Friday, May 03, 2013

Nike Women Half Marathon

On Sunday April 27, 2013, I participated in the inaugural Nike Women Half Marathon in Washington DC along with 15,000+ other runners (mostly women), including my partner-in-crime for the day Alison. This was my first half marathon.

The course meandered around the big sights of downtown Washington DC - National Mall, Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, National Archives, the Capitol, and so much more. A lovely, lovely course. 

Alison and I at the "We Run" sign at the Nike Expotique. It was amazingly perfectly proportioned to be able to use it as a cover photo. Which I did. Have to give Nike credit for knowing their audience and catering to discerning women with disposable income who like to shop.

After dinner near Dupont Circle the evening before the race, we were able to stick around to see President Obama's motorcade on the way to the White House Correspondent's dinner. Streets were blocked off and the helicopter started circling about 30 minutes before. About 10 minutes before, police cars startied zipping up and down the empty streets. Then came the motorcycle cops - 7 or 8 of them. Followed by several police cars, two black limos (above - one of which carried the President), two large black SUVs (also above), more police cars, an ambulance, more police cars, and more motorcycle cops. The DC locals seemed to not even notice. I was quite impressed, and can't imagine living in a way that requires that kind of environment.

On the wall outside Nike Georgetown, there was a mural that said "We Run DC" created out of all the names of the registered runners. It was quite something. And right down the street was Baked & Wired, where Wayland introduced me to the most amazing Coconut Cupcake ever!

 Look! There's my name!

Waking up at 5am on race day was rather difficult, especially since I'd had to wake up at 5:30am the day before to get to the airport. But I managed to find my way out of my cousin's apartment in the dark and actually find my way back to the Metro station. Unfortunately, I'd forgotten to bring any of my breakfast that morning, but there was a 7-11 open so I was able to grab a banana, a Clif bar, and some water. I was proud to wear my Boston bib on the back of my shirt.

 Alison and I in the corral and not really awake yet. 

Way in the back of thousands upon thousands of runners. Next time, I think I'd put myself in one pace corral faster. It would be a more appropriate reflection of my pace, and the field was so crowded that weaving around the people walking at the beginning was rather difficult. One of the very few things I think Nike could improve on next year is to delay some of the corral starts to allow runners time to spread out on the course.

But the most amazing thing was that just before the race started, the officials called for a moment of silence to honor the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings. And within a few seconds, all 15,000 runners plus the thousands of spectators all gathered together in that small space of a couple blocks were utterly and completely silent. You could hear the birds chirping. You could have heard a pin drop. Time truly stood still. It gave me such goosebumps!

 Had the honor of watching sunrise over the Capitol as we waited for the race to start.

As Alison said, "It's like a rave, but with runners!" This was in the 9th Street tunnel that goes under the National Mall. It was within the first mile and the space was filled wall-to-wall with runners. Barely any room to move and you had to be careful not to step on someone else's feet. (This is one place where a staggered start may have helped.) But within this fairly long tunnel, there were two different drummers set up to get hearts pumping and maximize the energy. Super-duper loud and overwhelming in there!
As we came out of the tunnel, everyone was funneled onto a narrow off-ramp. It was narrow enough and crowded enough that everyone was forced to a near stop to get through it. We stopped to take a photo of the tight crowd going around the bed after that funnel. So many people!

Over the miles, though, I came to appreciate that crowd - at least once it thinned out a bit. Nowhere else have I seen so many runners in one place who run at my slow pace! It was very gratifying.

Mile 3 rounded around the Lincoln Memorial.

The lawn behind the Lincoln Memorial had a group of Chinese dragon dancers and drummers. They were so enthusiastic and energetic! There were great groups all along the course, but I think my favorite was an all women African drumming group behind the Kennedy Center for the Arts. They were astonishing!

Still feeling great at Mile 3!

Behind the Lincoln Memorial, we ran across Arlington Bridge to the rotary at the entrance to Arlington National Cemetery. Looking back across the bridge at the Memorial was definitely worth of a photo stop.

Mile 7 and still feeling good. This was the start of several miles around East Potomac Park that was kind of lonely. Yes, there were runners all over the place. But there were no spectators, no bands, no one to help us maintain energy through this stretch. There were great volunteers at the water stations trying their best to cheer us on, but they were also overwhelmed by the volume of people coming through. It would have been a great place for a band or two (it is difficult to get spectators out there).

Mile 10 after coming out of East Potomac Park. Legs are starting to get tired and sore at this point despite the smile.

Turning the corner to do the loop in front of the Capitol building. That loop is much longer than it looks, especially when you're on the last couple miles of a half marathon and your legs are pretty well shot!

See that tiny green sign in the middle of the photo? It's the FINISH LINE!!! This was taken during a walk break because we couldn't even make it that far running at this point.

The finish line! There it is!

Just up ahead, we saw Alison's husband and 2 year old daughter (sitting on Daddy's shoulders) on the sidelines. Her daughter's eyes lit up when she spied her mom and she screamed out "It's Momma!" with the biggest grin possible. So adorable.

Little blue boxes from Tiffany's awaited the runners at the finish line.

Handed out by these lovely and gracious young men in tuxedos.

The necklace (in place of a medal) is quite beautiful. The front features the silhouette of a runner on a backdrop of cherry blossoms. The back has the name and date of the race.

We did it. We actually did it. Official time was 2:53. Actual moving time (removing pit stops and photo ops) was 2:40-2:45. Neither of us was able to keep a totally accurate time on our various devices.

'Ama Runs also has a nice race recap. I wouldn't recommend coming into a Nike race and thinking it's like a small road race where you can really do your own thing and find a pace and finish time that pushes you, or really try for a PR. The Nike races seem to be much more about the community and shared experience. If that's your expectation, it can't be beat!

1 comment:

Betsy said...

I am so very proud of you! What an amazing experience! =)