Sunday, April 28, 2013

Nike Women's Half-Marathon DC 2013: Is it worth it?

Today I joined 15,000 women (and a few men) to run the inaugural Nike Women's Half-Marathon DC. I was pacing two friends who were running their first half-marathon, and I was excited to be there. The weather the gorgeous. The energy was electrifying and the crowd was pumped. But I'll be honest, up until race morning, I did not really want to run this race.

The Nike Womens Marathon series (NWM, which also includes a half-marathon event) carries a hefty price tag. $160 to be exact (for the 2013 race). With it you get a Tiffany necklace, a finisher's shirt, and the Nike experience.

NWM DC 2013 Tiffany Necklace

Is all that worth $160? Well, considering the Tiffany necklace alone probably costs much more than the race entry, one would have to say yes. However, you could run at least two half-marathons for that price, and its even easy to find two marathons for that amount of money. So what is worth more--the running experience or the Nike experience?

Obviously, the answer is personal preference. And personally, I prefer to run a no-frills, low-key, limited field kind of race. But this race wasn't about me, it was about pacing two friends to a strong finish for their first half-marathon. I had already paid the *gulp* entry fee, so I was ready to see what the Nike experience was all about.

And let me tell you, it did not disappoint.

Let's start with the Expo--ahem, excuse me, the Expotique--which was held at the Georgetown Waterfront. Since we are local, we went on Thursday afternoon when there were no lines. Packet pick-up was easy peasy. The expo itself was like being in a club minus the black light. The vendors were few because it was all about the experience -- you could get your hair and make-up done, try shots of Nuun, and get sized for the right Nike gear that fits your style.

Photo ops!

Make up by Bare Minerals 

Nike Inspiration 

It was neat to see, but also overwhelming for this old crony. The best, though, was this cool map of the race course:

Fast forward to race morning. As we faced the starting line, we were presented with this amazing view:

The Capitol Building in the distance
 It was awesome. Time and again, we were lucky to witness some amazing views of our nation's capital. These pictures do not do the beauty justice.

Lincoln Memorial from Arlington Memorial Circle

Our little troop was all smiles race morning. The energy was palpable, and if you weren't pumped, you were probably dead.


Taking inspiration from history:
Rosie the Riveter, "We Can Do It!"

We were shooting for a sub-3:00 finish, so we were in the 12:00-13:59 pace corral. Because we were in the back, room to run was a premium, and it took more than 2 miles before we could really begin to move. We were presented with more than one bottleneck during this time, requiring an impromptu walk/run strategy, which was frustrating. And we witnessed one woman fall flat on her face after someone dropped their sweater and she couldn't sidestep the garment in time. A testament to runners though: about 6 of us stopped to ensure she was ok and could carry on.

All that said, the race was pretty great. Around mile 2, and again around mile 10, we ran through a long tunnel and to Nike's credit, they took advantage of the acoustics by placing two bass-driven bands on this section of the course. It was hard not to stop and start dancing! Not to mention, the taiko drummers at mile 5. Reinforced my goal to run the Big Sur marathon one day.

Around mile 11, we stopped at National Archives to take a picture of our race shirts.

We crossed the line at 2:57, 3 minutes faster than our goal time! I was so proud of these ladies. They earned those Tiffany necklaces!

So is the Nike Women's Marathon (and half-marathon) series worth it? If you are looking for a challenging mind-over-matter event, one that will test your grit--you vs. yourself--then NO, this is not the race for you.

But if you want to run an event, and you want to feel celebrated for your accomplishment, then YES - this is THE race to run. This is a great first half-marathon / marathon (should that option become available in DC; it is currently available in San Francisco), and a particularly great one to run with friends.

Even as one who prefers a low-key race, I would run this event again with a friend (or sister!) interested in running their first half-marathon.

What type of race do you prefer to run?

Have you ever paced someone during a race? How did it go?