Race Report: Nike Women’s Marathon Half DC

28Apr13

Yes, that’s the official name. Ridiculous. Like so much else about this race. My biggest compliment is that all the marketing collateral was really lovely. 

The original plan was that IronMo would stay with me Friday night, run the Park to Park in nearby Waynesboro on Saturday morning with me cheering, and then drive me back up to her house Saturday afternoon in time for packet pickup. It seemed like a brilliant idea at the time, but as the date neared, I realized that Max had back to back Little League games Friday night and Saturday morning, and I truly did not know how the timing and logistics were ever going to be possible. So when Mo floated the idea that maybe she was a little too over-stressed and under-prepared for the race, I had a train ticket booked before she could change her mind.

The train was awesome, and Mo met me at Union Station and we took a bus to Georgetown because of course Nike would put their packet pickup and “Expotique” in a place with no parking and no metro and nowhere near the racecourse. The line was unbelievably long. It took about 40 minutes to get into the tent where a volunteer speed-talked at me and shoved me out the door before I knew what the hell had just happened. Before I left the premises, I made sure I had my bib and my all important pace corral bracelet, because according to Nike’s facebook comments, you WOULD NOT be allowed in your pace corral without it and would have to start in the back with the walkers. (Cue ominous foreshadowing music.)

We visited the Expotique, which was totally, utterly lame, except for the Luna bar booth where you could have a custom cheer sign printed. I made a RUN WELLESLEY STRONG sign. And ate a ton of samples. 

Dinner followed with my adorable nephew and oh yeah his parents. I had a disgustingly wonderful bleu cheese bacon burger, and a milkshake, which I sucked down with abandon, right after having a conversation about becoming lactose intolerant in my old age. Not so bright, but I didn’t die, and it was delicious.

Meanwhile, Ida texted me wondering how we would know which pace corral to be in, and as it turns out, she had not gotten a corral bracelet in her packet. (Nor had she gotten safety pins, but luckily she came prepared with her own.) After a fruitless PM session with faceless, heartless Nike on Facebook, we made some half-assed contingency plans, and set up a morning meeting place and time.

I fell asleep fat and happy before 10pm, slept like the dead, and awoke just after 5am without an alarm. It is the best night’s sleep I have ever had before a race. I blearily pushed the “brew now” button on Mo’s tiny coffeemaker, got out the tiny container of milk (apparently, it was a quart, but it looked hilariously Lilliputian, given that I buy two gallons at a time), and half-filled her disproportionately large coffee mug.

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Hilariously small milk jug and coffeepot; giant mug

We were out the door on schedule, and Metro’ed in by 6:15 to meet up with Ida. Rather than brave the porta potty lines, we ducked into a hotel near the start, where a super-awesome hotel employee, noting the long line at the women’s restroom, cleared out the men’s room and guarded the door. I am sure that was not in his job description, and I am truly grateful for his sacrifice.

Then we set out for our corral. I was convinced they wouldn’t actually be checking the pace bracelets, but as we arrived, there was a huge throng of people trying to get in because there was only one tiny entrance for a zillion runners, and they were indeed checking bracelets. But lo and behold, as the pre-race announcements started, bracelet checking magically stopped, and everyone flooded in, including Ida, with no bracelet. 

Some really irritating rah rah crapola started up, but then they introduced Joanie and Shalane and I suddenly I puffy-heart loved Nike and this race and everything about it. For about three minutes.

A moment of silence for Boston, the national anthem, and then the start!! It only took us about five minutes to cross the start, but for the first long while, we were really crammed in and couldn’t move well. Just when people started to thin out, the course narrowed and we were jammed in together again.

In mile 1, we were routed through a tunnel. A very long tunnel. It really hit all my panic buttons. Enclosed space, lots of people, incredibly noisy. There were not one but two drumming stations inside the tunnel. I thought I was going to have a panic attack. I could not get out of there soon enough. Also, we lost satellites in the tunnel, and when we got out, I was eager to check our pace. As it turns out, Ida’s auto-pause was on, so every time we went in a tunnel or under an overpass, her clock stopped. Mine did some creative extrapolating, and showed us at 1.1 by the one mile mark.

We saw Mo around Mile 2, easy to spot in her bright blue Boston shirt. Apparently it’s a lot harder to spot two women running in a crowd of running women, because I had to go full on Mary-Catherine Gallagher to get her attention.

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Mile 6, Mary Catherine Gallagher style.

Generally speaking, I enjoyed the course, and it was scenic, lots of bands and crowd support, blah blah blah. There were so many people so close around us the whole time that it was hard to pay attention to the scenery for fear of crashing into another runner. I had had low expectations for the water stops, but they were actually quite well-organized. Even though I carried my water bottle, I stopped at two of them – once to pour water on my head because I was roasting in the sun, and again to fill my water bottle near the end. 

I felt really freaking awesome until mile 10, when my body said, “Hey wait, didn’t we train for a TEN miler?” and decided it was pretty well done. That happened to coincide with the only hill on the course, so we ended up taking a couple of walk breaks in the last three miles. Much to my horror, we also had to go back through the tunnel in mile 11, which, not coincidentally, was our fastest mile of the race, and the only one under 10 minutes. That is, according to my watch, which by that time was .4mi ahead of the race markers.

We straggled through the long out and back toward the Capitol, which would have been really stirring and patriotic were I not really, really done with hurty feet at that point. We took a moment to wave to Ida’s family, and then we pounded through the long, shadeless straightaway to the finish.

The clock at the finish was incorrect, Ida’s garmin was wrong, and mine was reading 13.5 mi so I didn’t trust it. So we really had no idea if we were close to our 2:25 goal or not.

But who cares! There was schwag!! And very sweet and handsome Howard ROTC students in tuxedos handing it out. They were adorable, and so tolerant of all the crazy, sweaty women who wanted hugs and pictures to go with their little blue boxes. They seemed so young I couldn’t even feel cougar-y about them. 

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Handsome college kid, Ida, and me, through my sweaty gross iPhone lens.

The finish line was crowded, but there was plenty of food left. I knew I had a Cliff Bar waiting for me with Mo, so I collected my snacks and turned them over to Ida to give to her kids. Then we got our t-shirts, and headed out of the finish area.

Once we took some photos and Ida collected her gear from Mo, she headed off to have family time in DC, while Mo and I headed back to her house, where I did an impossibly quick shower and change so that we could head back into the city for brunch.

Brunch was awesome. I had chocolate chip pancakes, three of them, that were the size of a dinner plate, a salad, and a vast quantity of coffee. So awesome. Plus, there were friends of Mo’s!!! It was truly delightful.

I had a while before my train, so we walked around DC, because if I couldn’t nap, I needed to keep moving or I’d stiffen up. We ducked in to the Portrait Gallery and looked at all the presidents’ portraits. Some of my commentary was probably inappropriate, but I was so exhausted, I really had no filters left between my brain and mouth.

Then Mo put me on the Metro to Union Station, and she headed home. I ate another huge quantity of food waiting for my train, and had a relaxing ride back, where I continued to not stretch.

I’m feeling pretty good, though I have some bothersome blisters on one toe, which is not like me – I can count on one hand the number of times I have had blisters, ever. So a shoe switch might be in order.

Overall, I don’t think I’ll do this race again. One, the tunnels. My god, the tunnels. So panic-inducing. Two, Nike. When a race uses a Facebook page as their website, that’s a red flag. I felt like I spent a lot of mental energy worrying about details surrounding the race (corral bracelets, how to get to packet pickup, no identifying info on the bib, no photos on the course, etc), when I should have been thinking about my race plan. Three, the crowded course. Give me a lonely country road any day.

But the Tiffany necklace is nice, and yes, I did pay an arm and a leg for the Tiffany blue Nike Frees. So, I’m enjoying all that. What I most loved about this race though was just the opportunity to spend time with my friends, old and new. I’m exhausted, but my spirit is invigorated. 

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Me and Iron Mo after the race, showing our Boston/Wellesley pride.

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5 Responses to “Race Report: Nike Women’s Marathon Half DC”

  1. Great race re-cap. My sister ran it too, but I haven’t talked to her yet to see what she thought. Given how much I hate the crowds at the CW4M, I’m guessing I’d feel even more strongly about this race.

    Are you doing the Montalto Challenge this coming weekend?

    • 2 Ry

      It is like the CW4M on steroids.

      I am doing the Montalto Challenge! I’m planning on running the first two, and walking the steep part. :)

  2. 3 Melissa

    Woot! Sounds like it went mostly well then. Gretchen and I mostly enjoyed our race, mile 12 is never fun no matter what course you do. Had no issues with the shuttle and didn’t even hurt too much afterwards. We’ll have to share stories soon. I picked up a doozy of a cold, so I’m pretty sure I’m out for montalto.

  3. Congrats! Added your link to our post! :-)

  4. You are right – it was so crowded! I had the same problem during the Marine Corps Marathon in DC, although my friend who ran it the same year said he had no problems with crowds. Not sure why we have opposite memories or experiences of that one! I loved, loved, loved the tunnels – it was so energizing for me. But I can see how it would be panic-inducing too. I wrote on the survey thingy it was my favorite part of the course! :) I’m probably lucky that since I work downtown I could just walk to the packet pickup on the Thursday, it was a breeze for me.


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