One of my favorite “theme” races is the San Francisco Nike Women’s half and full marathon. I am not sure if it was the first of its kind where the main pitch was mostly to women (though not exclusively to women, as my male friends have ran it), but I’m pretty sure it was one of the first. There’s a high demand for it, evident by their lottery system that they created so everyone would have a more equal chance to run it, but once you’re picked it’s an incredibly fun experience.
I’ve ran it a couple of times (the half both times) and, like most of the people there, traveled with my girlfriends who were also into running, or decided that was a great half-marathon to start out with. It’s a super fun course to do, especially if you love pink (or pastel color of choice for that year), Ghirardelli chocolate (given around mile 11 or 12), mani/pedi (only on the full marathon course last time I ran it), empowering signs along the way (“you are strong”, stuff like that), Tiffany’s (medal/box at the end), and a fireman in a tuxedo presenting your medal on a silver platter at the end. I do think some of it is stereotypical of what femininity is, but I think I just had to let it go and take it for its face value to just have fun with it (which once I did, I had no problem doing since it is rather fun). The course is a bit challenging in that it’s hilly since it’s in San Francisco, but it’s the best camaraderie feeling to run with thousands of enthusiastic, healthy, determined, strong, and amazing group of women (and some men, as well as some men who dress up like women which was kind of hilarious since one guy had the hairiest legs ever underneath his pink running skirt). I was running for time during both races so unfortunately I didn’t have a camera or phone on me, but here’s the few pics I have:
If you register early enough, I would definitely recommend to pick a hotel situated at the start line. We stayed at the Marriott and it was incredibly convenient to wake up, have a bagel and banana, gear up, and go to the start. To save costs, we packed as many as allowable in a room, and another time a friend hooked me up with a free room for myself and others due to the Marriott points racked up. I also brought my own food for breakfast (bagels, Clif bars, banana), but that’s more because of my nerdy running rituals than keeping costs down.
Registration fees are pricey, not going to lie – when I signed up a few years back, it was the first half I ever paid for that was either close to or over $100, so it was a tough pill to swallow even back then. The whole experience is kind of worth it, though, and the schwag is pretty cool if you like form-fitting race shirts and the cute medal.
Also, if you are running for time, definitely stay in the corral according to your pace. One year, I wanted to hang with my friends before the race who stayed at a slower minute/mile pace than me since they mostly planned to walk, and it was very challenging to wade through the throngs of people in order to get up to your regular speed. If it’s a race with 5,000 people or so the crowd usually disperses evenly, but since this had like 20,000 racers or more it was more congested. As a result, it added 15 more minutes than my regular finish time, so that was a bit disappointing though it was through my own fault. So, if you don’t want to be a jerk and push through walkers and ruin their fun, then definitely go with your speed (not that I was a jerk, for the record, I’m too shy for that). Alternatively, I think it’s good to not overestimate your speed, either – I feel it’s good runner etiquette to not disadvantage someone who might be running for a PR but are slowed down because of the crowd.
Overall, it’s a great alternative to most girly trips I’ve been on (mostly for bachelorette parties), it’s well managed, and I love the energy of the weekend!