Well, I made it to the 2012 Nike Women’s Half-Marathon!! I was pretty excited to be here – my 2nd Nike half-marathon, and this time I didn’t run alone! I had two friends in the race, plus Jeb was there to cheer me on. When I signed up, I fully expected to build on my experience from last year and get a PR, but injuries got in the way. My training was significantly limited, so I decided to relax and enjoy the experience!
Jeb and I spent a couple days in Napa before heading to San Francisco for the race, so we only popped into the Expotique for a few minutes – long enough for me to grab my packet and catch a quick glimpse of Alyson Felix during her presentation! The Expotique looked to be about as fun and impressive as last year, but it was VERY crowded. It just didn’t seem worth it to wait in all those lines for some samples. Also, I wasn’t crazy about the set-up this year. There was less open space, so it was harder to move through the crowds. Niketown had some great gear this year – seemed like more options than last year, and the crowd was well-managed.
The start was more organized this year. The corrals were blocked off, and runners had to show their corral bracelet to enter. This eliminated some of the bobbing and weaving for many of the runners trying to get around groups of walkers. Set up this way, it did take much longer for me to reach the starting line (even though I ended up in a faster corral than last year). It took about 30 minutes, but the time flew by! People were so happy and excited- the atmosphere was outstanding (and what keeps me coming back to Nike events). I particularly liked the guys dressed in Tiffany box costumes! They totally embraced the idea of a women’s event, though, and were super-fun to see on course. There were others in costumes too (lots of tutus!), but these guys were my favorite. Also, there were water and Nuun stations throughout the starting area, and plenty of clean outhouses.
The course is gorgeous, and there is so much to see! I enjoyed the political sign (since the race was only a couple weeks before the election), and saw a hawk sitting on a concrete fence by the water! It was really foggy that day, so we could barely see the Golden Gate Bridge or Alcatraz.
There was tons of on-course entertainment – marching bands, a gospel choir, and cheerleaders. There was also some of the same types of motivational signs as last year. Nike also surprised runners with a “Bra Exchange” at the top of the biggest hill on the course (in mile 6). When I got there, they didn’t have any left in my size. People complained about the (lack of) stock, but I still think it was kind of a cool perk, even if I couldn’t take advantage personally.
This is a good course for a first half-marathon, in my opinion, because it is fun and exciting, and it is easy to break up the race into chunks. The first 5 miles are fairly easy and straightforward. There are some hills, but it’s not too bad. Miles 6-9 are physically rough – very hilly (with STEEP hills), and very little relief. Mile 8 is the worst, I think, because it is through a neighborhood with houses, stores, etc. so there isn’t much to look at. I did notice some women coming out of Walgreens with a snack, though, so I guess that stretch has its perks. One of the sponsors does hand out oranges during this section, though, which is a huge pick-me-up! After getting through mile 9, the rest of the course isn’t so bad (physically – mostly flat, with rolling hills), but it is mentally GRUELING! Both times that I ran this race, I though I would never get through mile 11! It felt like forever.
The finisher’s village was awesome! I particularly enjoyed the stretching tent on the beach – it was heated, and had plenty of yoga mats and foam rollers for people to cool down (plus, plenty of staff to keep everything clean). I had a big old bottle of chocolate milk, and brought my niece into the Pacific for the first time (this kid loves the beach -just like her auntie!).
Once again, Nike put on a great event. It isn’t perfect, but the people who have the most complaints tend to be runners who are looking for a small-town feel. This race has a lot of excitement, though, and is a great experience. Having my name on the wall at Niketown, and going home with a Tiffany finisher’s necklace are pretty sweet too!