Way to go Nike. Every race has some kinks and issues – but this year’s Nike Women’s Half Marathon in Washington, D.C. was a huge step up from last year’s event.
It was a beautiful day in downtown D.C. and the energy was magnificent.
The race, known for it’s Tiffany necklace finisher’s prize, has been advertised all over the city for the last few weeks. Nike goes above and beyond with photo-ops, pre-race excitement and pumping up the runners with it’s “We Run DC” slogan.
So let’s back up. Last year’s packet pickup was an absolute disaster. Lines for hours in the sun, crabby workers, way-over-crowded expo. This year was MUCH better. I showed up Friday around 4:30 p.m. and sailed right through packet pick up. Friendly workers answered my questions and directed me through the mini-maze of expo tents. I usually like to hear from a number of brands at expos, but given that this was a Nike event, I could appreciate the “expotique” for what it was. A big section of Nike gear, a beautification station and some products from Luna and Nuun. I wrote my name on the big “We Run DC” board, which would late be displayed around mile 11, and headed out.
Race day was a breeze. Corrals (from what I could tell) were much more organized. I sailed right to the front of the 8:00-8:59 corral. Volunteers weren’t able to tell me if the event had pace groups or not. It’s a huge event – 15,000 runners, so I know all of the volunteers can’t be super race savvy – I just appreciate them being there. Luckily I spotted my pace group and planned to tag along with them.
Maybe I wasn’t super tuned into the pre-race chatter, but I had no idea Shalane Flanagan and Joan Benoit Samuelson would be running. The incredible pair sent us off from a platform right near the start (and in a fantastic line of sight from my place in the corrals). I almost fell over from a fan-girl heart attack. I didn’t see them on the course, but judging by a number of tweets, other runners got to run along side them for a bit.
The race started and we were off! Last year Nike just sent everyone off at once, resulting in a nightmare crowd of immobility. This year they broke it up into three waves – it was MUCH better for me, but I was close to the start of my wave, so I didn’t feel any more congestion than any other big race. I imagine folks a bit back in the corrals had a different experience.
The pacers I ran with started off much too fast so I dropped back after mile 2. I ended up passing them around mile 8 so I can’t be sure they came in at their goal time considering I came in just under. Inconsistent pace groups are a huge issue and could result in major disappointment for runners. In my opinion, if you don’t have the proper resources to designate to pace groups – don’t have them. Not worth letting someone down who thought they could rely on you for a time. Luckily, I realized the group was off and switched it up to run at my own speed.
The course was beautiful. Here is a look:
Along the way there was fantastic entertainment, drummers, music, marching bands – all kinds of groups keeping the energy up. I was really impressed with both the quality of the entertainment and the frequency of the groups throughout the course. It was absolutely fantastic.
There were a ton of water and Nuun stops throughout the course and a few locations for other treats like chocolates and luna bars. One stop about midway through offered Clif Shot Bloks.
Nike did a phenomenal job making sure the course had everything it needed when it needed it.
At the halfway mark, there were giant screens showing a live video feed of runners and around the 12.5 there were screens with displaying runners names with encouraging words as we ran past. Seeing “Natalie” on a huge screen with loud music pumped me up and powered me through the last mile of the race.
I ended with a 1:49:43 – a PR for me and my first half marathon under 1:50. I am still over the moon. My goal for 2014 was to come in under 1:50 so the fact that I did it in my first half of the year makes me feel that my intense marathon training has really been paying off.
The finish line was much better organized than last year. As soon as runners finished, specialty water bottles filled with cold water were waiting. Walk a bit farther and get a goodie bag, then chocolate milk, then a heat blanket. Finally, as runners exited the finish line area, they got their Tiffany necklace.
A bit past that was the Finisher’s Tent filled with mirrors for beautification and long lines for foam rollers. Couple that with crabby workers and I was out of there. Through the tent to the Finisher’s Boutique. When I arrived there was no line. I flew through and picked up a sweatshirt to mark my awesome achievement! Reading follow-up comments on the event Facebook it sounds like the line got insane and they ran out of products later on. I can’t speak to that.
After a rocky start to this race series, I feel that Nike is coming out on top. This race was a winner and I hope to run it again next year. My friends and family said the runner tracking was excellent as well.
Things that could be better:
1. Nike just has GOT to do something about their website. They maintain a lot of discussion through Facebook with is confusing. They end up answering a lot of the same questions again and again. The FAQ section of their actual event website is long and tedious. They just need a regular race website. Especially for an event that had something like 30% first-timers, the information needs to be clear.
2. Pace groups – do it right or lose it.
Otherwise, for me – this race was great! Wonderful energy, beautiful course and a memorable experience!