Nike Women’s Half Marathon 2011

October 16, 2011
“Those are some SERIOUS climbs.”
Kara Goucher, holder of U.S. Women’s Debut Marathon Record this morning at 3.1 miles

There aren’t many marathons where I would have the opportunity to run so close to Kara that I could hear her make mention of the climbs on the course, but as the sun was rising over San Francisco this morning, the lead pack of the Nike Women’s Half Marathon (to include Olympic Bronze medalist Shalane Flannagan, Goucher and Joan Benoit Samuelson – one of the most influential women’s marathon runners of all time) was turning right off of the Embarcadero and up into the hills, and that was where we all exchanged a big sigh — only 10 more miles to go. Running in this company was a first (and, I might add, it didn’t last long — its hard to keep up with Olympians, no matter how much coffee you’ve had.

Backup a few hours and I was already pondering this day of firsts. This was the first time that I have ever run a race completely and entirely without a watch. This was also the first time I toed the starting line of a running race without running for several weeks prior. There, in Union Square, I found myself half excited to run this energetic, legendary course with nothing but perceived effort to go by. And then, there was the fear — that I just be making the biggest mistake of my quote-un-quote running career.

Two weeks ago (or was it three….) was out for a trot in the wee hours of the morning — fast 800m pieces to build up my strength and speed before NWM. I slowed at one point, feeling out a bit of tightness in my left ankle. Then noticing an intense soreness in my left foot. Finishing off the 4 mile trot home from the track, I found myself climbing the stairs to the apartment limping ever so slightly. Swollen, sore, and not right. And, with 320 miles to cycle in the next week, 13.1 miles to run in two weeks, the New York Marathon in one month and a 50 mile trail race in two months. CRAP. SHIT BUGGER FUCK DAMMIT.

I don’t know what it was that happened to my foot that day. Shame on me for not stretching enough, and maybe even for over training. Shame on me for not overloading on bodywork. And for pushing my own limits too hard too soon after Vineman (Coach Mike and Coach Ivy warned me about this.)

So, I hung up my running shoes, agreed that NWM was going to be for fun, and took the next three weeks off of running to recover and, hopefully, heal. As I was tying on my trainers for the first time in three weeks this morning, I couldn’t help but embrace the fact that, if this foot, this injury wasn’t yet healed that I could be putting myself out of the running, literally, for the rest of the year and possibly well into next.

But, something told me to RUN. And so, out the door I went.

Needless to say that as Kara was cursing the climbs, I was having a few realizations of my own – not from the climbs, surprisingly (though they were plentiful and no-joke, especially the one at Mile 11!) No, I was astonished (again) with how the mind rules the body, how this little tiny point on my foot was warning me to hold hold hold back, and listen listen listen.

And so I did – quietly, and with a smattered crowd of quick ladies I cruised, down the Embarcadero, past Chrissy Field and up to Fort Mason, along the coastline and through the Presidio before cruising downhill into Golden Gate Park and the largest celebration of ladies you could ever imagine, just in time to watch the masses of runners cross the finish line — crying, cheering, arms in the air and overwhelmed with joy. The race is held as a benefit for the Leukemia + Lymphoma Society and many racers run for others who cannot — men for wives, mothers and even daughters that they have lost. Twenty-two thousand women and a few good men crossed the finish line strong, and with purpose today in the largest women’s marathon on the planet — 26.2 miles dedicated to all of the things that women can accomplish when they set their minds to it.

But, I genuinely hope that this remains THE POINT amongst the overblown party that takes place surrounding the race. (Read: massages, snacks, unbelievable amounts of shopping, spa services, chocolate at the Mile 12 + 16 aid stations and, of course, the crown jewel of the race — the Tiffany necklace complete with blue box that awaits each racer instead of a medal when she crosses the finishline.)

In 1:36, I crossed that line — a new PR. And, as I milled in the finishers area was reminded of the best parts of this sport — anyone can run.

Everyone can run.

And we all run for different reasons — for love, and for good.

Many of us run to be stronger, we run to be sexy, we run to be fearless, and confident. To prove things to ourselves, and maybe even to others. We run to be dynamic, and ready and fierce, powerful. Hopefully, we don’t just run for chocolate, and shopping and Tiffany’s. But rather, as this years’ Tiffany bling so loudly proclaims, we hopefully “Run to Be.”

Usually, I run because it makes me feel invincible. Today, I ran because I COULD – I am ready, willing, able and the rest was just details. This was enough. And frankly, this is always enough of a reason to run.

I’ll be finding myself at the starting line of the ING New York City Marathon in a few short weeks because I CAN again.

A HUGE shout out to Fox and Irish – for they make an amazing team and I love them dearly, and because this was a race of FIRSTS for both of them! And to all of the volunteers that made this great race everything that it is for the women’s running community.

And to all the ladies. Run you’re hearts out, girls. Because you CAN. 🙂

TIPS FOR RUNNING THE NWM in SAN FRANCISCO:

  • This marathon is available by lottery only. Check in at the Nike Women’s Marathon Website for lottery entry details for 2012!
  • Should you be chosen for the lottery, book your hotel early as prices skyrocket surrounding the race. Stay near Union Square so that you can be at the starting line in a jiffy!
  • Be sure to put a little bit of spending money in your travel budget for NWM Marathon apparel — the finishers’ tee is a good souvenir but you’ll want a sweatshirt to wear post race at Ocean Beach!
  • Expect the expo, and packet pickup to take several hours — participants will get lost in the shopping, massaging, and sampling experience inside the tent!
  • In the days prior to the race, check out the expo and head to Cafe Claude for lunch in a dolled up alley blocks from the expo. Here, you can escape the crowds and carbo load with fresh Acme baguettes, salads and soups.
  • Shake out your racing legs with a little walk from your hotel to the Ferry Building on the Embarcadero. Blue Bottle Coffee, light bites at Il Cane Rosso, and ice cream from Scream and Ciao Bella await.

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