and over again. On the way back though, the tunnel wasn’t as bad. I knew what it was going to be like, and at this point the crowd spaced out so I had more control on how fast I wanted to run. It also provided some shade which at that point was nice to get out of the sun for a minute or two.
Other than that the race was extremely flat, and since I love hills, there were times during the race I was wishing for more of a hilly course. Although, it was small I actually enjoyed the hill towards the end of the race. Hills mix things up and is good for runners, mentally and physically.
FINISH LINE and RACE SWAG
I could see the finish line in the distance, it seemed so close, but took forever to get there. But once I got there, I noticed they had put out a red carpet. Sweet move Nike!¬†
Then there were a bunch of hott guys, handing out our race swag – ¬†Tiffany & Co. necklaces, on a silver platter. The nice gentleman below was the one who handed me mine.
We also received these awesome finisher shirts. I love the wicking material and the Tiffany themed color.
The necklace was really stylish too. It says NWM Half 2013 on the back and it has a runner girl on the front. I think it would be fun to run the race several times just to collect the different necklaces.
In the end, I really enjoyed this race and thought it was an amazing experience. It also was really different to run an all women’s race. I had only run an all women’s race one other time before, which was my first half marathon, the Zooma Half, and I couldn’t really judge the vibe because it was my first 13.1. But the energy for this race was definitely positive and¬†enthusiastic.
E said, “The race was about women empowerment.” I couldn’t agree more. With out men there, it felt less competitive. There were also a lot of runners there that were not running competitively, but rather running for a cause, such as raising money for cancer. Team and Training was one of those groups. In the end, we all raised money for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. This being said, there were tons of runners running for people they knew who had cancer, and some were cancer survivors, themselves.
One of the best things about running a large popular race is all the spectators that come out to watch, cheer, and support the runners. This race’s spectators did not fall short. Along the course, there were Team and Training coaches looking for the runners they coached. There were also tons of cool signs, that were more than inspiring, some even made us laugh. There were bands and dancers, that had one two many red bulls. There were kids , who sat as you approached the finish line, I probably high-fived, five of them.
Picture found on NWM facebook page.
Spectators make such a difference for runners, during the race. And it was very comforting that people still came out, even after the tragedy that happened two weeks ago, during the Boston Marathon.
It was also very impressive how well organized the race was. ¬†This was their first time in the DC area, but everything was beyond my expectations. There were tons of amazing volunteer. There were tons of porta potties, with short lines. I never had to wait in line to check my bag, or pick it up. And again the swag for this race was the best I have ever had!!
When I first heard the Nike Women Half Marathon was coming to the DC area, I thought to myself – Perfect, now I wont have to run it in San Fran. But after running this race, now more than ever, I want to run it in San Fran. I love running hills, so it would be interesting to see if I could do a better time running the Nike Women race in San Fran. It would be fun to compare the two races, and getting another Tiffany’s necklace wouldn’t be a bad thing!
However, when it comes to running an all women’s race, I have to admit I’d rather run with men mixed in the group. It is always fun to pass them.
Well done NIKE!
Thanks for a great race!¬†
Pictures found on NWM facebook page.
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