6 minute PR and running with friends – 2014 Nike Women’s Half DC

I was one of the lucky 15,000 runners who participated in the 2014 Nike Women’s Half DC. We’d attempted to get in to the 2013 inaugural race but unfortunately, that lottery didn’t work in our favor. Therefore, I was pretty stoked when we got the news that we’d be running this race!

As my first ever DC race, I was looking forward to checking out the sights, running with friends, and of course, the Tiffany necklace at the finish line (I’m not even going to pretend like that wasn’t a big draw. IT WAS. Not ashamed.)

With any race, you always hear the pros and cons from the previous year (or years); it’s always interesting to see how race organizers respond to feedback. For example, from what I understand the shirts were handed out at the end of the race in 2013. This year, the shirts were available during packet pickup, due to participant feedback. The shirts run small, but were able to be exchanged at a tent in the Expotique area. (Although the ease of exchange was another story for some friends – Moe was able to do it immediately while Vic was told that she needed to come back at a specific time, which she was unable to do.)


This is a large race and the flow of traffic during the Expotique was congested. There was much to look at and experience, all of which were awesome because this race doesn’t lack for sponsorship, but the lines were pretty intense. So despite the party-like vibe going on, with music pumping and smiling volunteers, the main goal was to take a quick spin through and get out of the tent. We signed the graffiti wall and headed up the street.


There was a long line to take a picture with the WE RUN sign, so we did this and called it good!

Georgetown is a great area and the weather was gorgeous so we took our time strolling along. We reached the Nike Store which had the wall of participant names, something we all were looking forward to seeing.


Keri! Mine was too tall (or maybe I’m too short?).

A bit of shopping, a bit of walking, a lot of food and then we headed back to the hotel, Courtyard Marriott in Foggy Bottom. This was one of the race hotels and a little over a mile walk from the start/finish of the race. Split between four of us, Vic, Moe, Keri and myself, it was $50 per person. Once there we relaxed before… you guessed it, MORE FOOD. All the while we were drinking lots of water to hydrate for the next morning.

During dinner we discussed race plans and met up with Brooke and Josh, who had a later reservation at the same restaurant. Vic would run solo, Kyle and Brooke would follow and Keri, Moe and I planned to bring up the back! My goal was to PR and knew my girls would help me along the way.

Sleep did NOT come easy that evening, despite being exhausted. My mind wouldn’t stop racing and I think that it hindered my running on Sunday morning. No bueno!

We woke at 5:15am, met up with Brooke and her husband an hour later, and walked to the start village.

Brooke and I called Mr. President on the Banana Phone. Of course.

Brooke and I called Mr. President on the Banana Phone. Of course.

Once we reached the split area, we took a picture with Josh’s very amazing sign.


After good byes and good lucks, we were off to find our pace areas. This was another change from last year, from what I understand; there were three waves rather than just one.

So very many people.

So very many people.

My cohorts for the race! Me, Moe and Keri

My cohorts for the race! Me, Moe and Keri

We were surrounded by a lot of first time half marathoners and many Team in Training folks, all of whom did an awesome job! Moe runs with Team in Training in Chicago so while waiting to start we chatted a bit about the training runs, the coaches, and whatnot.

After a bit more chit chat and the introductions of Shalane Flanagan and Joan Benoit Samuelson by the DJs, it was GO TIME! We crossed the start about fifteen minutes after the first runners, which was pretty impressive considering that we were in the last corral. The course was pretty packed the majority of the run though so perhaps a bit more time between each corral would help alleviate the congestion. If I ruled the world, this would happen.

Keri, Moe and I settled into our 3:1 intervals, 3 minutes running, 1 minute walking and were able to do that through the race. Naturally we wanted to push the runs but it was hard to do so, as there was never really any open pockets. Bobbing and weaving takes a lot out of you but we did it the entire race.


Heading into the tunnel of no-love.

We hit this tunnel twice and I had no love for it on the way out or back. I mean, on the surface, it’s pretty cool. They had drummers throughout, the beat was echoing off the walls and they also had the graffiti wall and the WE RUN sign from the Expotique. However, it was hotter than blue blazes in there and man, did I feel it. I was happy to get out of there and so was my Garmin.

The race course had other amenities that you don’t usually see at races – some of which were brilliant and others that would have been brilliant in different circumstances. For example, after exiting the tunnel, we saw a chocolate station on the other side of the route. Now, in mile 2 0f the race, chocolate sounded fun. By mile 11, when it could be reality… I wanted no part of it! (Spoiler alert: All I wanted was the finish line.)


You’re a 13.1 in my book

My favorite part of the course were miles 4-7. At mile 4 we saw Brooke’s husband, Josh! He was the only spectator we knew on the course and it’s always nice to see a familiar smiling face.

Around that time is when I got the music (and stashed my phone) so I was rocking and running and having a great ol’ time. The Arlington Memorial Bridge was a lot of fun to run because we got to see runners on the other side, give high fives; it generally had a really good vibe. To paraphrase Pete the Cat, the birds were singing, the sky was bright, the sun was shining and I was feeling ALRIGHT.

That “alright” feeling lasted a little past the halfway point. Which, was very cool, by the way. They had a video camera trained on the road and a huge big screen so you could see everyone running.

At mile 8 I realized that I wasn’t hydrated. Not that I wasn’t hydrating, because I was. I drank two cups at every water station but I was definitely off so I switched out one water for a Nuun cup (the electrolyte drink they had on the course). Our run chatter had definitely diminished to grunts and the occasion expletive and around mile 9, I let Keri and Moe know that I was hurting. I was feeling off, my foot was cranky and all around I was just not in a good way.

However, I had my eyes on a PR. Originally I’d wanted to fall within the 2:30-2:40 range, which would have been a huge PR (of nearly 25-15 minutes) but I felt was doable. As I looked at my watch, I realized that wasn’t going to happen and got a bit disheartened. I knew we’d come in within the 2:40s, which would still be a PR for me (I’m a slow runner, striving to be faster) but I think under different circumstances, things would have played out differently.

On we went, finally hitting that chocolate station in mile 11. I didn’t want it then and it was pretty yucky because there was chocolate on the ground, wrappers and pieces of melted candy. There was no avoiding it so we just ran on, toward… dun dun dun… the tunnel.

Dizziness washed over me and I felt myself stumble to the side a little. That’s when I asked for Keri’s coconut water (you know I wasn’t feeling great because I am usually not a fan of coconut water!) and I got the “We’re nearly at the finish” pep talk from my girls that I so desperately needed. Coming out of the tunnel there was the 20k mat and two large screen with motivational sayings and our names. After one more water station and pouring a cup of water on my head, we rounded the corner and finally the finish line was in sight.

Usually I kick it at the end of a race but I had no more kick. It was all left on the course, for better and for worse. But thankfully, we were done, and with a six minute PR!


Post race, we hugged, and Keri practically carried me to the fancy bottles of water that were located directly after the finish. Then I got what I wanted more than almost anything… CHOCOLATE MILK.

You thought I was going to say the Tiffany necklace, didn’t you? Well, don’t fret because that was next on the agenda!


Vic took an "official" picture with the ROTC dude. The lines were ridic when we were there.

Vic took an “official” picture with the ROTC dude. The lines were ridic when we were there.

The Tiffany’s necklace is pretty incredible… but even more, I’m so grateful that I ran this with good friends who were there with me from start to finish. I was surrounded by love the entire weekend, before, during and after the entire race and by friends whom I don’t get to see on a regular basis. I’m truly lucky that I get to experience so many good things with people who have seen me through so many different parts of my life.


Nike is the goddess of victory and this weekend, it was mine.


How do you sleep the night before a race? Ever run with Team in Training or at a Nike race before? When’s your next race? I have a couple of smaller races scheduled through the summer but my next half is the Dumbo Double Dare. Considering another local half within the summer months… but what?


Guest post: There’s a first time for everything

“What was I thinking?”  This is the question that kept running through my head on Friday night – the night before my first half marathon.  Less than six months before I thought anyone who ran more than a 5k for fun was insane.  Less than six months before that I was among those who swore I’d never run unless someone was chasing me.  With a knife.  And there was a delicious fruity and alcoholic drink waiting for me when I was safely away from said knife-wielding maniac.

Well, there I was, my alarm set for 4AM, running gear meticulously lain out – double and triple checked (because I’m a little obsessive like that) waiting for sleep.  It came intermixed with dreams of showing up naked or, even worse, without my race bib. Thoughts like, what if I have to use the bathroom on the course? and what if I break an ankle half a mile from the finish line? plagued me. At one point I woke up cursing the friends who talked me into a race with promises of glory and pride and bling!  Did I mention that among these friends was your favorite runner and mine, Meridith?  Thanks, Mer.

I decided that 3:45 was close enough to 4am and rolled out of bed.  Up and at ‘em!  I threw on my clothes – what a process it was to figure out what I was going to wear!  All winter I had been training in sub-freezing weather, but that morning it was 50 degrees.  Yikes!  Too warm for cold weather gear, not quite warm enough for my regular stuff.  So I found a happy medium. Then it was time for breakfast. Peanut butter and sliced banana on wheat toast.  For the record, yuck.  But it works.

After a few last minute words of advice from my runner husband and a kiss for luck, I was out the door by 4:50. My stomach was still churning when I met my friends at the rendezvous point for carpooling into DC.  Thank goodness for the former DC-dweller turned suburbanite who drove us downtown, because the rest of us would’ve been completely lost.  Fast forward:  we park in the lot, hit the portajon, take Metro to the starting line. It was there that we discovered the VIP portapotties.  Yes. V.I.P. porta potties. Complete with red carpet and velvet ropes. Who knew?  After seeing the lines for the not-so-important-people restrooms, I briefly wished I had forked over the cash for the climate controlled, easily accessible luxury.


Then it was time to find our corrals.  Since the girls I rode in with are considerably faster than I, we headed in opposite directions.  I found myself in corral 30 and luckily made a new buddy – another first timer with fast friends in an earlier corral.

Corral pals!

Corral pals!

She made waiting for the start so much less stressful.  Don’t get me wrong, I was still bouncing on my toes anxious but, had Angie not been there, I might have had a very different experience.

The energy at the race was fantastic!  Because it was a Rock ‘n’ Roll event, there were  great bands along the course and those who lived on the course put their boomboxes on their front porches or had their car stereos blasting.  Good thing too! The local cell and data network was so overloaded because of the influx of people that my Pandora app wasn’t working!  The volunteers at the water and Gatorade stations were fantastic, but the cheering crowds, some with signs, some handing out beer, made the race!

I started out strong.  I kept telling myself to slow down and try not to bonk.  It totally worked for the first 5 ½ miles.  Then came the hill.  I will have nightmares about this hill for the rest of my life.  The elevation climbed from 24 feet to 197 feet in less than 1/3 of a mile.  When I tell you that it looked (and felt) like we were going straight up, I do not exaggerate.  Probably 85% of the people around me had to walk it, and some even did so backwards to take the strain off their hamstrings and shift into using their quads.  It was rough.

Accurate sign is accurate.

Accurate sign is accurate.

My legs were fried by the top and it really messed with the rest of my race. At that point I made a conscious decision that I would basically power walk uphill and only run the downhills.  I wasn’t happy about it, but I did what I had to do to get it done.  Thankfully, the end of the race was downhill so I was able to run through the finish line and smile for the cameras.

I collected my medal (which, if it wasn’t so darn heavy, I would wear it until the ribbon gave out) and headed through the finishers’ chute.  I was very happily surprised when I turned at the sound of my name and realized that Victoria, another of my favorite Scoot a Dooters, had found me in the midst of 25,000 people.


All in all, it was great day.  I am incredibly proud that I completed the course and have a shiny new medal to show for it.


I am hopeful that the whole experience will be like childbirth in that it’s pretty painful, but worth it, and a few days later you want to do it all over again.  It better be since Meri and Vic suckered me into signing up for another half in six weeks.  Yikes!

Keri is a stay-at-home mom to twins who loves to travel and over-indulges in historical fiction. She has been known to tone down her innate awesomeness in order to make those around her more comfortable.

Everyone has to start somewhere! We want to hear about your firsts – whether it be your first run, 5k, 10k, half marathon, or marathon. What did you do beforehand that worked well? What would you do differently?