Race Report: 2011 Nike Women’s Half Marathon

The big #20 is done! 

It went exactly as it should too… surrounded by so many friends, running through the amazing city of San Francisco, running side by side with my favorite running partner Kristin and crossing the finish line with a big smile on my face.  What more can you ask for?

After a heavy week of workouts and not really “training” much for this race, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I was tired, my legs have been working hard, and I knew the course was really tough.  Kristin and I chatted about running together since we run together a lot which sounded perfect to me!  Neither one of us were taking it too seriously, but we did hope for a sub 2 half, which seemed pretty reasonable based on our weeks and training.  You never know how things end up panning out come race day.

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We drove in to SF together and were parked and to the packed start area by 6am.  After dropping our bags off, using the bathrooms a couple times, we made our way to the start corrals and had to sneak in so we weren’t stuck way way back.  Kara Goucher and Shalane Flanagan were there on stage which was so awesome, and Union Square was buzzing with excitement from 20,000+ runners.

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We crossed the start line just over a minute after the gun went off and were immediately weaving in the standard NWM fashion.  This race is notoriously known for being crowded and having to constantly weave around runners, especially in the first mile.  There were walkers in the middle of the street and people everywhere and we were running all over the place! 

Our splits ended up being a point of laughter during and after the race because they are seriously all over the place! 

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We wound our way through the financial district and were dropped off at the Embarcadero.  I know when my Garmin said 1.06 at the 1 mile marker it was going to be a long morning.

Mile 1 – 8:32

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We continued our way along the Embarcadero enjoying the people watching and trying to have fun.  We were both really warm to start off and it only took a couple miles before we were soaked with sweat.  We made conscious efforts to slow down and just keep the pace easy since we had never-ending hills coming up and because we were just both feeling “meh” for lack of a better word.

Mile 2 – 8:33
Mile 3 – 8:32

We climbed up and around Ghiradelli Square, then up and over into Fort Mason with views of the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance.  We wouldn’t be running over it today though! 

Mile 4 – 8:50
Mile 5 – 8:35

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By this point my stomach started talking to me and I knew I might have to stop.  Sure enough right around mile 6 I knew I had to stop and pulled over to the porta potties.  The only other time I have stopped during a race is during the first time I ran Nike!  This race must be jinxed for me for bathroom trips.

Mile 6 – 9:36 (bathroom then hill)

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After the stop, we had the big hill to climb.  This is the hill that goes up to the Golden Gate Bridge and then continues on through the Presidio.  This hill goes on forever and we weren’t very excited to be on it.  The last time we ran it was during SFM but at least at that point in time we had been running on hills.

Mile 7 – 10:54 (hill)

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Finally we got the long downhill with views of the ocean.  If felt good not to be climbing but I knew running the downhills hard might hurt later.

Mile 8 – 8:23 (downhill)

After the long downhill we had more big climbs, followed by more downhill… it was like a rollercoaster!  We started doing a run walk thing on some of the hills and just kept on going.  We saw Page, Katie and Jessica at Mile 8 which was a great boost then continued on to the worst hill of the race.

Mile 9 – 10:15
Mile 10 – 9:26

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We kept on running trying to stay positive and just trying to enjoy ourselves.  There are tons of spectators out at this race and the crowds were awesome. 

I hate this hill.
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Finally we wrapped around the long downhill on the Great Highway which meant we were getting close!

Mile 11 – 8:31

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We made our way into the park for some more hills.

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Then were able to turn off from the full course.  We were both so happy to be turning right!

Mile 12 – 9:06

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Finally it was the last mile, we knew we were close to sub 2 and luckily the last mile has a lot of downhill in it!  We used it to our advantage and picked up the pace. 

Mile 13 – 8:09

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Then we were making the final turn onto the Great Highway with the finish line straight ahead.  We took off, my lungs were burning but we flew past tons of people and crossed the finish line just under 2 hours.

Last .32 (per garmin) 2:17 (7:08 avg)

Garmin: 13.32 miles/1:59:42/8:59 avg pace

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Joan Benoit Samuelson was at the finish lining and I got a high five from her!  Then we made our way to the Tiffany’s boxes and got our beautiful new necklace.  It definitely helps to erase the memory of the previous 13 miles.

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We hung out the rest of the day waiting for all our friends and cheering on the full from the best seat in the house.

The madness that is NWM from the top of a san dune.NWM 067 NWM 063 NWM 064 NWM 065

On our way out we happened to be walking by the stage just as the awards ceremony was over and I happened to catch a glimpse of Kara Goucher.  I told Page where she was and we ran up to get a picture with her!  Sadly no one would take the picture for us (?!) so Page did a arm extended self portrait and I barely made the squeeze in.  This was definitely a great moment of the day.

Oh hey Kara!
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Nike is a tough, tough course and I still think it’s the hardest half I have run.  We had fun out there though and made the most of our day!  This is not a race that I am dying to run every year… maybe again in a few years if I get the itch for another Tiffany necklace.

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It was a great day though and I am always so happy when I can spend a race having fun and running with my friends, especially Kristin!  Congrats to all the million other women I knew out there running today, it was so fun to share the experience with you!  As always I leave days like today feeling so blessed to have so many amazing friends and such an awesome running community.  

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49 Responses to Race Report: 2011 Nike Women’s Half Marathon

  1. The Blonde October 16, 2011 at 8:32 pm #

    Hooray! Nicely done, girl! What a beautiful blue box! ;) You deserve it!

  2. Cate October 16, 2011 at 8:33 pm #

    So jealous of your celebrity run-ins at the finish! It was great to see you today, and congrats on 20!

  3. Beth October 16, 2011 at 8:36 pm #

    Wow – quick turnaround on that race report! I did the full; believe me, at that turn-off, I kind of wished I was turning right, too!

    • Aron October 17, 2011 at 8:56 am #

      CONGRATS on tackling the full!!!

  4. Kristine @ Running on Hungry October 16, 2011 at 8:39 pm #

    Great recap, and it sounds like a great race! (Um especially the Kara picture – SO jealous!)

    I think Nike is by far the toughest course I’ve ever run… those hills are awful! I’m dying to run together soon! I did 18 miles (slightly hungover today) and ohmygod I’m ready for the marathon! These runs are brutal! :)

  5. Celia October 16, 2011 at 8:42 pm #

    Sounds like a fun day! :) But wow..those are some hills!

  6. Rena @ milehogger.blogspot.com October 16, 2011 at 8:54 pm #

    Wow, those hills look terrible. And I thought I had it bad in central New York with our rolling hills. I really want to run the women’s nike half marathon someday. The whole Tiffany necklace thing is awesome!

  7. courtney (pancakes and postcards) October 16, 2011 at 9:05 pm #

    great recap aron! I am so glad I got to hang out with you today.

  8. Faye October 16, 2011 at 9:10 pm #

    Aron!! I’ve been waiting for this report. I ran this today and they are not kidding about those hills. I was secretly hoping I cado a sub2 but I failed. I can’t figure out how to pace, worrying about bonking at the end. But I did PR @ 2:04!

    • Aron October 17, 2011 at 8:59 am #

      AMAZING!!! A PR at Nike!!! Congrats :)

  9. Kat October 16, 2011 at 10:08 pm #

    Way to go! Good job. Reading the recap (until the part about the hills) has me wanting to try for it next year and that Tiffany necklace. lol :)

  10. Ashley G October 16, 2011 at 10:22 pm #

    NWM today was my first marathon!! I felt amazing and “pr’d” a 4:49:48!! I’m so excited and thrilled. It was a great day– so sad I didn’t run into you or Kara…. my NWM celebs :)

    Great job and glad you had a fun race too!!!

    • Aron October 17, 2011 at 8:59 am #


  11. Britney October 17, 2011 at 3:49 am #

    Joan Benoit Samuelson is definitely making the rounds! I high-fived her after the Tufts 10k in Boston last Monday. :)

  12. Marlene October 17, 2011 at 4:21 am #

    Too cool meeting Kara! What’s with nobody taking your pic for you? Lame! At least you got one, even if only half your face made it in the shot.

    That sounds like one tough half – congrats on getting ‘er done in a very respectable time!

  13. Kelly October 17, 2011 at 4:34 am #

    Congrats on #20! Sounds like a ridiculously tough course, but still one i want to try someday! It’s so pretty there :) And how awesome you got to see Kara and Joan!

  14. Ana-Maria October 17, 2011 at 4:47 am #

    Killer of a course that’s for sure. Glad you had fun and congrats on #20!

  15. Fancy Nancy October 17, 2011 at 4:53 am #

    Great job! Those hills look killer!! This race is definitely on my bucket list….even though I despise hills!! Awesome pic with Kara!!!

  16. michelle October 17, 2011 at 5:35 am #

    What a tough looking course. Congrats on the great time.

  17. Lisa October 17, 2011 at 5:39 am #

    I’ve got to put my name in for the half and try to run this while my son is still out there for school.

    so cool that you got a pic with Kara!

  18. Robin Johnson October 17, 2011 at 5:56 am #

    Congrats on finishing the race in under 2 hours! Kuddos … looks like you had a lot of fun!

  19. Carolina John October 17, 2011 at 6:52 am #

    That sounds like a lot of laughter for a half marathon. Good job! Kara Goucher and friends always make for a more interesting race.

  20. Naomi October 17, 2011 at 7:14 am #

    You make me feel better about the crazy splits I have too. I so love the photo of you ladies with Kara. And it was so nice to see you again yesterday! Congrats on #20!

  21. Sarah K. @ The Pajama Chef October 17, 2011 at 7:20 am #

    great job! i’m sad it didn’t work out for me to run this race but my husband and i had a great time running at the columbus marathon instead. :) our time, not so good, but he finished his first full marathon so that was exciting!!

  22. Lauren October 17, 2011 at 8:14 am #

    Congratulations on Half #20!! The course sounds tough (that elevation!!!) but looks beautiful. And the Tiffany necklace at the end is a pretty great prize. It’s a race that I’ve always wanted to do – but from the sounds of your report, I think it’s one that I’d be fine doing just once…just for the experience of it.

    I’m glad you got your sub-2 and had fun running with friends! Congrats again!

  23. amanda October 17, 2011 at 8:50 am #

    Thanks for the report! I’ve been following your blog throughout my marathon training and I am happy to report I completed my first marathon yesterday at Nike! It was really tough and it took me over six hours but I did it! Thanks for being an inspiration

    • Aron October 17, 2011 at 9:00 am #

      So awesome!!! Congrats on your first marathon!!! And a TOUGH one at that :)

  24. katie October 17, 2011 at 8:52 am #

    congrats on #20! looks like you had a blast :)

  25. Haute Running Mama October 17, 2011 at 9:48 am #

    Way to go! So glad you all got nice running weather on that tough course. The hills are no joke!!

    So awesome that you got a pic with Kara :) And Joan? Running ICON!

  26. Denise October 17, 2011 at 9:49 am #

    what do you mean no one would take the picture for you??? that’s horrible!!! sounds like a fun day and i love the tiffany necklace at the finish, so cool!

  27. Angela @ SF Road Warrior October 17, 2011 at 10:06 am #

    Yay, congrats! Sounds like you had a great time. :)

  28. Nelly October 17, 2011 at 11:00 am #

    Great recap and pictures! That race does seem like a doozy, there almost seem like more hills in that half marathon than there are in the regular SF half marathon. The Crissy field hill must have felt brutal since you basically have to keep climbing til you reach the top of the Presidio hill! I love that Presidio hill downhill part though, that is awesome.

    You really saw some awewsome runners – Goucher, Flanagan and Jean-Benoit!

  29. kristin October 17, 2011 at 2:45 pm #

    loved your race report – especially because i ran the full yesterday, but didn’t take any photos along the way! by the way, two of my Team in Training teammates are in your “mile 1″ photo with the purple singlets and “illinois” on the back. too funny that i happened to come across your blog for the first time and saw them! congrats on your 20th half!

  30. Alyssa October 17, 2011 at 3:01 pm #

    I ALOL’d at this: “It definitely helps to erase the memory of the previous 13 miles.” :) I’m loving all these bits of optimism & am trying to channel you.

    Great job to you and Kristin! :)

  31. meghan October 17, 2011 at 4:12 pm #

    This course looks brutal. I live in Florida and just started running in March and ran the Wine and Dine at Disney and thought the freeway on ramps and overpasses were going to kill me. But, I want that necklace! Then I could actually wear my medal whenever I want without strange looks. Do you wear yours?!

    • Aron October 17, 2011 at 4:14 pm #

      I have it on today!! I wear my one from 2009 too with a Boston charm, I will probably combine them all :)

  32. RunToTheFinish October 17, 2011 at 4:24 pm #

    i remember that hill and it is a doozy!! But yeah for races with friends and finishing with a smile, that is seriously one of the best feelings… um right next to a picture with kara

  33. Laura October 17, 2011 at 10:14 pm #

    Awesome job! I did the full and wow are my quads hurting today! It’s such a beautiful course…. looking back over downtown with sunrise took my breath away (that and the giant hill I was running up!) Great race report!

  34. Christine October 18, 2011 at 3:51 am #

    Wow, that sounds like a race I will never do! I hate hills :) You did an amazing job! Congrats :)

  35. Susan - Nurse on the Run October 18, 2011 at 5:19 am #

    Congrats on the sub-2 and half #20! I’ve always heard mixed reviews about the course (and have a few more race reports to read from this year, so many people ran it!), and those hills sound tough! That’s awesome that you saw Kara and Joan…seeing elite runners interacting with the crowd always makes me love this sport even more. The Tiffany’s necklace definitely makes me consider running it, however, so I’ll let you know when I’m heading back out that way. Congrats again!

  36. Kristin October 18, 2011 at 10:54 am #

    Ahahah!! We did it! Thanks for running with me even though I was lame a few times. I did have so much fun. I cannot wait to see what the next race is that we get to do together!

  37. Leana October 18, 2011 at 1:59 pm #

    Congratulations on #20! I really like the NWM half. I raced there back in 2007 and I’d love to go back sometime (although who knows when that will be now that the lottery is in place).Congrats on a great race with friends!

  38. kristen October 20, 2011 at 6:56 am #

    I love this side of Aron. Racing for FUN! and not taking running so seriously. I’m looking forward to how this impacts the awsomeness of 2012 for you.

    Great job and congrats!!

  39. Jess October 21, 2011 at 7:28 pm #

    Congrats on #20! Awesome photo with Kara.

  40. Amy October 24, 2011 at 2:40 pm #

    A sub-2 hour half is my next goal! I did the Nike full this year and really enjoyed it. The hills were tough but it kept it interesting. This was a big year for me – hoped to break a 5 hour marathon and DID by 20 minutes! The crowd surfing was challenging for that first half for sure.

    Nice recap – good run!


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