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Marathon Review – Ow

October 22, 2008

I made it to San Fran for the 2008 Nike Women’s Marathon, all in one piece and no worse for wear considering that plane trip detailed below (although I may have left SF a bit broken).

Once I got off that blasted flight, getting from SFO to Fisherman’s Wharf wasn’t too bad, I took the BART to Embarcadero and grabbed a $10 taxi to the hotel. It was late, so upon arrival I piled into bed and Lindsey and I settled on an early rise time to head to packet pick up for the race.

Since the only other marathon I’ve run is our own Marine Corps, here’s where I will compare the two. MCM = my experience with the previous two Marine Corps Marathons (2006 and 2007) and NWM = the 2008 Nike Women’s Marathon.

ExpoThis is the place where you go pick up your race bib, chip timer and goodie bag. Also where many runners plan to check out the latest (or oldest if it’s on sale) in running accoutrements and branded marathon gear.

MCM – Grade C
Horrendously long lines, but friendly military volunteers. Depressing location (DC Armory). Lots of running gear for sale and on sale – pretty much anything a runner could need all under one roof. MCM logoed marathon gear for sale onsite, it’s ugly stuff but it’s there. Get’s the average grade for an average Expo, nothing really stands out here.

NWM – Grade B
Super quick bag pick-up…even though I had forgotten my bar code, I was still out the door with my bib number, chip timer and goodie bag in less than 8 minutes. Tons of cool booths – free gait analysis, free manicures, free chair massages, free flavored oxygen (so did not try this). But outside of these cool things, there wasn’t a lot going on—there was no NWM marathon clothing to buy, you could look at it (and get a coupon) but in order to buy it you had to head to Niketown, Lady Foot Locker or Macy’s. Having to make two stops and limited number of sponsor stalls keeps the “Expotique” from getting an A.

Marathon GearAll the items with the race logo that a runner can wear to prove they endured those 26.2 miles.

MCM – Grade D-
Butt ugly. That’s all I can say about it. I’ve never purchased anything MCM, they’ve never put anything out that is remotely attractive – or if they did my preferred sizing was sold out before the race even started. Doesn’t fail because they do try, just not successfully, D for effort here.

NWM – Grade A
The Nike behemoth does apparel well and branding their marathon is no exception – shorts, shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies, jackets, hats, bags, socks in various styles and color combinations. And if you found something on their shelves that wasn’t branded NWM, they would sell you personalized screen printing on the spot for any item in the store. Loses out on an A+ for ruining two decent colors, official colors were an odd shade of hot pink (which I usually like) and an odder shade of light blue. I personally picked up a gray hoodie and a black half-zip winter running shirt – both of which I personalized with Nike I.D. (God I am a sucker).

The Start / Pre-RaceThe time where a runner stands around in a crowd of thousands, checking a bag with post-race necessities and trying to stay warm and loose waiting for the gun to go off.

MCM – Grade A
Well executed, with military precision. Although very expansive, bag check was easy to find, there were tons of bathrooms and you could easily tell where to line-up for the race start. Misses the A+ for being a bit too big, runners want to save their feet!

NWM – Grade B-
Easy to find and not a sprawling mass, also since it was in Union Square there were tons of stairs and things to sit upon during the wait. But the bag drop wasn’t easy to find or figure out, but the volunteers were in force and ready to help—it was also difficult to figure out where to line up at the start and to hear the announcements. Misses out on a better grade for these difficulties and the lack of “security” keeping spectators out of the starting corrals—hell there weren’t even corrals to speak of.

Course Management/SupportFrom the water stops, to the volunteers staffing them, to cheerleading spectators, to medical aid stations, to the port-a-potties, everything a race organizer can do to make the race course bearable.

MCM – Grade B-
Your standard water stops and decent crowd support. Semi-frequent bathrooms meant lines which means lost time. MCM loses points for infrequent aid stations (MCM 2006 only had one station giving out pain medication and that was at mile 8!), and always being out of oranges by the time my slow ass passes the orange stop.

I am hesitant to say they could have done anything better, ridiculously cheerful volunteers and amazingly organized water stops. There were tons of food stations; Luna Moons, Luna and Cliff bars, oranges (yes!), bananas, Ghiradelli chocolate. An organized coat check at mile 2.5 so you could shed any warming gear and actually get it back – brilliant! Also had tons of bathrooms which means hardly any lines, if any and thusly minimal time wasted. Only thing keeping it from an A+ is that MCM edges out in the community involvement category—I would have been excited to see some marching bands, more cheerleaders and such.

Post-RaceThe post-race starts at the finish line and can take you through a myriad of expo-like stalls, food and aid stations and the like.

– F
I HATE the finish line at MCM. It is for this reason I will never run another MCM ever in my lifetime. A runner has just spent the last few hours giving their all to the pavement and just after you step across that finish line you come to a screeching halt. Do you know how miserable it is to stop in your tracks after you have been pounding along for that length of time? It’s horrendous. To top it off, you are not only stopped but you are corralled with your fellow runners like cattle. The second most horrendous thing to stopping abruptly is doing it and having to touch other hot and sweaty runners because you can’t move anywhere. Bag pick up is pretty easy if I remember correctly, but I was so miserable from the finish that I won’t award any points for this.

Ok so you are trying to sprint in the last few steps and just as you cross the finish line there are rows of cute guys in tuxedos (firemen I hear), holding silver platters, with Tiffany boxes stacked atop them. The young men say, “Congratulations, please take one”. So you do in a sort of surreal way, but you can’t stop because if you do your legs will fall off, so you keep walking and then run into a cheerful volunteer who quickly bends over and snips the timing chip off your shoe. There is water every where, so you drink some and move along. You’ve barely stopped moving at all, and as you continue to walk along, albeit slowly, you run into a tent where they give you a shirt, even offering to hold it up to your stinking body to see if the size is right. With your gifts in hand, you keep trucking along to wide open spaces where there are a plethora of carbs to choose from. At this point, you’ve either grabbed some carbs or you haven’t (me) and you walk along in a bit of a daze and some nice volunteer looks at your race bib and ushers you down a corridor of buses where another volunteer looks at you with a smile and says “Box 3 4007” and all of a sudden you are handed your bag of post-race necessities and well, now you are done. Ahhhh. NWM misses the A+ for the really long line to get on the shuttle bus back downtown, but that is all.

Now you may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned the actual race at all. That is because I don’t know how to grade them. MCM was a fine race although I am very bitter and angry over last year’s course change that made runners run past the finish line at the very end of the race, turn around in Rosslyn and then finish at Iwo Jima—absolutely cruel. Runners say that Haines Point and the 14th street bridge are mental killers on the course and they are right, but I think every race will have that and you just have to suck it up and get over it.

NWM was a fine race too, although it was ridiculously hard. The hills were killer. Ridiculouslyhardkillerowhurtylegsowwwwwww. Not living there meant the whole course was a surprise and boy did my legs (and my time) pay the price. NWM also had it’s mental killers, a trip around Lake Merced that was incredibly boring and yucky in addition to any of the nine or so hills that will beat your legs into a pulp. So it was hard, but I liked it. I had a horrible finishing time but I felt great mentally the whole race and my feet didn’t hurt at all (which I actually find a bit odd).

So it seems that NWM wins out as the better race in my eyes. Basically it boils down to the fact that I would probably do Nike again and I won’t ever step foot on the Marine Corps course again (that damn finish!).

All in all I am so glad I had the experience of traveling for a marathon, I am certain I want to do one again (if only to get a better time on the books and possibly travel somewhere new!) though it won’t be next year. I have already decided that I can’t juggle work and training and a social life next summer—so there will be no marathon for 2009. I plan to run a bunch of half marathons instead, I’ve already signed up for the National Half-Marathon in March and may even try to hit a couple before then. It’s funny, I had such a hard time mentally this season with the training (I am sure some of that was due to the stress of trying to find time to train) but running that race (even though I did so horribly) made me so happy I just want to go out there and do it again. Maybe 2010.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. October 22, 2008 10:41 pm

    Congratulations! The NWM is one that I’ve wanted to do in the past, but now am not sure after hearing how bad the hills are. (But I don’t know what else I should be expecting since it is SFO and all!)

    What does this year’s necklace look like? And! What time did you do?

  2. DC Sports Chick permalink
    October 23, 2008 5:52 am

    Way to go!

    What was in the Tiffany’s box?

  3. October 23, 2008 9:05 am

    Congrats!!!! Sounds like you needed it all around!!! Glad you were able to git er done!!! 😉

    Hope you are doing good!!! kisses

  4. October 23, 2008 6:30 pm

    TBudgie – The hills weren’t THAT bad, especially considering I didn’t train for them (ran out of time)…with proper training I would think it a very lovely course. My time was the worst one ever (even worse than when I tore my calf at MCM!).

    DCSC – Pictures coming!

    Harms – Thanks darling! Heart you.

  5. November 3, 2008 1:50 pm

    Congrats on the marathon!!

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