Killing the Hills! My Nike Women’s Half Marathon #WeRunSF

30,000 women (and a few good men) descended on San Francisco last weekend.  Their purpose was to take part in the Nike Women’s Marathon and Half Marathon to benefit Leukaemia and Lymphoma.  I was one of those people.  From the moment I arrived to JFK, anxious with excitement and anticipation of what the weekend would bring, there was a friendly, familial atmosphere.  You see, many of the passengers were heading west from NYC last Friday for the same purpose I was.  Some were veterans – including one woman who has taken part in every one of the races since the Nike Women’s marathon/half marathon inception – others were like me – newbies, still getting our feet wet to this whole distance running thing.

It was my first time in San Francisco and it is beautiful.

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It is also pretty chilly this time of year and hilly.  Very hilly! (This hill is just as steep down when I looked the other way!)

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We arrived on Friday with enough time to get ourselves settled and do some exploring before Friday night’s event:  the unveiling of this year’s Tiffany’s necklace (which all finishers get in place of a medal. . .yes please!).  It was also the first time I got to meet the other member of our team, #NikeLatino.  What a varied and dynamic group!

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Clockwise from left to right: Barbara, Ashley, Carmen, me, Lizza, Reyna and Martin

Also in attendance were Lakey Peterson – a pro surfer conquering her first half – and Joan Benoit Samuelson, gold medalist in the first ever Olympic marathon for women and all around badass.  The woman has run over 150,000 miles in her career and is one of the few to ever run sub 3 hour marathons in 5 different decades.

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Talking to her was such a highlight.  She was so down-to-earth and tough.  Upon her longevity in such a high-impact (on the body) sport, she simply stated that she “never let herself get inconvenienced by injury.”  Attitude really is everything!

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It was a great way to start off the weekend.  For those of you who have never delved into distance running, the day before a half marathon or marathon, you do a final taper run to loosen up and get warm one last time prior to racing.  This is an easy run, maybe like a 5k, which is what we did.

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We 5 k’d it right to our next event where lots of tasty goodies and the Nike Spring collection were waiting for us to check out (which, by the way, is totally lustworthy.  I saw pretty much a paycheck’s worth of clothes, shoes and gear that I’m dying for!)

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Among the other cool part of the day were visiting Niketown in San Francisco’s Union Square.  They had the name of every single person registered to run.  Talk about a cool find!

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Shout out to the 31 other Alexandra’s who ran!

We enjoyed a seriously delicious meal together full of complex carbs and lean protein to fuel ourselves for the main event:  our races.  We were up and outside at 5:30 am to stretch and warm up.

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Throwing our “x” up in honor of this being the 10th Nike Women’s Marathon!

 

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Adriana, Martin, Barbara and I were in the same corrale so we got to hang together until the gun when off!

When you think about the number 30,000 it obviously sounds huge.  Putting it into reality makes it tremendously more so.  There were racers as far as they eye could see from right next to the finish line endlessly down the street to where they could barely be made out from where we were standing/jumping/dancing/warming up.

And then finally. 12 minutes in, it was our corrale’s turn.  Go time!

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The course was incredible for a few reasons.  For starters, San Francisco is completely different from my current home in NYC as well as my homestate of Ohio.  Checking it out by foot was a great way to soak it all in.  Secondly, the atmosphere of the race was absolutely electric.  From the camaraderie amongst participants to the thousands of people who lined the streets cheering and holding signs, it was so motivating especially as the miles wore on.  Finally, it’s the perfect course to truly test your limits mentally and physically.  Those hills were no joke (especially the 1.27 mile long one that starts right before mile #6).  I kept telling myself ‘keeping the running movement going, keep running movement going’ because I knew it would be 1000x harder to restart running than to push through.  And guess what?  My times for the two big daddy hills were NOT pretty but I did it!  And I made up a couple minutes on mile #9 (thank you, sweet down hill!).  I just felt GOOD for nearly the entire race and after the finish.  I’m already setting my sights on next year’s goals!

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Barbara and I finished just under 2 minutes apart.  It was great to have someone to celebrate joint accomplishments with after it was all over!

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And let’s not forget the special prize:  our necklaces!!  It made it all the sweeter that hot firefighters in tuxedos handed them to us!  How beautiful?  They are triangles to symbolize the Ancient Greek symbol for “10” as well as an homage to Nike, goddess of victory.

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By the time the weekend was over, I came home deliriously tired and deliriously happy/fulfilled.  This was my second half marathon and I took 17 minutes off of my first finishing time (my first one took place in super flat Philly).  It reinforced that careful preparation and diligence can make all the difference.  I utilized a hybrid of training by meshing the Nike+ Running training training and the New York Road Runners training programs (full disclosure:  John Honerkamp, the manager of runner products and services at NYRR, is my former college track coach.  Hey, Coach!).  I loved this because it meant training for this race involved running, biking, dance, weights and yoga.  For someone with workout ADD, this made is super easy to not only stick to it, but also to stay excited! It also made for an amazing full body transformation (note to self:  take before shots prior to starting any training program).  Running races is incredible because it’s a great way to get fit with measurable results.  You know your mile times, so you know when you improve. Furthermore, you can’t necessarily tell a person’s fitness levels by their outward appearance.

Attending any event with a sponsor like Nike means you won’t be leaving without adding to your collection of clothes and gear.  I’m obsessed with my new gear, all of which has already been put to use!

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As a former college sprinter and hurdler, running distance was never really on my radar as a possibility.  I was definitely challenged (and still am) when it comes to pacing but I’m excited about continuing to improve with more races!

A huge hugeeeee HUGE thanks goes out to Nike, especially Mario and Reina, for giving me the opportunity to really challenge myself and grow both physically and mentally stronger.  This past weekend was incredibly amazing and beyond any expectations I could have set.  Kudos for the other sponsors as well, especially Neutragena (super impressed with giving out sunscreen and other full-sized products), Verizon (for providing runners with phone chargers and free phone calls as anyone who has ever attended a concert/festival/sporting event where masses of people are gathered together knows that this normally means death to both cell service and battery), and Whole Foods (YUM! Enough said!).

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Many more thanks and abrazos for my new #NikeLatino family – Carmen, Lizza, Barbara, Martin, and Adriana – you all inspired me through that FREEZING cold race morning, made me laugh until my belly ached and are just all around AWESOME people.  Congrats on being rockstars in SanFran!  (To meet my team better, please click on their names. . .I’ve linked them to their sites, all of which are super cool and worth checking out).

And of course lots of hugs to my other friends and family who totally supported some of my more drastic lifestyle changes (I’m looking at you, SoberTober) and encouraged me to keep training hard (including pushing myself outta bed at 5 am some days and onto the trail).  Conquering tremendous goals is without a doubt a team effort and I am blessed to have such a strong one in my corner.  Words can’t express how touched I was from the calls, texts, messages, etc leading up to and on race day filled with encouragement and well wishes of luck.  As for Nike, I’m already counting down to DC and now I know what I am capable of.  Get ready – this Latina is going to RUN the world this spring! 😉

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Disclosure:  Nike sent me to San Francisco and very generously hosted me there for the weekend.  They also provided me with new clothes and gear throughout my training as well as access to events while in San Francisco.  All views expressed in this post are my own – the NWM weekend really will be one of the best and most rewarding weekends of your life!

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