The Nike Women’s Half Marathon was not my A-race for the fall season (that distinction is held by the North Face Endurance Challenge 50K in December), but I was oddly excited to run this hilly and familiar course. As Jesse biked with the race winner, Victoria Mitchell, to the finish line with 6-minute miles, Jamie and I kept a steady, comfortable pace on the hilly course, took bathroom and water breaks when necessary, and enjoyed the (girl power) sights and sounds. This race marks my slowest road half to date, 2:12, but we achieved our goal of getting our money’s worth during this race experience.
One of the best aspects of this race for me was the easy logistics. Jesse, being the lead cyclist, needed to drive down to the start line at Union Square to transport his bike. We found a parking garage easily and ended up paying $14 for it, when we expected to be fully gouged due to the race. With the race ending at Marina Green, Jesse and I walked less than a mile back to our apartment. After showering, we walked to Squat and Gobble to meet up with Leslie and Jamie and observed a really long line for the shuttles back to the start line, so I’m not sure how effective the post-race transport proved to be. I also love how the race started at 6:30 am; finishing before 9am left the rest of the day to do whatever we want (mainly brunch, beers at Woods Polk Station, and watching the Good Wife).
Miles 1 – 3.5: The first 3.5 miles took runners through the uglier parts of San Francisco, the Tenderloin and the Western Addition, and weaved up the Hayes hill towards NOPA and Golden Gate Park. I anticipated that we’d need to do a lot of weaving due to the 30,000 participants, but I think the corrals helped segregate runners from walkers. We made a (much needed) bathroom break right before the 5K mark and settled into a comfortable, conversational pace.
Miles 3.5 – 8: We began looping around Golden Gate Park. After this race, I’ve realized I don’t have a burning desire to register for more races that loop around GGP. Apart from the PR-friendly Kaiser Permanente Half in February, I may not register for another GGP-heavy race. The park is beautiful but the same familiar roads (JFK and MLK) become a bit monotonous. Jamie and I began walking through most of the (plentiful) water and Nuun stations; I became a bit worried that I was misled to believe fuel in the form of shot blocks or gu would be provided.
Miles 8 – 9: We (finally) exited the park and started running on the rolling hills in the avenues leading to the massive hill up Lincoln Boulevard. I knew the big hill was coming soon and started bracing for that schlep.
Miles 9 – 11: We stopped at the mile 9.5 aid station for a bathroom break and the volunteers also provided Clif blocks! I gobbled down about 100 calories and instantly felt a surge of energy. We ran up Lincoln until it became too steep and began using a similar method I use for trail running: run to a landmark, walk to a landmark, and repeat.
Miles 11-13.1: This was a familiar running route for me: the top of the Presidio to Marina Green. Jamie and I tried to pick up the pace a bit and finish the race strong.
Once in the finishing chute, we grabbed a goodie bag of snacks, chocolate milk, and our Tiffany’s necklaces. Much to our disappointment, the necklaces were handed our by high schoolers instead of firefighters in suits. I’m excited that the necklace is something I’d actually wear – an inoffensive, tribal-looking pendant with the Transamerica Pyramid and Golden Gate Bridge.
Here are our splits:
Despite this leisurely pace, I managed to finish in the top 20% of my age group, lending to the fact that many participants walk or mostly walk this race. The foggy conditions were perfect for running, and my nine hours of sleep from Friday night helped me feel energetic and rested. I will likely never run this race again, but I’m very happy I chose to pay the steep registration fee and experience one of San Francisco’s biggest races.