2015 nike women’s half — san francisco recap
Running the Nike Women’s Half in San Francisco has always been a dream of mine.
A couple weeks prior to the race, I was filled with excitement when Mecque, my buddy from Fleet Feet San Francisco, welcomed me to pace with her in the half. Um, YES!!! My original plan was to run alone, but having a run partner is always an added bonus. Plus, she’s full of vibrant running energy, AND she knows the San Francisco running scene like the back of her hand.
The best part about running with Mecque? Besides showing up with a Rockstar energy drink in her hand and a smile on her face, she’s also rocking a Flip Belt with a MINI Jambox. It’s like running with a personal DJ. When the road is normally filled with the sounds of heavy breathing and running shoes hitting the pavement, crushing a few miles to the beat of Pit Bull can be pretty motivating. I’m pretty sure we had groupies at one point in the race. I’m not the kind of runner who traditionally wears a running belt, but I’m now thoroughly convinced I need both of these contraptions.
My alarm was set for 4:50 AM. Enough time to eat, dress, stretch, and perform all the appropriate morning bathroom duties (ahem), before meeting her at 6:00 AM. The hotel I stayed at was only 2 blocks from the starting line making it was easy to drop our bags and head to the corral. With 25,000 runners jammed into the city streets, there was an expectation of morning chaos, but everything flowed like water. Sunday also happened to be Mecque’s birthday. She was targeting a 1:55 finish for a PR. Even though I wasn’t 110% confident my body was going to hold up on the hills, I promised Mecque we would do our best to pace to her goal. Originally, my plan was to just cruise through this race, but I there was a bigger purpose.
The race began on time: 6:30 AM. Races always begin with the cluster of slowness that you have to weave through, but we spread out nicely within a mile of the start. The first hill to speak of was at mile 2 and we gave a little push to get to the top. The sun was coming up and greeted us with a clear morning. No fog, but it was around 63° and there was humidity in the air. I was already sweating and took note that I should be drinking little sips early and often to stay hydrated.
A little past the 5K mark we headed into Golden Gate Park. (Our 5K split: 27:42, 8:54 per mile) We needed to make up a little time, but I wasn’t worried. I’d never been in the park so I was taking it all in. As we continued running west, the course brought us closer to the beach where a light headwind started to pick up. My hair was already drenched in sweat so it was like having my own personal air conditioner. We continued weaving through the park. Every once in a while a breeze would drag the scent of eucalyptus across our noses — ahhh, natural running zen!
10K split: 54:25, 8:45 per mile. Yes! Perfect pacing at this point in the race for hitting 1:55. We still had over half the race to go and needed to hold this pace though. The dreaded BIG HILL was coming so we weren’t pushing too hard, but we needed to gain at least a few seconds in time. This hill is a bitch. I ran it once before at mile 3 of the Rock and Roll San Francisco half marathon, which is a bit different than running it at mile 10. The push is .91 miles long and the approximate gain is 200 feet in elevation from the bottom to the top.
We started the incline. Head down, arms pumping, small steps. Mecque looks up, “See that balloon up there? It’s for me!” Her friend Caitlyn has left her a balloon and a happy birthday poster about a quarter of the way up the hill. How awesome is that for a boost?! I normally wouldn’t stop on a hill, but this was totally worth the picture.
The crowd support was unreal! Everyone was clapping and cheering while holding motivational signs. Nike pacers lined the course and were running up and down the hill pushing runners to the top. The energy being poured out was overwhelming. Stopping wasn’t an option. I caught sight of the November Project San Francisco tribe. More high-5’s and another powerful push to the top. We made it! By the time we’d hit mile 11, our pace was strong and we were headed straight down the hill into the marina.
With just over a mile left in the race, we were mentally and physically ready to be done. That hill takes a lot out of you, but then hitting a flat road at after coming down the steep backside of the hill is a jolt to the body. My focus was on the 1:55 mark for Mecque. The last mile is always a tough mental game, and it’s totally cliche but true: you run it with your heart. Our pace slowed a tiny bit and the 13-mile mark clicked off on my Garmin. I looked down — 1:52:25. We had .1 to run, but it was going to be close. Then boom, out of nowhere Mecque picks up the pace and turns the corner to cross the finish line at 1:54:42. With 18 seconds to spare, we’d done it! My first Nike Women’s Half-Marathon in the books and a birthday PR for Mecque. What a rush!
This past Sunday my dream of running the Nike Women’s Half in San Francisco came true. In addition to the scrumptious hills we all ate for breakfast and the Tiffany & Co “medal” we all earned, the combination of a running buddy, a boombox, and a birthday PR for a friend made this a race to remember! Would I do it again? In a heartbeat! Even with a $200 price tag for the entry, there is something special about joining 24,000 (only 1037 of the runners were men) women on this running journey. We trained individually, we traveled from all over the world, and we met in San Francisco to run together.
Congrats to all of you who participated in the 2015 Nike Women’s Half!
QUESTION: What’s next on your training plan? I’m looking for an early spring race. Any recommendations?