Monday, October 17, 2011

Race Recap: Nike Women's Half Marathon

I'm not completely happy to say that my 10th half marathon was one filled with so many ups and so many downs (I am not talking about the San Francisco hills here) -- but at the end of the day, I'd call the Nike Women's Half Marathon fun.

I initially wrote a long post that screamed of complete negativity and I didn't like how it turned out. I don't want to diss a race that's important to so many people for so many reasons, so instead I will just breeze over the bad instead of focusing on it. Condensing the negative points into bullets will prevent me from going off on some unnecessary diatribe right?

1.) The "Expotique": A 3-day event in Union Square where Nike doesn't let any other company sell anything to ensure they dominate the entire sport's market for a few days. Going to the "expo" was more like going into a nightclub, but outside and in the middle of the day. Huge crowds, blaring music, and inconsiderate and pushy participants gave me a headache and the angries within minutes.

ZOMG my name is a square inch on the temporary wall art! I'm famous! Let me through!

2.) The participants: 25,000 people is a lot of people. A LOT of people. When the majority of them are walking/randomly stopping/switching lanes without signaling/being inconsiderate/never having been a part of a race before and therefore not following any sort of etiquette, it makes me want to kick some necks. I felt that sensation a lot while in the bag check and during the 13.45 miles I ultimately ran on Sunday morning.


3.) The bag check. In theory, the way they set up a bag check with school buses was a great idea. However, it was so inconveniently located and congested with people that we couldn't even push our way through. My claustrophobic tendencies made me want to panic a bit, simply because I was afraid of being trampled to death by a bunch of perfumey girls.

Efffff part 2.

4.) This course. This was definitely not an easy course! I venture to say that this was harder than the San Francisco Marathon in terms of the hills (three different stretches of mile+ uphills?), and yet it seemed to be marketed to beginners...

NWM 2011 course profile.

5.) The immature high-school volunteers. Let's just say that some physical volunteer-to-participant contact was unnecessarily made, some 4-letter words were exchanged, security was about to be called on us, and we left the post-race expo angry, ready to kick some more necks, and drink the last few hours away.

NOW, onto all the good!

1.) Rad Runner Girl! Early Friday morning, my best running friend Rad flew into town and we had grand plans for the most epic weekend ever; a weekend that just so happened to include a race with 24,198 other psychos. We started off by heading to the Expotique where we met up with Courtney, found our names on the Niketown wall, satiated Rad's photobooth junkieness, and then busted the hell out of there in leiu of ramen.

(Okay, okay, so we pushed our way through to find our names on the wall, too.
Guilty as charged.)



Thanks, Pom, for letting us waste too much time in the photobooth with a long line behind us.

2.) Audrey Hepburn outfits! Originally we were planning on wearing good-ole Tiffany Blue for the race, but nixed the idea in the last few weeks because we were actually too lazy to shop for the outfit figured other people were going to be wearing that. Instead, we decided to dress like Audrey Hepburn a la Breakfast at Tiffany's. While I'm not sure many people appreciated or even understood the costume, we did get a lot of hoots and hollers for the pearls. :)

Courtney, me, & Rad, channeling Audrey.

Sheer brilliance.

Ready to rawk.

Work it!

3.) Friends! Courtney and I told Rad we were going to do our best to get her across the finish line in under 2 hours so she could set a new PR, but the fact is there was no way it was going to happen with all the people or the hills we were running. Instead we just went with the slow & painful march, enjoyed one another's company, dodged whoever and whatever we could whenever we could, and successfully stayed together the entire time. (This was a huge feat, honestly.) I am used to running races alone, so running with two awesome running friends was seriously, seriously amazing. So fun.

BRFs actually getting to run together!

There was a big TV screen with runners going by featured on it. Do the people on screen look familiar?
How about now? I see a Courtney Audrey & a Rad Audrey!
Best cheerleaders ever: Page, Jess, and Katie! (Sorry I cut you off, Dennis. Makes up for you forgetting to give me a Twitter shout-out???) Hey, XLMIC, where were ya??

4.) The scenery! While running the hills on this particular course was a royal pain in the ass, I never get sick of these views.

Sun rising behind the Bay Bridge. It looked much better with purple sunglasses on.

Running toward the Golden Gate Bridge.
Running down Lincoln Blvd, looking onto the Avenues.

Passing the Cliff House on the way to Ocean Beach.

5.) The finisher's medal, provided by Tiffany & Co. Ahhhh. This was perhaps the most redeeming factor of the race and/or the only reason we ran it.

Tiffany & Co. necklaces are passed out by firefighters in tuxedos.
Totally ridiculous. Totally fun.

This is probably my first real piece of jewelry because, if you haven't surmised, the pearls I ran with around my neck were actually plastic.


I am still trying to look at this race from an objective point of view. While it was a Nike event, there were clear problems with the organization and the execution of this race. It was not a runner's race -- instead, it was a race geared toward the amazing Team in Training participants & supporters, many of whom were doing a race for the first time and had no qualms about stopping at a dead standstill in the middle of the road or having any regard for a finishing time. Their efforts should in no way be overlooked, and it's important to note that they raised a sick amount of money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. This is far more important than any time on the finisher's clock, but it was frustrating for the runners to not get to run their own race safely.

That being said, I had a great time running with my friends, and I wouldn't change that experience for the world. After seeing how this race went down, I wouldn't want to do it any other way either; and if the opportunity ever comes up again, I'd want to run it casually in this same fashion. It's the kind of event that brings everyone of every ability together; it's an activity that should be absorbed and enjoyed.

So there we have it... the fastest slow (and my longest) half marathon I've ever run. Being around my friends in such a crowded and energetic atmosphere made the miles FLY by, even though we were doing anything but flying. Every time a mile clicked by, I think I told Rad & Courtney that I really didn't want it to be done.

And yet, at the exact same time, I just couldn't wait to be far, far, FAR away from the Nike Women's Marathon.


  1. Great post Alyssa. Everything you said is so true. It's really easy to look at NWM and think about just the crappy things (Crowds! Nike raping participants for money! Disorganization! Chaos! Stupid people!) or just the good ones (OMG YAY FUNDRAISING FOR GREAT CAUSES!!!111) but of course it is a mix of both. I had a great time with you guys, thanks for making my experience awesome (or as awesome as it could have been considering we were probably almost trampling people to death trying to attempt our - gasp - ten minute miles!)

  2. Lollllllll. Yeah. Exactly. :)

  3. You nailed it. OMG the start was suffocating and there were so many people on the half course that I was scarcely more than 3 feet away from anyone the entire time. Great swag for sure.

  4. "physical volunteer-to-participant contact was unnecessarily made"???? OK, I heard a little bit about this but clearly am missing the whole story but that's OK. Like you said, best to focus on the positive! You guys did the race right :D

    And I love those Pom pics :) If I had gone with a friend, I would have waited in that long line, too!

  5. +1 to everything. That's really all I have left to say at this point. Except that I'm super-glad you got a picture of your suited fireman with the necklaces, cause he's kinda cute. I was telling one of my friends about this race, and she was like, "Wow, it sounds like you were racing in a Cathy cartoon!"

  6. Totally picking up what you're putting down. ;) I'm pretty sure I'll never be within 5 miles of this race for many of the reasons you enumerated here, but I'm glad you made a good time out of it & had fun!

    (Have to admit, kind of curious about the participant / volunteer / security situation, though...)

  7. Mixed bag, no doubt. But there were plenty of high points to make it all worthwhile. Love the Audrey Hepburn outfits!

  8. Perfumely girls? That makes me not want to run NWM! I've always heard super mixed reviews about the marathon...specifically, DON'T run the marathon, only run the half. And don't race it because it's a bit TnT mess. Which you obviously experienced. But it seems like you made the most of it and ran it as a fun run (LOVE the outfits!). And Tiffany's handed out by firemen could be far, far worse. Congrats on the half and getting the heck out of there!

  9. The NWM was my first marathon and I was very hot/cold on it as well. I ran it in 2008 and I still LOVE my medal (I happen to be wearing it today!) and nothing will make me forget the feeling of running towards those hunky dudes. The Expotique was fun, but crowded.

    And yes. Holy people stopping and blocking my path. Until the half marathon & full split, and then there was nothing more than crickets to support us on the back half of the course. I'm glad I did it, but I can't say that I'd do it again!

  10. Thanks for the honest review! I wanted to do this race and have to admit that doing it to say I've done it is still a little tempting considering the lotto entry etc. But I think I would definitely have to make a fun week vacation out of it or something so that I wasn't too disappointed by the race itself. I don't know that I could deal too well with all the pissy women though :)

    Glad you at least got to be with friends and enjoy yourself in that regard!

  11. I think you enjoyed it in a perfect way. From everything I've ever read about this race, hanging with friends and soaking up the experience is the ONLY way to not be completely pissed off by the end. GLAD you had a great time :)

  12. This race has long been on my bucket list but after your report, I'm not so sure. That chaos would drive me nuts. I think I'd need to do it as a total fun run. Looks like a really fun weekend with friends though!

  13. I have tried to get into this race for a couple of years now. It is good to know that I should only run it if I am there with my girlfriends for a girls' outing.

    I enjoyed this race report. I could totally feel your annoyance, but also the fun.

  14. UGGGHHH....this sounds like a nightmare. I'm sorry, friend, but I'm glad that you were running it with some buds so you could have a good time. And love the pearls!

  15. love love love the outfits! What an awesome idea!

  16. I have such mixed feelings about this race. It was my first marathon, so it will always be kind of special because of that, but the crowds and bad organization drive me NUTS. Your outfits were awesome!

  17. I've been a bit scared of NWM for all the reasons you mention (mostly the crowds) and the more I run the more I realize I just love the smaller races. My running group and I tried to get in but didn't and picked Healdsburg to run in its place and now that I did that I'm not sure I ever want to do NWM. I'm sure that I'll do it at some point, but the appeal isn't there for me (I let myself get way too upset by the crowds!). Good on you for having the absolute correct attitude and having fun with it anyway. And loved the Hepburn outfits.

  18. Congrats on Nike! You three looked so cute.

    I just spoke to a coworker who did the full with TNT, and she was disappointed because of the crowds and lack of organization. Another girlfriend of mine did the half with TNT, and she was also bummed, for the same reasons. They had both done Nike before and said Sunday was a mess compared with previous years.

    Even though I've heard a lot of complaints about this race, I'd like to do it at some point. If Nike puts a tighter cap on the number of participants, I can see this event being 10X more organized and fun!

    And I would also like to know what happened with security and the volunteers at the expo. I bet your story is badass. :)

  19. Ah, you are all so cute!! And is that Chachi?! It has been a few years since I ran this thing but I do remember the horrid crowds and the terrible corral system. I wouldn't say I'd NEVER do it again just because the necklace is pretty cool :)

  20. omg. This post is epic. I cant wait to be really old, with some scrap book or something sitting next to you, while we point and laugh at your post and mine, for as insanley silly as this race, it formed some amazing memories, and our hardcore, no shit taking pretty selves, are that much stronger. XOOXOXOXOXO

  21. p.s. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the costumes!!

  22. You look super cute and happy in all of those photos so I'm going to pretend like you had the most amazing time EVER!

  23. Good summary. Nike Womens was my second-ever half marathon, and it was a PR at the time because my first one involved incredible heat (and no expo). I'm glad I ran it then, before I experienced a properly coordinated race. Unless I get a free entry, I have no plans to ever run it again. Team in Training people really need to coach participants about race etiquette.

    Anyway, you guys were so cute with your outfits and matching fingernails! Yay for the Tiffany necklace! And congratulations on surviving...

  24. I love the Audrey Hepburn costumes! So fun. I reallybenjoyed reading this and as annoying as some of it was, it seems like the good stuff made up for it leaps and bounds. You've got some great memories with awesome friends that will last forever! Some day I want to do this race with my sister!

  25. 1.) I love your outfits!! You all look so cute! (I want your running skirt!!)

    2.) I love this post, and I especially love the WAY you wrote it. It was super interesting to hear about the race from your perspective. I've always heard it touted as a great run because it's all woman and you get a Tiffany's necklace, blah, blah, blah. It's nice to hear the real stuff, and the frustrations that you had with it. I think I'd want to do this race someday for the experience, but it's good to know that this is one that should be done just for fun, without any stress on time (between the crowds and the people, how do runners even race that course??)

    3.) I'm glad that despite everything, you still had fun. Regardless of how you were feeling that day, you've put a positive spin on things now and it looks like you had some great running buddies to keep you company along the way. So congratulations :)

  26. I ran the half-marathon this past weekend, and had a similar reaction to you. I went into the race thinking I'd use it as a workout/test for my upcoming marathon, and I ran my personal worst! I was not prepared for the disorganization and chaos. I spent about 20 minutes near the bag check buses squished like a sardine, as the sticker process was extremely unorganized. By the time I made it out, I couldn't even find the starting line and got back with the walking group. Luckily, it only took me about 4-5 minutes to cross the starting friend didn't get across until over 20 minutes later! I spent the first few miles fuming, running on sidewalks, and very, very negative. I really had to shake myself out of the funk and get in a positive mindset. While the race was scenic and fun once I got into it, I don't think I'd register for it again! The necklace is nice, and all, but....yikes!

  27. First of all - y'all never cease to be motivating. I have been following the blog now for a few months and I am always inspired by your commitment to running and the bond y'all have. So great! Thank you!

    I love your outfits! The Audrey Hepburn idea was fantastic! :) I'll be posing this idea to my running pal for our upcoming Halloween 5K ;)

  28. I LOVED your outfits! So cute! I want to come run it with you guys!

  29. Great to see you racing instead of spectating! Agree, though, that is waaaaay too many people to have to run with/over/around.... Glad you had good friends there to make in enjoyable!

  30. i struggled with how to write a race report for nike too - very well-written my friend! i'm glad we got to experience it in the same year. i'm sure it'll make us stronger for our next race!

    i always wonder how people pull off costumes during races but you ladies did it right - it was darling!

  31. I was there!!!! I promise! You all looked awesome! I wish I had seen you running.

  32. what a fantastic event--as long as you know going into not to try to PR and enjoy the camaraderie!

    Fabulous pics!!!

  33. Well I think now that we have the experience of NWM it's time to take a couple years off to forget ;) hah. So fun seeing you that day though, it's never a bad day when a race has so many awesome friends <3