In November 2013, I entered the lottery to run the Nike Women’s Half Marathon with some of my friends. I was ecstatic when we were selected in December to run the race. It would be my second half marathon and my first big race outside of Canada. This was also a week after my big milestone birthday; so what better way to celebrate, than running a half marathon and getting a Tiffany necklace at the end! This was my main reason to register. A finisher medal in the form of a Tiffany necklace. What girl does not like Tiffany!? :)
In November, you had to enter into a lottery as either an individual, with a team (max 10/team) or as a college student. I started a team and sent the team link to my friends to join. Although the race name is Nike Women’s Half Marathon, guys could enter as well. I had two guys on my team who I ran the race with. A credit card was required during the registration process but would only be charged if you were one of the 15,000 runners selected. We received our acceptance email in early December. It was an awesome early Holiday gift!
The cost was $175 USD to enter. After conversion, it was almost $200 CAD. I guess that would be an accurate price for some Tiffany bling.
The flight to D.C. was full of women who were participating in the Half Marathon. I didn’t realize there were some many from Toronto going to the race. I travelled with a friend and as soon as we landed and dropped our luggage off at the hotel, we made our way to the expo. At the ‘Expotique’, we picked up our bib and T-shirt. We met up with two of my friends and team members and took a group photo by the ‘We Run’ sign. The expo wasn’t the same as the expos we have in Toronto. For Toronto race expos, we have various vendors in which you can purchase running related items, sample some fuel or protein/energy bars or learn about other races being offered. In D.C, the expo had no vendors. It was in a tent. You can get your gait analyzed and check out the Nike shoes. There was a station where you can sample stuff like Luna bars and a Nuun station for electrolytes. You can wait in line to get your hair done by one of the hair stylists there. The only line I waited in was to get a custom cheer sign made. You select one of the templates/phrases and can customize the wording at top. After a quick walk around of the expo, we headed to the Nike Georgetown store. This was where you would be able to purchase exclusive Nike merchandise designed for the D.C. Half Marathon. The women’s had a selection of items to choose from while the men’s only had an exclusive T-shirt. On the way to the Nike store, we passed by the famous wall displaying all the participants name. I eventually found my name and took a picture beside it. It was cool that Nike Women’s Runs have this wall at all their races.
The kit included a chip timed bib, a technical T-shirt and a wrist band of your corral colour. They had women’s shirts or unisex shirts. No men’s specific.
Our hotel was about a 10 minute walk from the start/finish area. So it was a nice and short walk. Although, the morning walk was pretty cold.
This was my first big American race, and boy was it big. The corrals were very spaced out with the break being a whole intersection wide. I wasn’t used to seeing such a huge gap between corrals, but it was nice because you had more room to walk. Upon entering, there was someone there to check your wristbands and make sure you were wearing one and were in the correct corral. The corrals were very spaced out and I did not feel cramped like most races here in Toronto. Washington streets are also very wide. For the pre-race, there was a DJ and speakers along the sides so you could hear the music all the way in the last corral. I actually heard the music before I even got to the start area. I really enjoyed the pre-race because not only was the music so loud at 6am in the morning, but it got you pumped up for the race. Most races here, I can barely hear the announcer if I am in the later corrals. There were some Nike Training Club members leading stretches and you could hear them over the speakers. This is one of my favourite pre-race so far.
The 13.1 mile race course ran along most of the Washington monuments. From The White House, to the Monument and various Memorials, to the University and along the waterfront. It was such a scenic and beautiful course. My friends and I decided to run the race slow and enjoy the views. There were many school bands and cheerleaders along the course as well. There was even an announcer and a photographer at the ‘finish line’ arc around the 10th mile or so announcing your name and taking your picture as you ran through. I thought this was really neat because I’ve only heard them announce names at the finish line, not during a race. It was fun and gives you that little push of motivation. What was different and fun about this race was that they actually had DJ stations – there was a pole that said DJ and all! With the bands and DJ’s along the route, it was basically a big party that stretched 13.1 miles.
What I really loved about this race was that there was a water station and porta-potty every 2 miles. Since I knew I was going to be running slow and taking advantage of all the water stations, I did not even run with my water belt. This was my first long run ever without a water belt. It honestly felt great and light. Maybe it even made me run faster..? :) We stopped at all the water stations. There was also an orange station with buckets of sliced oranges, and my favourite – towards the end of the race (maybe 12th or 13th mile), there was a chocolate truffle station!! OMG! #mindblown. The chocolates were similar to the Lindors chocolates but these were from Whole Foods. It tasted so good and provided a nice final push. After the chocolate station, there were a few employees with handfuls of chocolates so I grabbed another one. Who can resist chocolate?! Especially at a race where you need some energy in your system. They should have a chocolate station at every race!
There were plenty of volunteers at the race start/finish area and along the course. It was a well organized event. There were volunteers at the water stations and along the course handing out chocolate truffles and Oreos. Although, I’m not sure if they were volunteers or spectators.
There were lots of spectators throughout the entire course. I don’t think there was any point that I did not hear cheers or people screaming in the crowds. Even along the waterfront, there were spectators. One thing that was common and different than a race I’ve participated in locally, was that spectators were holding blown up faces of their family/friends who were running the race. I thought it was strange to see an oversized picture of someone’s head shot in the crowd. Then I noticed a lot more faces and figured it must be an American thing. :)
Team in Training had a big presence at the race as well. What I noticed was that the coaches would all run back to run with their runners. I passed a few of them running towards me and motivating their team. It was a nice sight to see and not only did it motivate their team members, but it also gave us a push as motivation as well.
Now this was my favourite part! The part I was looking forward to most – getting my Tiffany finisher’s necklace. Crossing the finish line of this race felt amazing. I felt like I was in a stadium and everyone watching and cheering me on. The roads are so wide in D.C. and they had two finishing arches side by side. Spectators were behind the fences on either side of the road but they were so far away. Comparing this race to one of our local big race – the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon – the atmosphere was the same, but you didn’t have spectators so close to you that you could touch them. At this race, you can hear them but because they were so far away, the cheers echoed through the streets and it really felt like entering a stadium. Once we crossed the finish line, there was a table with a Whole Foods paper bag that consisted of crackers and snacks; we were also given a reusable water bottle, exclusive for the event. I really liked the reusable water bottle idea because it saves them from using excess cups (I’m guilty of sometimes taking more than one cup of water at the finish line), but it was also a nice bottle that I can reuse and work out in and show off my accomplishment because it said Nike Women’s Half Marathon Washington D.C on it. We then had to get in a lineup to receive our Tiffany necklace. There were various lineups and men in suits and gloves handing you the little blue box. You could take a picture with them as well, which I did. Once passed this line, there were optional lines to get some more photos taken with more men in suits – some carrying a tray of little blue boxes. I didn’t wait in this line because it was too long and I already had my photo op with them.
The post-race tent was also my favourite!! I had never seen such a tent that included many post race activities. Upon entering, volunteers handed out Neutrogena wipes (this was an amazing idea!). There were sections with mirrors where you can freshen up and check yourself out. There was another section that had yoga mats and foam rollers where you can do some foam rolling and stretching! There were trainers to assist you as well if needed. I thought this was wonderful because it’s definitely good to foam roll after a race and I didn’t have to wait to get back to my hotel to foam roll. I would probably forget to as well. There was a line for this, but it wasn’t long so I did some post race stretching and foam rolling. It felt so amazing! Another fave is that they had charging stations! Lots of charging docks for all types of phones. Such a neat idea because my phone had minimal battery life after the run due to my Nike Running app being on and all the picture/video taking during the run. I didn’t want to wait for the charging stations though so we left the tent after the stretching.
There was another lineup after the tent and this one was for the merchandise. I decided to wait in this lineup because I wanted to purchase the exclusive finisher’s merchandise. They also had the exclusive D.C. collection in case you didn’t purchase it from the Nike Georgetown store. Once I got to a cash register, they had no more finisher’s sweaters left so I settled on a finisher’s shirt. The prices were the same as what you would pay for a Nike technical shirt. There were no finishers merchandise for guys, just the one D.C. collection shirt.
Would I Run It Again:
I would ABSOLUTELY run this race again! It’s one of my favourites so far. I had so much fun and the experience was phenomenal. Everything from start to finish was amazing and well executed. It definitely felt like a party than a race. I had such a great time with my friends during the race and touring Washington as well. There are so many sights and monuments to see that we didn’t even fit it all in. I need to go back to see everything I missed. Perhaps for the race again or even just to visit. All the staff, volunteers, spectators and the locals were very friendly and welcoming. The streets were very wide and surprisingly clean too; something I did not expect for a city. I would run this race again but also register for the Nike San Francisco race. I can only imagine how awesome that experience would be as well since Nike Women’s Runs events are so well executed and fun to participate in. It didn’t even feel like I ran a half marathon; and those are the best kind of races. No injuries, no pain, no soreness; just having fun and enjoying the experience.