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2009 Nike Women’s Marathon Trip – Day Four: Marathon Day!

October 24, 2009

Sunday 10.18.09

Sharon and I were filled with nervous energy when we went to sleep so we stayed up a while talking about random things before finally falling asleep.  Needless to say, I was a little tired when the alarm went off  at 4:30 am so we could take our time getting ready.

I'm ready to go!

I'm ready to go!

Around 5:15am we went over to the girl’s room to get some breakfast (a banana and ½ bagel, no PB since we forgot to get a knife!) since we were supposed to leaving our hotel at 5:30am to get to Union Square with plenty of time to check our bags, go to the bathroom and get with our pace group.  However, there was a miscommunication about the time, so the girls weren’t ready yet and I’m so glad that we went over there!  We ended up leaving around 5:45am and made it to Union Square with plenty of time to spare.

When we got there, we noticed the starting line and had to take a picture in front of it – of course!

Me, Sharon, Hilary, Rachel

Me, Sharon, Hilary, Rachel



We walked to the drop bag check, which was basically a line of school buses with people inside to take our bags and transport them to the finish line.  I thought it was a GREAT idea and seemed to go pretty smoothly. We used the porta potties without waiting in a giant line, I swear it helps to get there early because then you avoid the lines, and made our way to our pace group.

I read horror stories about how people couldn’t find their pace group and just barely made it before the gun went off, so I was a little nervous that we’d have trouble finding where we were supposed to go.  While we found our group pretty easily, I will admit that there could have been better signage but it wasn’t that bad – especially if you looked at the map that they gave us at the Expotique.  I honestly feel that Nike did a great job organizing everything (okay, the informational blog sucked!) and when it comes down to it, there were 20,000 people there so if you didn’t want to wait in a line or have things be picked over you had to get there EARLY!

I did feel a little bad for the people who were staying in hotels that were located in Union Square and didn’t know about the race because it really did take over the area.  Not to mention that before they race they were blasting music to get us pumped up – which I loved!  They did a nice guided stretching routine and it was really neat to see how packed the street got – all of the traffic lanes (I think there were four) including the sidewalk!  Again, if you were running late you would be at the back of the pack or totally squished.

Showing our school spirit

Showing our school spirit

I can do this!  With my medal that the 7th grade gave me

I can do this! With the medal that the 7th grade gave me before we left

People lined up in our pace group

People lined up in our pace group

Since we weren’t super cold when we got there, we decided to go ahead and put our long sleeves into our check bags instead of taking them off later during the race and boy was that a mistake!  It started to get really windy and cold and even though we were in a giant pack of people we were cold.  I think we all worried a little bit, but I think we have all been so hot here in Florida (record highs for October this year) that it worked out fine.

At 7am the gun went off…and we stood there.  You could see the faster pace groups go in front of us…and they kept going…and going…and going.  At this point Rachel and I both totally had to go to the bathroom and didn’t want to wait until we got to the first set of porta potties so we somehow maneuvered our way through the giant crowd (thank you Rachel for leading the way!) and hopped into the Westin where a friendly worker directed us to the bathrooms.  We ran down the hallway, used the bathroom and ran back, maneuvered our way through the crowd and somehow managed to find our group!  I couldn’t believe that we made it!

Around 7:17am our group started moving and we all cheered!

We're going!

We're going!

Me and Sharon before we started

Me and Sharon before we started

We crossed the starting line about 21 minutes after the start, which in my opinion wasn’t too bad considering the number of people that were there.


I had to tell myself to “stick with what I knew”, so when I crossed the starting line I started my Garmin and the intervals began.  During the last week or so of my training, really when I started doing training runs entirely with my Camelbak, I found that running a 2:30 run/1:00 walk was too difficult to keep the pace I wanted so I dropped down to a 2:00 run/1:00 walk.  I knew that I had to be careful about following this, even at the beginning of the race, and not get caught up in running while I felt good.  So when my Garmin beeped for me to walk, I did; and I was actually happy to see LOTS of people walking.  I could still see Kristin and Rachel ahead of me and Sharon ran up beside me, so we were together for a little while.  I would say for the first mile or two Sharon and I stayed pretty close together, me falling behind while I would take my walk breaks and then catching up when I ran.

We ran through the streets and past buildings, which was mostly downhill and wonderful for the first mile until we finally came out by the Ferry Building Farmers market and the first set of porta potties.


They were totally packed and I’m so glad that Rachel and I were able to run into the Westin to use their bathroom and we didn’t have to stop there. (Thank you Westin!)  Our first entertainment stop was the Oakland Interfaith Choir, wearing full robes and Nike sneakers.  Too funny!


We ran along the Embarcadero and at mile 2 they had a great idea to have a “coat check” off to the side for people to drop off their long sleeved shirts and pick them up at the finish line.  They also had boxes in the center of the road labeled “donations”, so if you wanted to donate your clothes instead.  Sure, there were still sweaters and long sleeved shirts scattered on the road before hand, but it was a really great effort to help out those in need and those women who wanted to keep their warm stuff but not tie it around their waists.  They had plenty of volunteers taking things so it seemed to go smoothly, but it was still too much of a crowd for me and I’m glad that I got rid of my arm sleeves when I originally checked my drop bag (although I could have easily put them in my Camelbak, too).

Next it was off to Fisherman’s Wharf where we passed the sea lions and Boudin bakery.  As excited as I was to smell the bread a few days before, it was not such a welcome smell after running for a few miles.  Who ever thought that there would be a time where I wouldn’t enjoy the smell of fresh baked bread!


After Fisherman’s Wharf we ran past Ghirardelli square and came to the first minor hill and I was a little worried about how the giant one would be between mile 6 and 7 since this one wasn’t easy.



We went near Fort Mason, where I took my first GU, and then up another hill and eventually made it to the cheer station at mile 4.  I found someone that had a sign that said “Go Danielle” and teared up a little bit because even though it wasn’t for me, it really helped motivate me. IMG_3668


Maybe close to 3.5 but you get the point

Maybe closer to 3.5 but you get the point


Go Danielle!

Go Danielle!

While we were running along the marina, there was this really sweet older woman who was on the patio of her 2nd story in her nightgown waving at all the runners.  I know it’s a blurry picture, but it was really sweet to see her out there cheering us all on.




Close to mile 6 we were able to see the Golden Gate Bridge through the fog.  It was so cool!



At this point I could still see the 5:45 pace group and I got excited thinking that I may actually be able to make it to the finish before 6 hours – until I looked up and saw the mountain hill that we had to hike walk up.   Good grief it was giant!  You should have seen the line of runners taking up the entire road – it was unbelievable and I can’t believe that I didn’t get a picture of it!  It appeared that the road went up, leveled off a bit and then went up again.  I swear that no amount of bridge running or training could have prepared me for how difficult the hills over the next three miles would be.  I take that back, if I would have been more “fit” and worked on strength training and increasing my general fitness instead of focusing on just running I would have been fine.  Just proof that you need to do more than just run when you’re training.  I should have listened!


Walking up the hill


Halfway to the top!

Between mile 6 and mile 7 they had these wonderful and inspirational signs, encouraging us to keep going and revel in being a girl.





View near the top of a giant mountain hill.  Yes, at some point we were nearly at sea level so perhaps this gives you a little bit of perspective of how high we were.


Between mile 8 and mile 9 we were in a residential neighborhood that was just BEAUTIFUL and we were given oranges.  I don’t even like oranges but they were the best tasting things that I’d ever had in my life!  As a matter of fact, the other day at lunch I had an orange and I told Hilary that it wasn’t nearly as good as the one that we had during the race and she reminded me that no orange has ever tasted that good – haha!


After climbing mountain hill after mountain hill we finally were able to go down hill between mile 10 and mile 11 until we reached the Pacific Ocean.


It was such a gray and overcast day that it started to get pretty chilly, although I was incredibly thankful for the cool air and wind breeze.  It was really different running in the California weather because I was hot but I wasn’t wet with sweat like I normally am after a run here in Florida.  I was just salty – haha!



As difficult as the first 11 or so miles were, they were my favorite because the scenery was absolutely beautiful.  The rest of the course, not so much.  After running along the Great Highway for a little while, we actually came into the Finisher’s Village – which totally sucked knowing that I wouldn’t be back for another few hours AND seeing people who were already finished with the half marathon.  Boo!

We ran into Golden Gate Park and by this time I was ready to separate from the half marathon group.  I don’t know why because they made up such a large part of the run itself, but once they left us I knew that we would be closing in on half-way point of our run and I was ready for it.  Through out the park they had volunteers holding up great signs about why this day was ours…


It was great!


After the half-marathoners split off somewhere between mile 11 and mile 12, I saw Sharon!  She was running out of the park as I was running in (she was probably 2 or 3 miles ahead of me at this point) and I was so happy to see her.  I called out her name and she gave me a hug and off she went again.  It really helped raise my spirits and I was really happy to see that she was doing so well!

As I neared the turn-around point in the Park they had a water/Gatorade station set up with these trash cans that had inspirational sayings on them.  Loved it!


Since I knew my Garmin wouldn’t be able to hold all of the intervals, I decided to reset it once I reached the 13 mile marker.  I was really pleased with my pace and time for the first half, but at this point I was not feeling well.  My stomach was hurting, I felt sick and thought I was going to go poo on myself when I ran (sorry TMI, but we’re being honest here!).  There was a lot more walking over the next few miles than I would have liked and I tried to run when I could but I just really wasn’t feeling it.  Then, just after we passed our mile 15 the half-marathoners joined up with us again!  Oh I was so not happy about this!  Again I don’t know why, but it was irritating to see them so close to their finish while we still had 11 more miles to go!  While I was walking I saw this runner pass me – her sign said “blind runner, please give me room”.  How AMAZING IS THAT?!


After we got out of the Park and back onto The Great Highway I was completely walking and starting to feel really defeated.  I was tired, hungry, really lonely and I didn’t know if I would make it to the finish.  I kept looking for Sharon as the people on the other side of the divided highway were heading towards the finish (damn, everyone was heading toward the finish!) but I didn’t get to see her.

Walking along The Great Highway looking for Sharon

Walking along The Great Highway looking for Sharon

I was getting increasingly more and more upset, feeling horrible, and kept looking for a spot where I thought no one would see me cross over to go towards the finish – I’m not going to lie, it was that bad.

I am not having a good time right now

I am not having a good time right now

I was almost to mile 18 when I broke down, crying and called Carl.  I told him that I couldn’t do it, that I wanted to quit and that it was just too hard.  He asked me where I was and when I told him I was almost to mile 18 he told me he was so proud of me for making it 18 miles and that I was more than halfway finished.  He said, “You only have EIGHT miles left.  Forget about everything and just focus on doing an 8 mile run.  You can do it!”  I was so thankful that I was able to talk to him and cry with him on the phone and gain some strength from him.  I hung up the phone, dug really deep within myself, ate a GU and carried on.  I LOVE MY HUSBAND!  I know that I would not have been able to go those last 8 miles if it hadn’t been for the phone call and pep talk that he gave me while we were on the phone.  MY HUSBAND IS AMAZING!

After I took the GU I felt 1000 times better! I probably should have taken a GU back when I first started feeling sick, but I was afraid that it would make me feel worse.  After all of my training and taking GU every 4 miles you think I would have known better than to do something different on race day.  Lesson learned: always stick with what you train with!

I was able to start back with my 2:00/1:00 running and I passed the San Francisco Zoo and eventually hit Lake Merced at mile 19– which truly is the worst part of the course.  The lake is GIANT, boring and you have to run with next to cars because the road isn’t completely closed.  There were a lot of volunteers, though, so that helped a bit, but it still sucked to watch people sit in their cars stuck in traffic.


I was beyond excited when I reached mile 20 (only 6 more miles to go!) and at mile 21 the volunteers were holding out jugs of water asking if we wanted refills so I took off my Camelbak and filled up the bladder with water.  I was so thankful that I packed a spare G2 packet to add to the water because I think drinking straight water would have started to make me feel sick.  I’d had a few cups at aid stations after I ran out of G2 in my  Camelbak and could totally tell that my stomach was not happy about it (again, stick with what you train with!)


Mile 20...only 6.2 more to go!

Between mile 22 and 23 was the Ghirardhelli chocolate mile and I gladly took the chocolate square!  Yum!

Chocolate truly does make everything better

Chocolate truly does make everything better

As I passed mile 23 I noticed the time on the clock was inching closer and closer to 6 hours, just 30 minutes away from the cut off of the run.  I was worried that the “slow bus” was going to come and pick me up, but I didn’t let it upset me.  I just kept on running ever so slowly and taking my walk breaks.  A truck came by and picked up some inspirational signs that were along the road a little after mile 23 and I really wondered what they said.  Eventually I made it back to The Great Highway, after going up a short hill and just kept trucking along.


I hit mile 24 and thought, “only two more miles”!  I heard my phone ring and decided that whoever it was could wait another 30 minutes until I crossed the finish line – haha!  When I hit mile 25 I teared up a little because I was getting so close to the end.  I began to see the “slow bus” picking up people, but apparently they only picked up people who wanted to go back to the finish.  I sighed with relief since I was definitely past the 6.5 hour cut-off and kept on going.  I wondered if they still had the finish line still set up and as soon as I got to the top of a hill I looked down and could see it!  THE FINISH LINE!

Finish line!

Finish line!

See those people on the wrong side of the fence?  Yea, those are my friends, who were wondering what the heck I was doing when I stopped to take the picture – haha!  Hilary started running towards me and I could hear my friends cheering me on.  It was an amazing feeling!  I passed one timing mat next to Hilary and started to go towards the rest of the group when they told me that I had to keep going and actually cross the finish, I think I was a little out of it by this point.  I crossed the finish line at 7:05 and went straight into the arms of the first Fire Fighter that I saw and he handed me my Tiffany box and another guy jumped in as someone took the picture.

Oh yea, baby!

Oh yea, baby!

There weren’t any more finisher bags, but there were PLENTY of finisher shirts in lots of different sizes.  I didn’t know which size to get so I ended up with a giant men’s large one, but I really don’t care.  I FINISHED THE NIKE WOMEN’S MARATHON!  I RAN (and walked) 26.2 MILES!

I can’t really remember the order of anything after this, but we got me a bagel and a banana, took group pictures (see Sharon’s blog post here for pictures) and I went to the stretching tent.  It was getting close to the time that they were going to start to close the finisher’s village so nearly all of the yoga mats were gone and I had to stretch on the floor.  Rachel was brave enough to help me, although I don’t think I smelled nearly as bad as I normally do after a long run in Florida.


Thank you Rachel!

Thank you Rachel!

We got on the bus a little before 3pm and headed back to Union Square.  I was so thankful for the bagel and I was STARVING!  Once we got to Union Square we went back into the Westin to use the bathroom and then Rachel and Kristin walked back to the hotel while Sharon, Hilary and I took a cab.



When everyone got back to the hotel, Kristin and Rachel went to get Pad Thai at a Thai restaurant (totally wasn’t feeling it and barely ate any), while Sharon got in the shower.  I was really excited to open my Tiffany’s box so I got it out of someone’s bag with the beautiful white ribbon still tied and brought it back into my room to open it in celebration with Hilary.

The famous Tiffany & Co. box is all mine!

The famous Tiffany & Co. box is all mine!

I opened the box and…NOTHING WAS IN IT!  Oh man I totally lost it.  I thought it was a horrible joke, that if you didn’t cross in 6.5 hours they just gave you an empty box or something!  Poor Hilary had no idea how to handle me in my teary state, so she had the idea that I should go and get another box, that clearly I had opened someone else’s since they were all wearing their necklaces.  I went back into their room and pulled out another box and sure enough, my necklace was in there safe and sound.  Dear God that was a horrible moment, although it was kinda funny looking back on it now.

Run like a girl!

Run like a girl!

Eventually it was my turn to take a shower and it was GLORIOUS!  Afterwards, I called Carl and my mom and gramps and told them all about it.  Then I went to hang out with the girls and attempt to eat the pad thai, before deciding that I just didn’t want it.  A few hours later Sharon and I went downstairs to the restaurant in our hotel and I had the MOST AMAZING turkey club sandwich of my life.  I swear all of the food tasted better that day, well except for the pad thai.


After dinner we literally collapsed into bed, me smelling like Biofreeze (the best stuff EVER!) and incredibly proud that we finished!

Run Stats
Distance – 26.2 miles
Chip time – 6:44:06
Pace – 15:25
— 5K – 41:18
— 10K – 1:25:25
— 15 K – 2:10:49
— 13.1 miles – 3:04:58
— 25 K – 3:46:10
— 30 K – 4:37:49
— 35 K – 5:30:54
— 40K – 6:23:32
— 26.2 miles – 6:44:06

Next recap – the trip home and how I’m feeling now…

20 Comments leave one →
  1. October 25, 2009 1:24 am

    YOU DID IT!!! Yay you! Great race report. I got teary eyed where you wrote about calling your husband. So proud that you pushed through it and finished!!!! You are a marathoner!

    • October 25, 2009 9:26 am

      Thank you, Lisa! It was the hardest thing I’ve had to do and after finishing that I feel like I have much more confidence in what my body can do.

      I really think that you can do this race! Yes, it’s hard but if it’s something that you want to do – DO IT! 🙂

  2. October 25, 2009 2:17 pm

    Wow. Amazing. Your hubby is so great. Good job Carl! Way to get your girl through 26.2! CONGRATULATIONS! I think you did amazing!

    • October 28, 2009 8:24 pm

      Thank you, Kelly! Carl is amazing and I know I couldn’t have done it without him!

  3. October 25, 2009 4:25 pm

    I am so incredibly proud of you!!! Congratulations!

  4. October 27, 2009 12:32 am

    Congratulations on your first marathon!!! I’m glad you stuck it out and finished… 🙂

    • October 28, 2009 8:27 pm

      Thank you! It got rough there for a little while, but I made it 🙂

  5. October 27, 2009 7:11 pm

    Hello..You don’t know me..but I work with Sharon. I was reading her blog and visited yours last night to look at the photos. I ended up reading your whole entry and found it to be very inspiration — it even made me tear up a few times. I too want to do a marathon — but sort of fell off my schedule. I am doing a 5K on December 6 (the day after my 40th birthday) and hope that Sharon and some of my other colleagues will help me prepare for a 1/2. Sharon said your husband works at FSDB…I have volunteered at a camp in GA for kids who are deaf for the past 15 years… CONGRATULATIONS on your great accomplishment!

    • October 28, 2009 8:32 pm

      Hi Michael! I’ve seen your comments on Sharon’s FB page so I kinda feel like I know you 🙂 Thank you so much for your kind words and I’m glad that you enjoyed hearing about our trip and the run. It was darn hard, but an amazing experience and I hope that it was portrayed that way.

      You go with your training! You can totally do it and I have no doubt that Sharon will help get you there 🙂

      Yes, Carl works at FSDB in the blind department. How cool that you work with deaf children! How did you get involved with that camp?

      Take care and good luck!

  6. November 6, 2009 5:06 am

    I just stumbled across your blog and I want to say CONGRATULATIONS on completing your first marathon! I did my first marathon this year too and I wish I would have found your blog it sooner to follow your training, etc. So sorry you injured your foot but I hope you have a speedy recovery!

    • November 6, 2009 8:13 am

      Thank you for visiting and CONGRATS on completing your first marathon too!

  7. November 15, 2009 10:57 pm

    I know I’m totes late and I don’t know how I missed this to begin with, but CONGRATULATIONS! What an awesome race report! So proud of you! (and isn’t NWM a great race? so well done…okay, except for the empty box, quell nightmare!)
    Way to go girl!!!

    • November 15, 2009 11:02 pm

      Thank you so much!

      Yes, I really enjoyed NWM and talked to my friend Kristin, who ran it too, and we are considering running the half again next year! I don’t think I’d ever recommend the full on that course, though. Oh my I can’t even tell you how upset I got when I opened that empty box! I mean, technically I was past the “official finish time” for the race so if I hadn’t received one to begin with I would have been disappointed but I would have understood…but to get the box and then have it EMPTY would have been truly awful. I’m so glad that I just had someone else’s box!

  8. January 24, 2010 10:09 pm

    Congratulations to you!
    I know I don’t know who you are, but my goodness, you are such an inspiration to so many people.
    I just stumbled across your blog, and while reading this entry laughed, cried, laughed and cried some more.
    I’ve never run a full marathon – just halves, and I must say, you have inspired me to think about contemplating the possibility of perhaps running one, some day….
    You are awesome. Keep running….
    Happy 2010!

  9. Fellow Runner permalink
    September 20, 2010 12:58 am

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience with such candor. I signed up for this year’s Nike Women’s Marathon and have been injured for a while now. I have mostly recovered, but I don’t know if I will be able to run as much as I would like. Your experience is so refreshing to read because I can relate to most of the things you wrote about in this entry. I had read other women’s blogs about their experiences, but I could not relate to a single person. Thank you again for writing this blog. It gives me hope that I too can overcome any obstacles that I will face on Oct. 17th!


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