Race Report: Nike Women’s Half Marathon San Fran

Race Report: Nike Women's Half Marathon San Francisco

Runners in Golden Gate Park (Photo: Nike)

Want to take part in the Nike Women San Francisco Race Weekend from October 16-18, 2015, including the Nike Women’s Half Marathon? Registration for the random draw is open until Monday June 29, 2015 at 11:59 a.m. PDT. The random draw will take place July 8, 2015.

Registration is $200, and only runners picked through the draw will be charged. You can enter the lottery as an individual or as a group, and men are welcome too.

If you’re one of the lucky runners to get a half-marathon entry, you’ll also be able to register for other Nike Women San Francisco Race weekend events at no additional cost, until events have reached capacity. For more information or to register, visit nike.com/sf.

Race Report: Nike Women's Half Marathon San Francisco

Running San Francisco!

I ran the 2014 Nike Women’s Half Marathon San Francisco courtesy of Nike as part of a media group. I went in with high expectations and, somehow, the race managed to exceed them. I love, love, love this race. I’d never run a Nike event before, and I’d never run in San Francisco before. From start to finish, I was thoroughly impressed.

From the start at Union Square and on-course signage that let you know the next bathrooms were 1.4-miles away to the red carpet finish and free race photos after the fact, it was a superbly executed race and incredibly fun, too. Not to mention, instead of a finisher medal, I got a Tiffany & Co. finisher necklace. Yep, I’ve been wearing mine all the time. And Tiffany will be back for 2015.

The course’s natural beauty was among the most scenic of the 90 races I’ve run—behind the Kauai Half Marathon and Bermuda Half Marathon. Even through San Francisco’s famous fog I was able to appreciate the beauty of the city’s architecture, Golden Gate Park and the beach. No, we weren’t able to see the Golden Gate Bridge on race day because the fog was so thick. Thankfully, I got a shot in front of it the day before at a shakeout run.

If you’re thinking of registering for the random draw, here’s what you can expect come race weekend!

Race Report: Nike Women’s Half Marathon San Francisco

I was among the 24,448 finishers at the 2014 Nike Women’s Half Marathon San Francisco. The course toured us through city and parkland to a waterfront finish. Nike hasn’t released the 2015 course map yet, but here’s what last year looked like.

Race Report: Nike Women's Half Marathon San Francisco

2014 Course Map

The Course

San Francisco is synonymous with hills, and the Nike Women’s Half Marathon had a few doozies, as you can see from the elevation chart above. But I was pleasantly surprised by how manageable the course was overall.

After all, what goes up must come down. If you approach San Fran’s hills right, you can still run a good time on this course. I was a case in point. I actually beat my time—by more than a minute and a half—from a half-marathon on a seemingly easier course that I’d run just the week before. I just ran these hills smarter—conservative in the early miles while climbing, faster in the middle on the downhills and rare flats, letting it rip in the last two downhill and flat miles.

Race Report: Nike Women's Half Marathon

November Project runners cheered at the toughest hill.

The worst of the hills came at Mile 10. It was a doozy. I actually walked up, realizing that with the steep incline I could power walk it as fast as I could run it.

But once we reached the top, we had a glorious 2.5 mile downhill followed by a flat stretch into the finish line. I’ll take a downhill or flat finish any day. No, I wouldn’t call this a PR course. Like I said, some of the hills are whoppers. But it’s a really fun course if you mentally and physically steel yourself for it.

Race Report: Nike Women's Half Marathon San Francisco

Finish!

The on-course support was incredible. Water, Nuun, Clif Shot Bloks, Clif Bars, and orange slices waited to refresh runners. A few stations gave out Neutrogena face wipes, which I gladly grabbed a few times since I wasn’t wearing a visor or sweatband.

Race Report: Nike Women's Half Marathon San Francisco

Cheerleaders lined the course.

And bands, cheerleaders, DJs, choirs, drummers, and other entertainment lined the course. I think I smiled almost the entire way.

Race Report: Nike Women's Half Marathon San Francisco

(Photo: Nike)

The Race

I’d raced a half-marathon the week before on a course of gently rolling hills at the Staten Island Half in New York, and completely crashed and burned. I was attempting to finally break 2 hours, but I went out too hot and depleted everything I had—cramping, walking, and finishing in 2:13:47.

So my goal for the Nike Women’s Half Marathon was to do the opposite: start easy and slowly turn on the heat. I had no delusions of another PR attempt just a week later. I wanted to enjoy myself. And I managed to do just that, running a big negative split and finishing in 2:12:03. Still a far cry from my 2:00:30 PR, but fantastic for a race that I simply wanted to be a good, solid workout.

But rather than gab about the race, I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

Race Report: Nike Women's Half Marathon San Francisco

“We Run” greeted us at the Expotique. (Photo: Nike)

The Expotique in Union Square was a beehive of runners checking out vendors, clothes, and gear. I signed the wall to leave my mark on the race.

Race Report: Nike Women's Half Marathon San Francisco

Signing the wall. (Photo: RunKarlaRun.com)

Race Report: Nike Women's Half Marathon San Francisco

(Photo: RunKarlaRun.com)

Then I headed over to the NikeTown next door. They’d etched the names of every participant in the glass storefront windows.

Race Report: Nike Women's Half Marathon San Francisco

It’s me! (Photo: RunKarlaRun.com)

Race Report: Nike Women's Half Marathon San Francisco

So many names! (Photo: RunKarlaRun.com)

Before bed, I laid out my race kit. I’d planned a completely different outfit, but the weather was going to be warmer than I’d expected, so I switched at the last-minute. I don’t usually wear the race shirt in the race I’m doing, but the Nike Women’s Half Marathon race tank was the only tank I had with me. So I decided to go for it.

Race Report: Nike Women's Half Marathon San Francisco

Race kit! (Photo: RunKarlaRun.com)

Come morning, it was time to race! We started near the Expotique in Union Square.

Race Report: Nike Women's Half Marathon San Francisco

Race morning!

Race Report: Nike Women's Half Marathon San Francisco

The start

I set out with two friends, fellow media mavens, Locke and Jess.

Race Report: Nike Women's Half Marathon San Francisco

We’re ready!

Yep, we pretty much wore the same outfit.

Race Report: Nike Women's Half Marathon San Francisco

The start

Race Report: Nike Women's Half Marathon San Francisco

Shalane Flanagan ran too!

My only critique of the entire experience came before the start. The lines for the portable bathrooms were long. The port-o-lets were inside the penned in area for each wave, and mine was packed. It’s a common complaint I have at many a race (like at the 2014 GORE-TEX Philadelphia Half Marathon), and something I like to praise when a race gets it right (like at the 2013 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon).

Yes, I expect to wait in line for the bathroom. But I don’t want to wait for more than 10 minutes. My advice: get to the start early if you like to use the bathrooms one last time. One perk to note at this race: the bathrooms on course were plentiful and signage at each one told you how far the next toilets were—much like rest stops on the highway—so you could decide if you wanted to stop or keep running.

Race Report: Nike Women's Half Marathon San Francisco

Waiting for the start

Race Report: Nike Women's Half Marathon San Francisco

What 25,000 runners looks like. (Photo: Nike)

Race Report: Nike Women's Half Marathon San Francisco

Ready to run! (Photo: RunKarlaRun.com)

Once I got into my corral, I didn’t have too long to wait. Finally, we were off! The early miles of the race climbed San Fran’s Hills through the city on the way to Golden Gate Park.

Race Report: Nike Women's Half Marathon San Francisco

Through the city

An amazing gospel choir greeted us on a long hill as dawn broke.

Race Report: Nike Women's Half Marathon San Francisco

Inspiring!

We also found bands, cheerleaders and a video screen showing us running by.

Race Report: Nike Women's Half Marathon San Francisco

Challenges? What challenges?

By Mile 3.5 we made it to Golden Gate Park, which was beyond gorgeous. We ran through the park until Mile 8. They were my favorite miles of the race.

Race Report: Nike Women's Half Marathon San Francisco

Gorgeous Golden Gate Park (Photo: Nike)

Can you tell I was happy?

Race Report: Nike Women's Half Marathon San Francisco

Running San Francisco!

I was feeling great, having fun, and loving the music along the way.

Race Report: Nike Women's Half Marathon San Francisco

Bands, DJs and cheerleaders lined the course.

At some point I caught up with the 2:10 pace team, so I made a point of keeping them in sight or behind me. They were running even splits and I was running by even effort–slower on the uphills, faster on the downhills. So we traded leads for a few miles. This particular pace leader seemed to be hitting perfect splits, so she was great to work off of.

Race Report: Nike Women's Half Marathon San Francisco

The 2:10 pace team.

Before long I’d crested the largest hill, then I let it rip for the last few miles downhill through the Presidio along the water.

Race Report: Nike Women's Half Marathon San Francisco

Just do it!

If not for the fog, we would have had an amazing view of the Golden Gate Bridge. Thankfully, I’d snapped a shot during a shakeout run the morning before.

Race Report: Nike Women's Half Marathon San Francisco

Hello San Fran! (Photo:RunKarlaRun.com)

Once we reached Mile 11 past the bridge, I knew the finish just a 2-mile straightaway into the marina.

Race Report: Nike Women's Half Marathon San Francisco

Nearing the finish.

At the 12 mile marker we passed some amazing drummers and a giant screen that blared our names as we went by. Not gonna lie, I got pretty psyched when I saw “Karla Run Strong” on the screen.

Race Report: Nike Women's Half Marathon San Francisco

1 mile to go!

It gave me the motivation I needed to keep pushing. Btw, I wore my sunglasses on my head the entire race. Never needed them with all the fog!

Race Report: Nike Women's Half Marathon San Francisco

Just keep pushing.

Finally, I saw the finish emerge through the mist.

Race Report: Nike Women's Half Marathon San Francisco

The red carpet finish.

Then it was my turn to cross the red carpet finish line.

Race Report: Nike Women's Half Marathon San Francisco

Done!

First, we got our Nike Women’s Half Marathon water bottle and Whole Foods bag filled with goodies.

Race Report: Nike Women's Half Marathon San Francisco

Water

Race Report: Nike Women's Half Marathon San Francisco

Post-race bag

Then it was the moment I’d been wait for and running for–my precious, a Tiffany & Co. finisher necklace.

Race Report: Nike Women's Half Marathon San Francisco

Tiffany!

Race Report: Nike Women's Half Marathon San Francisco

That little blue box

Race Report: Nike Women's Half Marathon San Francisco

(Photo: RunKarlaRun.com)

Then I got my photo with firefighters in Tiffany blue ties. Thank you for all you do, fellas!

Race Report: Nike Women's Half Marathon San Francisco

Firefighters!

I found Locke and Jess, and the three of us snapped some finisher pics with our boxes in tow. Um, can you tell that we had a ton of fun?

Race Report: Nike Women's Half Marathon San Francisco

Ta da!

But I wasn’t finished yet. I was in the idle of marathon training and was supposed to run 16 miles that day. So I ran the 2.9 miles from the finish back to my hotel near the start at Union Square for an even 16 miles.

Race Report: Nike Women's Half Marathon San Francisco

My run “home.”

The Takeaway

There aren’t enough superlatives to describe how much fun I had at the Nike Women’s Half Marathon. The course was stunning and challenging, the entertainment was fabulous, the vibe was lively, and the Tiffany necklace was my favorite race bling yet.

Race Report: Nike Women's Half Marathon San Francisco

My precious… (Photo: RunKarlaRun.com)

This is one race I’d certainly love to run again!

Race Report: Nike Women's Half Marathon San Francisco

Thank you, Nike! (Photo: RunKarlaRun.com)

I mean, we couldn’t stop laughing! Thank you, Nike!

Race Report: Nike Women's Half Marathon San Francisco

Having so much fun

As mentioned above, I attended the 2014 Nike Women’s Half Marathon San Francisco courtesy of Nike as part of a media group. As always, all posts and opinions are purely my own. I’m always honest about my experiences. Seriously. For more information, read my Disclosure policy.

Karla Bruning

About 

Karla Bruning is a race announcer at the TCS New York City Marathon + other major events, TV host for the New York City Triathlon + contributor to Shape, Redbook, Runner's World + other publications. She used to report for Newsweek but spent her free time squeezing in workouts. Now it's her job. She's run 8 marathons, 30 halves, 10 triathlons + open water swims. When she's not running, talking about running or writing about running, she's snuggling her baby, spoiling her dog + compulsively traveling.

23 Comments Add Yours ↓

The upper is the most recent comment

  1. 1

    Love your write-up here! I also ran the Nike Women’s Half last year…however, I wasn’t quite as impressed considering the price tag :-\ there are a lot of perks (necklace, finish entertainment, etc.), but the course was awful (and I say this as a San Francisco resident who is used to hills!) and VERY crowded. If you’re going for a PR, I’d definitely recommend a different race. It’s fun…but not $200 worth of fun!

    • Karla Bruning
      2

      Thanks for sharing, Riley! Love hearing an SF perspective. Coming from NYC where every race is crazy crowded and everything is crazy expensive, the Nike Half felt downright roomy and like an amazing deal to me. I just registered for a sprint tri in NY for $150 and I don’t even get a tech shirt, let alone a Tiffany necklace. Just goes to show differing perspectives! For me, the Tiffany necklace justifies the price. A similar necklace sells for $150-$200 at Tiffany, so if you’re in the market for Tiffany bling, the race is basically icing on the cake. If you’re not in the market for a Tiffany necklace, then maybe not! Totally agree this is not a PR course. But it was my first time running SF, so I thought it was downright beautiful (again, coming from dirty, smelly NYC).
      Karla Bruning recently posted..Race Report: Nike Women’s Half Marathon San FranMy Profile

  2. 3

    I was in SF last month, right before Breakers, and I saw so many people running or biking around. I couldn’t imagine running those hills all the time. We took a cable car up Russian Hill and then walked down, leaning back so I wouldn’t fall forward and hurt myself.
    Lesley recently posted..10 Years Ago: Baltic CruiseMy Profile

  3. 5

    This sounds like such a great race! I’ve heard awesome things! Love the “what hill” spectator sign…the hills are one major thing I heard about this race!
    Karen recently posted..T.G.I.F. GT5KMy Profile

    • Karla Bruning
      6

      Yeah, the hills are for real. I power-walked that last big one. But I’d done some hill training so I was mentally ready for them! And the downhills were really fun!

  4. 7

    Great recap! Seems like a great race. I can’t believe you had the energy to run even more after you were done.

    You know how much I love my old city. My heart aches for it every time I see pictures of it.
    Elle recently posted..Week 2 of Run Less, Run FasterMy Profile

  5. Martha #
    9

    Loved reading your recap! I signed up and am waiting to see if I got in. I hope I don’t have to wait til July 8th! I also appreciated your encouragement about the hills not being the worst things in the world if you prepare well for them. There is a hilly trail near our house that I plan on running a few times a week in preparation. Do you know if overall elevation gain was available for last year’s course?

    • Karla Bruning
      10

      Yes, preparation is everything! If you don’t train on hills, this course will get you. If you train that hilly trail you mention, you’ll be ready! According to HalfMarathons.net, the 2014 course had an overall net loss of 73 feet. You run uphill 912 ft and downhill 985 feet. http://www.halfmarathons.net/course-map-nike-womens-half-marathon-san-francisco/ I’ve personally run worse–the Yonkers Half Marathon comes to mind, with 1008 ft. of climbing. I’ve run it twice–once without preparing for hills, which was brutal, and once having trained lots of hills, which was actually fun and a big confidence boost. Hope you get in and have a great training season!
      Karla Bruning recently posted..Race Report: Nike Women’s Half Marathon San FranMy Profile

  6. 11

    Do you think this is doable for my 1st half? I am more the scared to death!

    • Karla Bruning
      12

      Yes, it’s absolutely doable. No, it’s not an easy course, but if you include hills as a regular part of your training you’ll be OK. And look at it this way: if you decide to do another half later, many courses will feel easy by comparison!
      Karla Bruning recently posted..Race Report: Bristol Independence Half MarathonMy Profile

  7. Kristen #
    13

    My best friend and I were dying to do this race and didn’t get in the lottery. Will you be doing any giveaways for entries for it this year? Thanks!

  8. April #
    16

    Thanks for your recap! I am running the Nike Half in October and I’ve been looking for blog posts to get an idea of what to expect the day of the run. I’ve already been warned by friends who’ve ran in races in San Fran that the hills are no joke. This will be my second half marathon this year, but this time I will throw in more hill training. Thanks again for sharing your experience. I can’t wait :)

    • Karla Bruning
      17

      Good luck with your training, April, and have fun at the race!

  9. Cynthia #
    18

    Thanks for the detailed run down! Makes me feel a lot better and prepared for this year’s race! Besides the shake down, were there any other events scheduled for the weekend? When does the expo open? I’m trying to find more info online to help me decide when I should fly in. Thanks again!

    • Karla Bruning
      19

      Last year, other than the shake-out and the expo, there weren’t any other events that I remember. But who knows what will be on deck for this year. The first day of events for the race this year is Friday, Oct. 16. Last year I flew in on Friday. Good luck with your training and planning!

  10. V #
    20

    I look forward to running the race next year! just waiting for the lottery to open up, in the mean time I’ll be training. Do you have any tips for lining up at the top of the start line? I read somewhere that the front of the start line is the region where people who are actually trying to win first, second, or third should line up.

    • Karla Bruning
      21

      Yep, if you’re in it to win it, you want to be up front! At Nike Women’s Half, you need a corral assignment/wrist band that puts you in the first corral based on pace. If you’ve got that, my best advice is to get into the corral early so that you’re in before most of the crowd. That’s honestly the best way to ensure you get up front. Good luck!
      Karla Bruning recently posted..Disneyland Paris Half Marathon Registration Is OpenMy Profile

      • Tadd Anderwon #
        22

        I am so excited after reading your blog. I am running it for the first time and so excited. I am not looking to PR after injury but just looking to enjoy. I love San Fran. How many waves and how often are they released? I am excited to see the necklace!!

        • Karla Bruning
          23

          Sorry I didn’t get to your comment before the race! Hope you had a great one and enjoyed it!


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