The 9th annual Nike Women’s Marathon (NWM) took place on Sunday, 14 October 2012. This is the second time that I’ve run this race.
Someone made the comment on the NWM Facebook page that this event is really more of a half-marathon event and I happen to agree. It may have started out as a marathon event but once they added the half-marathon event, I think the focus has turned to making the half-marathoners happy. That’s probably because 2/3 or more of the 25,000 entrants are half-marathoners, not marathoners.
It seems to be a pattern in my life that training during the fall and winter is good but then I fall off the wagon in the spring and summer. As with last year, my longest run leading up to this marathon was the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose Half-marathon the week before. I must be a masochist, right?
I stayed in a hotel in the Civic Center part of town instead of going back to Nob Hill. If I run this race again next year, I definitely will go back to Nob Hill. Getting hit on and begged from by the homeless people on Market Street was disturbing.
Expo and Race Swag
This was my second time going through the Expotique and I didn’t like it any better this year than I did last year. In fact, I confirmed that I hate the Expotique. There were several entrances into the tent this year and the volunteers at the entrances were pretty lackadaisical and more interested in joking around with one another than in guiding people to the correct place. Once I reached a check-in spot, though, the check-in was quick and easy. Thank goodness I checked in on Friday because from the tweets and Facebook posts, the Expotique was a zoo on Saturday.
Even though it wasn’t as packed on Friday, there were still long lines for everything. Moving through the crowd was next to impossible – I cannot imagine what it was like on Saturday. I grabbed my gear bag and headed over to Niketown because after trying to deal with my Garmin 405 for a couple of years, I decided that maybe I needed to switch over to the Nike+ SportWatch. The sales guy was helpful and I walked out of Niketown with a new toy.
After taking care of business in Niketown, I found my name on the wall outside the store. Three times.
The race swag consisted of a lot of little flyers and snacks. The snacks were great – I ate most of them while I was lazing around in my hotel room on Saturday. I didn’t pay attention to the flyers until after the race on Sunday. Too late, as it turns out, to take advantage of some of the things.
Gear check was much more smooth this year. Nike must have listened to feedback from last year’s event and they rearranged the start corrals and had gear check buses for each corral. The volunteers at the gear check area were great – enthusiastic and helpful.
The race start was something altogether different. Since I was honest about my expected pace and finish time, I was all the way in the back. And I mean all the way in the back. Really. After the gun went off, it took me more than 33 minutes to get to the start line. Under normal conditions, I wouldn’t have been concerned. However, the NWM has a limit of 6 hours and 30 minutes in order to get an official time and a finisher’s necklace. I didn’t know if the 6h30m limit was based on gun time or chip time and since I was planning on finishing right around 6 hours, the added 33 minutes to the gun time worried me throughout the race.
My recommendation for next year would be to have a start corral upfront for the marathoners. Even better than that would be a start time 30 minutes before the half-marathoners. We’re going to be out on the course a lot longer than the half-marathoners so why shouldn’t we get an earlier start and our own special start corral and gear bus?
The course felt a little easier this year because it hadn’t changed from last year. However, the organizers weren’t prepared for the number of people on the course. Either that, or this event is really geared towards half-marathoners.
The weather was perfect fall running weather. It was overcast and foggy and it stayed that way throughout the race. The sun was out in the city by the time we took the shuttles back to the start line and that was just perfect.
The first aid station that was supposed to have Shot Bloks was out by the time I got there. I wasn’t annoyed because I had my own gels. But it did bother me when I saw how many full sleeves of Shot Bloks other runners had thrown on the ground just past the aid station and then I had to wonder how many half-marathoners had been served.
By the time I passed the bra exchange station, they only had a few XS and XL bras left. Slightly better than last year because last year, when I reached the bra exchange station, they were completely out. Again, I had to wonder how many half-marathoners had been served.
My quads seized up around mile 12 and after that, every step was agony. It was probably due to having run the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose Half-Marathon the weekend before. Even though my legs felt like they had recovered from that event, they really hadn’t. Thank goodness in 2013 there will be a weekend between these two events, as there was in 2011!
Once the marathon course splits from the half-marathon course, things get pretty desolate. The aid stations were much smaller and seemed to be spaced further apart. I tried really hard not to hate the part of the course around Lake Merced but even though it wasn’t hot like last year, Lake Merced sucked. I wonder if the organizers can find a way to get the 26.2 miles without having to go around Lake Merced?
I really wish that Team in Training would teach their runners and walkers proper race etiquette. NWM posted some guidelines on Facebook about walkers walking on the right and other common sense tips about sharing the road on race day. A lot of people got pissy about that, saying that they had paid their entry fee and so could run or walk any way and anywhere they wanted to on race day. It’s so inconsiderate! It was exhausting to run around gangs of Team in Training participants who were walking 4 or 5 people across. And then when I would try to squeeze in between gangs of Team in Training participants, they would give me dirty looks even though I would politely murmur, “On your right,” or “Excuse me.” Again, don’t get me wrong – I have nothing against walkers because I took plenty of walk breaks and walked from about mile 24.5 to 25.5 – I just wish they would be considerate of others on the course. If you want to stroll with 3 or 4 of your friends spread out across the street, don’t do it in a race.
The comment about this event being more geared to half-marathoners really resonates with me. I am not a distance snob by any means – I love the half-marathon distance. I do mind, however, missing out on stuff both on the race course and in the finish area because it’s all been taken by people who’ve run the shorter distance. I feel the same way when I’m running a 10k event that also has a 5k. We all pay the same entry fee so we should all get the same opportunities.
Post-Race: Goodies and Medals
The NWM Finisher t-shirt this year is a bright neon green. Mine is short-sleeved although I saw some posts that make me wonder if a long-sleeve t-shirt was an option. Maybe for the half-marathoners and the faster marathoners? The cool thing about the finisher t-shirt is that it’s made from recycled water bottles.
I was not offered a finisher’s necklace in the pretty blue box – I had to ask for it. The Safeway grocery bags were out of stock. All of the Neutragena products were out of stock. Vendors were beginning to break down their tents. The gear check buses were being emptied haphazardly into brown boxes. I realize that it took me 6 hours to finish the race plus the additional 33+ minutes it took to reach the start line but I wasn’t the last one across the finish line and it was demoralizing that there wasn’t as much care and excitement for the slow people who gutted out the entire 26.2 miles.
The chocolate milk was in the Team-in-Training tent. Foam rollers and yoga mats were only for Team-in-Training participants. They really set this event up as “Haves” vs. “Have Nots.” I was always taught that if you don’t bring enough for everyone, you shouldn’t bring anything at all.
Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down
Thumbs UP: Gear check was much improved over last year.
Thumbs DOWN: The official race photographer for this race didn’t do that great a job. For being out on the course for over 6 hours, there were only 10 pictures of me, 4 of which were me crossing the finish line, 1 of which was of me posing at the end. I had to search for myself in the other 5 pictures because there were so many people. It would have been nice to have some official race photographers taking pictures of marathoners around Lake Merced.
Thumbs UP: The weather was perfect for running although apparently not for GPS devices.
Thumbs DOWN: The length of time it took to get to the finish line had a negative mental impact on me because I was worried that I wouldn’t get my finisher’s necklace.
Thumbs UP: Some spectators had great signs.
Thumbs DOWN: Not having enough items at the aid stations for slow runners. Not having enough bras at the bra exchange for slow runners. Not having enough post-race goodies for the slow marathon runners.
Thumbs UP: A Tiffany-designed finisher’s necklace. Enough said.
If Nike wants to turn this into a half-marathon event, that’s what it should do. Don’t call it a marathon when you end up catering to the half-marathoners and treat the full marathoners as an after-thought. As Nike’s marathon motivational posters say – a full marathon is tough, full marathoners are twice as committed. Well, if Nike really believes that, then they ought to prove it with their actions.
Runners run for different reasons. Some runners run for weight loss, some for fitness. Some runners run to hold back the hands of time, some because they’ve always run. Some runners run to meditate, some to relieve stress. Some runners run to remember, some to forget.
I started running as a way to spend time with my father and I’ve run ever since. I don’t mind my own company so running suits me because it’s mostly a solitary pursuit.
My brother ran because he had to for football. But other than that, he didn’t run at all. Until recently.
About a year or so ago, my brother started running to keep someone company while she trained for a 5k. He didn’t want to enter the race, he just joined her for random training runs. He’s a much more social being so he prefers team activities like volleyball and bocce. I watched his running progress via his Runkeeper and Facebook updates, not offering much besides a thumbs up or to comment, “Good job!” He made it pretty clear that he wasn’t interested in entering a race and that he was just running for a girl.
Life is all about change and it’s a time of change for my brother. He’s going through some interesting times right now and his updates refer to his runs as “chasing demons.” Running has become his escape.
I noticed via Runkeeper that his runs were becoming more frequent so I thought I needed to step in with some words of experience. I didn’t want him to injure himself by adding mileage too quickly or by pushing too hard a pace too often. I wanted him to stick with running and grow to love it, as I do.
So as we’ve been talking, texting, and emailing over the weeks, I’ve always managed to sneak in a word or two about running. I encouraged him to increase his distance slowly instead of running the same distance every time. I advised him to run fast only once or twice a week and to run all of his other runs at a conversational pace. I knew he was hooked the day that he called me and asked me to talk to him while he ran so he could determine what his “conversational pace” was.
That’s when I moved into phase 2 of my running campaign – trying to convince him to enter a race. But not just any race, a half-marathon. That would accomplish a few things. It would give him a goal to progress towards, it would give him a reason to continue running, and it would get him to come home for a visit. I managed to mention the Big Sur Half-Marathon each time we spoke, telling him that there was plenty of time to train because the race wasn’t until November.
When registration opened on the 1st of April, I registered for the Big Sur Half-Marathon and tweeted that I had. My brother called me that afternoon and without any greeting, he said,”Ninety-five dollars?!? That’s expensive!” That made my day – I knew he was hooked. I told him that if he skipped one dinner out a week or had one beer less when he was out with the guys, he could save up the entry fee in no time.
And then the miracle happened.
On Friday, he registered for the half-marathon. And did he even call me to tell me he had? Of course not. I had to find out by seeing it posted on his Facebook page. It didn’t matter because I was so excited for him, for me, and for running.
My brother started running to chase the demons and he’s chased them right into a half-marathon.
Why do you run? Where will your running take you? How do you share your love of running?
Time is an interesting construct. Memory is an interesting construct, as well.
When I was running the NWM 26.2 last October, I distinctly remember thinking, “I’m not ever going to do this again.” I remember thinking “never again” when I was caught up in the gear check scrum where I thought I was going to die from suffocation or claustrophobia, whichever came first. I remember thinking “never again” as the marathoners split from the half-marathoners and I realized that I had a long way to go. I remember thinking “never again” as I ran past the finish line on my way to another 8 miles or so of joyous running.
I remember thinking that I wasn’t going to be one of those people who said, “I’m never going to do this again” during the race only to turn around and say, “I’ll do better next time.” No sir, not me.
When I finally finished, though, I remember thinking, “Well, I couldn’t do any worse next time.”
And as the hours turned into days and the days turned into months, that niggling thought continued to percolate in my brain. I knew I could do better if I trained properly, if I took my training schedule seriously, if I didn’t think about gutting it out on race day. I knew I could.
I hadn’t intended to sign up for the NWM virtual half-marathon – I wanted to concentrate on training for the April half-marathon that I had in mind. When I saw the announcement that all members of the largest team would be given an automatic opportunity to register for the NWM – no lottery – I scoffed silently. When I saw the Facebook posts that encouraged everyone to sign up with Team Victorious so that would be the biggest team, I sneered inwardly.
And yet somehow, I wound up signed up with the Nike+ challenge, registered for the NWM virtual half-marathon, and a member of Team Victorious.
This week I received an email from NWM letting me know that as a member of Team Victorious I was entitled to register for the NWM in October without having to go through the lottery. There are a few hoops to jump through but that’s to be expected. I was so excited to get that email. “Yes!” I thought, “thank goodness I registered and that I signed up as a member of Team Victorious!”
As I think about my excitement over that email and compare it to my mental anguish while I was running last October’s NWM 26.2, I have to laugh at myself. And I have to marvel at what amazing things time, space, and memory are.
Time heals all wounds. Time soothes the hurt spirit. Time rebuilds the crushed soul.
Space gives time the room to work. Space allows different experiences to take place. Space lets old thoughts out and new thoughts in.
Memory can be selective, allowing us to either focus on the good or the bad. Memory allows us to consider the possibilities, the what-ifs, the might-have-beens. Memory can hurt if you dwell too long on the bad things without thinking about the possibilities. Memory can help if you remember that what you did in the past doesn’t have to define who you are in the future and what you can accomplish in the future.
My selective memory has focused on a few things – that I could have turned in a better time if I had trained better and been more prepared for the hills, that I really enjoyed the race once I emerged unscathed (except for my missing Nike+ SportBand) from the gear check scrum until the last 8 miles or so, and that entry is lottery-based so it certainly wouldn’t hurt to try to enter. In the intervening weeks and months since the 2011 NWM 26.2, I’ve admitted why the marathon, particularly the last few miles, were so miserable for me – I tried to run a marathon with less than half-marathon training. So time has given me the benefit of honesty with myself as well as the courage and determination to try again.
What’s your memory pushing you away from or pulling you towards? How much time needs to pass before your wounds have healed? What are you going to try again? Do you need to build up courage or determination or both to do it?