My First Nike Half Marathon

Warming up with 20,000 Others

Oddly enough, running half-marathons is starting to become a regular thing for me.  My relationship with running is complicated.  One would think that with 3 half-marathons under my belt, I must really enjoy running which really couldn’t be further from the truth, but it’s probably safe to say that I’ve evolved to the point where I don’t hate it so much anymore.  I also think that I’ve reached the point where the actual races, particularly the start of the race doesn’t give me as much anxiety as it used to.

When I did my first half, the US Half in 2009, I remember feeling very stressed at the beginning of the race.  I felt like there were too many people around me and that was actually the smallest race I’ve done, maybe ~2000 runners.  The number of runners exploded with the SF Half in 2010 and in spite of the lingering anxiety, I thought I would be more prepared since I had be running pretty regularly for some time now.  My results were better, but I still felt completely destroyed by the hills.  At this point, I didn’t think I would do any more half-marathons.  I still didn’t love running, and I have this thing against traveling to do runs.  If I have to get up any earlier than 1hr before the start time, that is too much work, so that pretty much restricts me to only doing races in San Francisco.

Actually Smiling Before the Start of the Race

Then the opportunity to run the Nike Women’s Half Marathon came up this year.  I was debating back and forth whether I wanted to run it or not, because it actually falls on our 1 year wedding anniversary, but Pdho thought it would be a great way to celebrate.  Great!  It ended up being somewhat last minute, so I wasn’t as focused and structured about my training.  In fact, I felt thoroughly unprepared when I compared to previous years, but I figured that I would just have fun with it.  After all, it was the NWM, one of the biggest runs in the country and everyone who runs it seems to enjoy it.

About to Cross the Starting Line

Like the SF Half, Pdho and I were able to walk to the starting line which was about 1 mile away.  We were supposed to do a light jog to warm up, but Pdho was so excited that it felt a lot more like a run.  In spite of my pleas for him to slow down, I was completely sweaty by the time we got to Union Square.  I was remarkably calm in spite of being engulfed by the sea of women (and men that were sparingly interspersed throughout) that had taken over the entire square block around Union Square.

Running Along the Embacadero

At over 20, 000 runners, it was by far the biggest run I had ever done, and with the overwhelming majority of them being women, it was hands down the best dressed running event I had ever seen.  Almost every one was decked out in Nike gear and they all looked cute and matchy matchy.  I actually felt very plain in my Adidas long sleeve and Nike running pants.

The notably frustrating aspect of the race is that with so many runners, certain parts of the course really felt quite cramped particularly during the first 5 miles or so.  It was a little annoying at first, because I felt really energized to get through the first part of the race, but I felt trapped behind all the walkers who were struggling with the first hill.

I suppose another equally challenging aspect specific to NWM, but pretty much applies to most races in SF, is the annoying number of hills that runners face.  It’s truly a battle for most runners to overcome, and I have to admit it’s been a painful process training on these sometimes very steep inclines.  The pain, the burn, the frustration……  I have to admit that it has definitely gotten better for me, but that is because I train in SF.  I can’t say that I enjoy them, but I’m actually able to get up and over them without stopping.

Preparing to Go Up the First Hill

The first half of the race pretty much replicates the typical course that Pdho and I run regularly and a majority of the last part of the race is similar to the SF Marathon, so I think psychologically, I felt more prepared.  I knew where the hills were and I knew they would suck, and I really think that made a significant difference.  I really didn’t feel stressed at all actually.  In fact, I took time to take some pictures capturing the Golden Gate Bridge at different points along the way.

Posing with the Golden Gate Bridge

As usual, Pdho tends to be much more relaxed than I am during the race, so he’s running backwards or sometimes running ahead to snap pictures with the iPhone.  I have to really give props to Pdho for being as supportive as he always has been with me and running.  I really have to say that I couldn’t do it without him.

Last Stretch to the Finish

I ended up hitting a wall at about mile 10 or 11.  I wasn’t physically in pain, but I was just tired and I wanted to stop and walk the rest of the way.  As usual, Pdho needed to push and encourage me to keep going which was great, but I have to admit that I was not in a good place.  There are times where I do snap, but he is always there by my side.  Although this year, I did feel like he was running quite fast in front of me.  He says that my running has gotten so much better but my whining is still just as annoying.

The Finish Line is Within Reach

I eventually made it to the finish line in 2 hours and 29 minutes…. just under my previous SF Marathon time.  The finish line was madness, as it usually is, but there are people everywhere trying to hand you food, drinks, T-shirts and our finisher’s medal, which for the NWM is a Tiffany’s necklace.  I was surprisingly able to find most people that I knew after the run without even looking for them.

My Firefighter Handing Me My Necklace

Pdho kept wanting to aim for 2 hours, but I just haven’t built the kind of endurance to make that a reality quite yet.  I still felt pretty proud of myself for being able to make it through the race in the time that I did feeling the way I did.  It was amazing that I can say this, but I felt pretty good for the most part.

Pdho and I at the End

I really think that the big difference for this half-marathon came with the fact that I’ve been running with the Nike Run group pretty regularly for almost a year now.  I think the courses that they run throughout the city gives some great training, especially those run that go up California and up to Coit Tower.  I have to thank Phase I (formerly known as Ellenita Eats) for introducing Pdho and I to the group.  I think my goal of running 1 half-marathon a year is a good one to keep.  I’m starting to not hate them so much and it gives me something to work toward.

US Half 2009 – 2:45

SF Half 2010 – 2:30

Nike Half 2011 – 2:29

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