Hey everyone! I’ve run a marathon and a half! Well, in total; a few weekends ago I ran in my third half-marathon, the inaugural Nike Women’s Half Marathon hosted in Washington, D.C., and it had a race personality all its own, very different from Charlottesville and Baltimore–but just as, albeit in different ways, rewarding.
To start off, I didn’t enter this race with a sprained ankle or an illness, which is already putting me miles ahead of my Baltimore handicaps. Starting off a race feeling healthy at minimum is something I’ve really come to realize the importance of. Training and cross-training and plans and mileage counters are all well and good, but I’m a firm believer that a lot of that stuff is mental. If I’m in decent shape (I’ve been going to soccer practice, not sitting on my couch, going for a few runs, that sort of thing) and I’m feeling healthy and uninjured I feel no need to be that anxious about my prospects in a race the distance of a half marathon. I’m also still a firm believer that the half marathon is the best distance, but that’s for another article. (TEAM PIKERMI! If you don’t know what that is I recommend looking it up, pretty cool).
In addition to general well-being and the functioning of all your limbs, it’s really nice to have a great plan and set-up for the weekend of the race–another thing I’ve really come to value. Race weekends are huge celebrations to me, times when friends and family come together and get to experience something really exhilarating together. For the second time, I had the pleasure, benefit, and blessing of having my parents with me for a race. After having them in Baltimore, I really knew just what it felt like to have the individual support team rooting for you on the sidelines–it’s the extra boost that makes you forget about the tape digging into your foot and the sensation of something dull and heavy and elephant-like pressing against your chest before the last .1 miles. Even if you don’t see your fans very much, you know they’re there–and thinking about stuff is pretty much what I do when I run. So it’s nice to have the reminder in close proximity of stuff that’s pretty important to think about. (I was lucky enough to see my parents FOUR times during the Nike race.) Also, I got to stay with relatives that I haven’t seen for a long time just outside of D.C., which was a surprise and a huge added bonus. We were hosted like kings with a delicious dinner ready for us at the doorstep and toured around D.C. the professional and personal way. After really getting settled, well fed, and comfortable with the city and the race course–I’ve never felt more prepared for a race, regardless of training. (Okay I did run a little bit beforehand, but the other stuff was way more awesome.)
Anyway, onto the actual race: Overall, the Nike Women’s Marathon series is one of the most organized ones I’ve ever witnessed. Registration for the race was a little pricey (a bit better for us lucky college students in the area), but once that was said and done the rest of the process was incredibly seamless and simple. Arriving in DC, we ogled the Nike Store in Georgetown where all the racers’ names were printed on the side, bought a few cool race souvenirs, and headed over the expo about a block away. We even managed to find parking in Georgetown–a stroke of luck that followed us all weekend.
The Expo was incredibly “cool” if I had to pick one word; it was hosted in several tents with music playing and eye-catching displays from the sponsors and companies involved with the race, including Team in Training, the team raising money for the race’s banner cause of Lymphoma, Luna Bars, NUUN, and a whole bunch of other booths. There were places to dance, take pictures, and potentially win a pair of Nike sneakers (I didn’t ): ). A giant wall offered us markers and a place to inscribe our own thoughts, sayings, and signatures. Many people wrote messages of hope after the Boston Marathon bombing tragedies, and created a poignant and powerful picture of runners everywhere. I personally chose to run with a green armband, something that a lot of other racers across the country began to do, in support of Boston. I saw myriad racers with t-shirts emblazoned with Boston tributes. The runners of the world really can unite together in this way, which is something I love about large scale races like this.
Like the Expo, the packet pick-up was super efficient and easy. All of our information was automated and online, and volunteers were able to pull up all of my information and have my bag packed with goodies, my bib, and a free bracelet in less than a minute. It was a little frustrating to not be able to pick up packets the day of or pick them up for another person, but with races of this magnitude, I guess it’s kind of necessary.
The morning of the race, I took the metro with some friends and we arrived before 7 A.M., ready to take to the streets at 8. It was easy enough to find the starting line, though opportunities to go to the bathroom and find your bag check-in station were limited and confusing. The congestion was immense, and not everyone fit into their time corrals (based on when you expected to finish the race). However, once everything got started, space opened up a little bit. It was the perfect day (about 65 degrees, sunny, clear), and I was beyond comfortable running for almost the whole race. I tried out some brand new Nike neon yellow compression socks, and I really liked how cool and loose they kept my muscles (and also how neon they were.) My friend found me once we ran into an underground tunnel where a band was playing loud drums and singing, and we ran together for the rest of the race–pushing each other to continue running at our full capacity. One of my favorite parts of the race was the entertainment and amenities. Different groups of dancers, musicians, and bands were displayed along the sidelines with thousands of thousands of fans with amusing signs and inspirational cheers. Okay, you know my favorite stop was definitely for the Shot Bloks. I LOVE them. Okay I adore them. Okay so it might have been difficult to actually chew a shot blok, or a Luna Bar, while I was running and really needed that air. But I did it anyway, because they tasted GREAT. Also, the Nuun available at the water stations tasted great and gave me an extra boost. Overall, there were more than enough water stations, food stations, entertainment stations, and volunteers to keep me extremely occupied the whole race. It was SO different from the Charlottesville race, where I was essentially on my own in the mountains the whole time. They’re both amazing races, but definitely very different. Nike is all about the energy and fan fair, while Charlottesville gave me a real taste of serene, thoughtful running.
(Me, coming over the bridge!)
At the end of the race, the 11th mile (which will forever be known as the evil mile/my nemesis), intersected with the finish–forcing us to watch people finishing the race while we still had over 2 miles to go. It was heart wrenching and a little cruel, but I did feel myself speeding up knowing that such a small portion of the race remained. On the last straightway, about a mile long, I really felt myself amping up the pace. I had tunnel vision–all I wanted was to be under those giant green arches. Luckily, a runner on my side directed me to see my parents cheering for me–a final push into the last half mile! At the very end, I jumped over the finish line- elated to be finishing my third set of 13.1. The finishers’ prizes were especially alluring, for people who love races for the swag (and by those people I most definitely mean me). ROTC and military personnel along with a few Olympians dressed in suits handed us little blue boxes where our coveted Tiffany’s necklaces engraved with the race logo and year were found. Each of us were given Tiffany’s gift bags, to make us seem all the more luxurious, while we loaded them with every runner’s delights: bananas, bagels, power bars, fruit cups, and more. We each received a finisher’s t-shirt, and then were welcome to go to the stretching pavilion or the finisher’s store. Afterwards, I searched for my friends and family and we all celebrated together with a lunch in DC.
(My Half Marathon team! (: )
Overall, Nike Women’s series really does a good job of putting on a race. It has great amenities, organization, volunteers, and safety. It takes care of its runners’ and its spectators, and I’d love to run with them again.
Any questions about the race, half marathons? Do you secretly want to run with me?! Shoot me a comment (: