The Marathon of half marathons - PT. 3: Nike women's half marathon Review

Photo credits: Nike; Nike Women's Half Marathon

Photo credits: Nike; Nike Women's Half Marathon

Have you checked out Part 1 and Part 2 of the series yet! Make sure you do before you read this one!

OMG this race! What an incredible experience! I can't wait to tell you about my experience! This story requires a little bit of backstory, so I'm going to start by telling you that! But, if you're just looking for a review of the race or some pictures of the Firemen at the Finish line or the Tiffany's Finishers Medal/Necklace scroll down more toward the bottom! :-)

Taking the Plunge...

Last spring, my friend Anna asked me if I'd be interested in doing the Nike Women's Half Marathon with her. To say that I was resistant (and freaking out!) would be an understatement. I was intrigued - don't get me wrong! Spur of the moment trip to San Francisco in the middle of the semester?! Ummm yes please!

But I caught myself freaking out about finances, oh, and let's not forget the fact that I would have signed up for my second half marathon in two months having never run one before!

And then one of my absolute closest friends, Cullen, told me something that I'll never forget...

You can always make more money. But opportunities don't always come again. 
Seriously - who am I?? No half marathons ever to 2 halfs and a tough mudder all in one year?

Seriously - who am I?? No half marathons ever to 2 halfs and a tough mudder all in one year?

He was right. I've never wanted to be the person who worried about money. Who decided when and if to do things because of finances. Yes, I think you should be aware of careful with your money, but I also don't think that we shouldn't live our lives and do the things we want because we're afraid of our savings dipping below a certain point.

I've never been one who likes the idea that I'm supposed to work through the best years of my life so that I can enjoy retirement. Why should I have to wait until I'm 60 to enjoy my life?

So I pretty much found myself saying "screw it!" and before I knew it I had paid the heftiest registration fee I had ever paid and was game planning my mid-semester trip to San Francisco! Pumped doesn't even begin to explain it.

This race is typically a HIGHLY competitive race to get into. They do a lottery drawing about 5 months before the race for all those that register to determine if you'll get in. However, Anna and I are students. So, we automatically get into the race if we register!

As the time for the race grew nearer, I was starting to get a little antsy and a little nervous. I mean, I was coming off of a hip injury from my training runs, and a tweaked knee from doing the Tough Mudder. Plus, at this point I had been doing distance running training for about 5 months...and needless to say I was a little sick of running! 

I was sick of two-a-days.

I was sick of the time-commitment.

I was over the nagging injuries.

I was a little stressed about the financial commitment of this trip to San Fran.

But, by the time my trip actually came around...I was STOKED! I met up with my girl Anna, and the shenanigans began! We picked up our packets and bibs, and started our San Fran adventure.

Clockwise from top left: Union Square before the Saturday Shake Out run; Anna and I at Fisherman's wharf; More Fisherman's wharf; Wall of names at the Nike store; Claw chowder bread bowl and seafood at Fisherman's wharf; Cable car riding with Anna; the Nike SF WE RUN sign lit up in Union Square

Clockwise from top left: Union Square before the Saturday Shake Out run; Anna and I at Fisherman's wharf; More Fisherman's wharf; Wall of names at the Nike store; Claw chowder bread bowl and seafood at Fisherman's wharf; Cable car riding with Anna; the Nike SF WE RUN sign lit up in Union Square

Wall of names at the Nike Store - how cool is this?!

Wall of names at the Nike Store - how cool is this?!

Saturday: Pre-Race Shenanigans

After settling in and getting our packets on Friday, Saturday was the day for some fun! We went on a training run in the AM, but ultimately decided to skip out on all the Nike-based activities and do some San Fran exploring! We wanted to get away from the centralized Nike events at Union square- which were absolutely insane - and actually explore SF a little bit. So, we took a cable car down to Fisherman's wharf - the iconic water front of San Francisco. We got some seafood, and checked out some shops. There were an abundance of incredible live performers, a fun little museum, etc. We puttered around, and then eventually headed back to Union Station to check out the Nike store and maybe score/buy some Nike Women's half swag. Probably my favorite thing that they did on behalf of the Nike Half Marathon was that they engraved the names of all 25,000 participants into the windows of the Nike store at Union Square! It was such an incredible thing and so special!

One of my favorite things that Nike had at the event, were the abundance of athletic trainers that were around. They had foam rolling stations and trainers to teach you how to foam roller, as well as PT and pre-PT students who were providing free taping and K-taping tutorials courtesy of, I believe, MuscleAidTape. That was amazing! I had a nagging knee and hip injury from training, and the people at the taping station not only taped up my knee, but they gave me tons of extra tape so that I could tape myself up before the race. This taping would become invaluable on race day...

From left: Ann & I at the starting line; (Right, from top) TONS of people at Union Square for the start of the race; and the awesome PINK starting line!

From left: Ann & I at the starting line; (Right, from top) TONS of people at Union Square for the start of the race; and the awesome PINK starting line!

Sunday: Race Day

Photo credit: Nike; Nike Women's Half Marathon

Photo credit: Nike; Nike Women's Half Marathon

Bright and early Sunday morning, we were up and ready to go run! If I recall correctly, the first wave left at 6:30am. We were in one of the later waves, so we hung around and enjoyed the starting line. There was music blaring and so many people - it was insane to think that we'd be running through the streets of SF with this many people! I mean, I don't think any of my pictures can do it justice! But you can DEFINITELY see how insane it was in this overhead shot that was one of the official pics from Nike!

We approached the starting line, and before we knew it the gun sounded and we were off! Since Anna and I were both battling injuries, neither of us had the intention of running to PR, so we planned on running it together and just enjoying ourselves. Well, that didn't last long - Anna is kind of long legged and she just flat out runs faster than me! So we split up not quite 2 miles in and ran at our own speeds.

Click to Zoom to see some of the details of the 2015 Nike Women's Half course!

When I originally planned on running this race, one of my immediate concerns was for the hilliness of the course. I mean SF in-and-of-itself is known to be a quite hilly place. But there were some BEASTLY hills on this course, so I was definitely a little concerned about my ability to handle those hills. But, I was actually pleasantly surprised by this course! Yes, it was hilly, but it was such a beautiful course, that I personally didn't find the hills insurmountable. There were actually stretches where we were running through Golden Gate park that actually felt incredibly easy and downhill. Btw - Golden Gate park is BEAUTIFUL!

There were big screens, photographers, people with signs, bands and cheerleaders from nearby schools dotted throughout the course! It was definitely just plain fun and very motivating to run!

I've also mentioned that I had injuries during this race. Prior to the race, I wasn't able to run more than 3-4 mile consecutive miles without my hip acting up. I used the Muscle Aid Tape I'd mentioned above for the race today, and I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I didn't have any hip issues until mile 8-9. So, though the Muscle Aid Tape didn't make my injury go away, it didn't certainly help alleviate the pain for the majority of the race!

From left: In Golden Gate park, there was this awesome little waterfall; GREAT views of the Golden Gate bridge at the top of the gargantuan mile 11 hill, and at the bottom of the hill (center, top); Picturesque San Fran streets; incredibly motivating signs throughout the course

From left: In Golden Gate park, there was this awesome little waterfall; GREAT views of the Golden Gate bridge at the top of the gargantuan mile 11 hill, and at the bottom of the hill (center, top); Picturesque San Fran streets; incredibly motivating signs throughout the course

I remember vividly getting to the BIG hill in this race. As you can see in the map a couple images above, at mile 11 above, there is a HUGE hill. Not only is it long (about 1 mile), but it's steep, at about 200-250 feet over the course of the hill. It was a beast. I wanted to run the whole thing, but I got about 2/3 of the way up it and didn't know if I could! So, I stopped running...but, not for long. Up ahead of me, there was a man holding a sign. I don't even remember exactly what it said, but it said something along the lines of:

You define who you are and who you will be with your actions right now.

"Well shit..." was probably the first thing that went through my mind!

Who I was at the moment was a person who had quit. Who had stopped. Who had given up when they probably had more in the tank. And so I took a deep breath, and started running again. I had only stopped running for about 30 seconds, but I made sure to tell that man as I went by that his sign made me keep running.

Crossing the finish line - and it felt so good!

Crossing the finish line - and it felt so good!

At the top of the infamous hill, fortunately, there was an incredible view of the Golden Gate bridge. And suddenly it was all worth it...

It was all downhill from there. Literally, all downhill! And I found myself powering through mile 12 in a way that I had NEVER run before. I was weaving in and out of people, I was in my element, and even though my legs burned and breathing was at times a struggle I was determined to hustle through the end. And after the LONGEST home stretch I have ever experienced...I crossed the finish line! AND - PR'D!

WHAT?!?!? Yup - even through injuries...I ran the fast half of my life so far! 2 hours, 21 minutes, and 16 seconds...a solid 5 minutes faster than my first half in August!

Now, came the fun festivities at the finish line! The Nike Women's half is infamous for two things - Firemen and Tiffany's! After getting your goodie bag, your thermal blanket, and your Tiffany's box, it was time to get in line to take pictures with the firemen! We had so much fun taking our pictures, made some new friends in line, and even had a firemen swing by while we were waiting in line to take pictures with us! It was an absolute blast!

From left: Anna & I getting proposed to ;-); The Tiffany's box and finisher's necklace; 3 firemen and 1 Ellyn! :-D

Overall Review

Overall, I really enjoyed my trip - but I would say that overall I was a little disappointed by the event itself. The course was great, and I love the Tiffany's necklace, but there were many things that I was disappointed by in terms of the event that Nike put on.

  • There was no expo - which really surprised me. They had like this silly scavenger hunt thing that you could do, but it involved a lot of running around to various stores and the only thing you got out of it was a collection of SINGLE earrings. Not pairs of earrings. They were SINGLE earrings. And I thought that was just silly. For such a huge half marathon, I expected an expo. And I was really disappointed that I didn't get one.
  • You had to wait in HUGE lines for everything - I don't think that there's anything Nike can really DO about this, but I was very deterred from participating in many things at Union Square because there were just too many lines. There were lines for the shake out run, lines for the packet pick up, huge lines in all the stores, lines to get your finisher's medal, lines for the firefighters, HUGE lines to buy any of the Finisher gear at the end of the race...I'm not a big crowds kind of person so this got taxing for me by the end of the weekend
  • Security was rude - There was one instance where I very quickly wanted to snap a picture of a Nike Women's Half Logo and I basically got yelled at by a security guard, just for standing for 2 seconds to snap the picture. Talk about rude.
  • $$$$$$ - Your registration fee covers shakeout run on saturday, the race, your finisher's necklace, your goodie bag at the end of the race, etc. Everything else Nike you want to buy - like my Tiffany blue finisher long-sleeve, is extra cost. And not cheap. So though I don't regret the things I bought, it definitely adds up over the course of the weekend!

The infamous little Tiffany's box and finisher's necklace!

That being said - I LOVED my swag! I love the Tiffany's necklace. I love my participant tank top that you got just for doing the race. I LOVE both my Nike running pullover and Tiffany's blue finisher's long-sleeve - both of which I shelled out for. 

Overall, the experience was great! I had a wonderful time and I'm very happy I did it! But, I wouldn't do it a second time. For the cost, I think I would have more fun doing multiple races in my area rather than making the trip to San Fran a part of my year. But, if you're a runner and you want to treat yourself to something with some different and awesome swag and a lot of pageantry, then I definitely think you should give it a try!

Where we stayed: Green Tortoise Hostel - San Francisco - I had to point this out because I had NEVER stayed in a Hostel before. I was a little nervous about it, but I actually thoroughly enjoyed it! It cost about $150 for 2 nights, but we had a private room, the facilities were clean, and we got free breakfast and dinner - and it was GOOD food! If you were there for longer even, this would be a great place to stay. They even have organized social activities which was very cool! I really enjoyed staying here and would definitely recommend it.

Clockwise from top left: Anna & I at Fisherman's wharf; The Nike Women's sign in the Nike store; a fun little monkey bench that we posed on; Anna & I in front of the course map before our Saturday morning shake out run; our Tiffany's & Co. finisher's necklace. I'll probably never get a Tiffany's box again, so hell ya I was lovin' it!

Clockwise from top left: Anna & I at Fisherman's wharf; The Nike Women's sign in the Nike store; a fun little monkey bench that we posed on; Anna & I in front of the course map before our Saturday morning shake out run; our Tiffany's & Co. finisher's necklace. I'll probably never get a Tiffany's box again, so hell ya I was lovin' it!

End of an era?

This year and this series - the Marathon of Half Marathons - was the culmination of a lot of firsts for me.

  • My first time doing something that was so physically demanding
  • My first time working through injuries instead of using them as an excuse
  • My first time spending $120 on shoes - ohhhhh running shoes!
  • My first half marathon ever
  • My first Tough Mudder and first obstacle race 
  • My first BIG race in the Nike Half
  • My first running PR in years!
  • My first time writing about and sharing these experiences - including writing about Runner's trot and all (see "Part 1" of this series for more info...)

Was this my last time running a half marathon? I don't know! But I doubt it...

Do I have plans to run a marathon next? Probably not. Half marathon training was enough abuse on my body. I'm excited for the next challenge though...so we shall see!

Any questions? Comments? Wanna see/hear more about my experience or my Nike swag? Comment below! :-)