Tuesday, April 29, 2014

UPDATED: Nike Women's Half Course Guide (DC)

A week ago as I was starting to visualize my race for the Nike Women's Half Marathon in DC, I put together a course guide based on the information I had from Nike and from bloggers who ran it last year. Since this race was COMPLETELY AWESOME (see my recap here) and I hope to do it again next year, I'm updating the guide with my actual observations from the race. And hopefully this will help someone who is running in 2015 and putting together her own race visualization! 

The top bullets have my pre-race thoughts for each mile, and the indented bullets have my post-race annotations. I've also added some info on the start and the finish areas.

Start area

  • The race corrals were well spread out over many blocks along Pennsylvania Avenue so they didn't feel crowded. 
  • The info sheet said corrals would be "closed" at 6:50 but there was no way to actually close them and you could have gotten into your corral after that time.
  • Unlike the first year of the race, there was a wave start. I was in the third (final) wave and the wait wasn't too long. I crossed the start line 17 minutes after the first wave started.
  • I took my "throw-away" clothes off too soon because I wasn't sure there would be a place to put them near the start. Hang onto them until you are almost to the start line - there are places to toss them and you need to save your energy for running, not burn it off trying to stay warm.

Course Guide
  • First Mile: Pennsylvania Ave and around the Capitol. First race photographer on Pennsylvania Ave. Race entertainment at the beginning and end of the mile.
    • First mile was indeed gorgeous. Fantastic view of the Capitol. The photo opportunity was well marked with signs, but I didn't actually see the photographer because there were so many people packed together at the beginning of the race. There was a bonus photographer at the end of mile 1 that hadn't been marked on the official course guide. The bonus photographer was on the left side of the course. 
  • Second Mile: National Gallery of Art along Constitution Ave. First water stop around 1.75 (this water stop might also be accessible at 12.75, map is unclear).  Race entertainment just past the water stop.
    • The first water stop was around 1.75 (left side of course), and this same water stop was indeed accessible later in the race at 12.75. Water stops had Nuun at the first tables, water at the last ones.
  • Third Mile: Through the 9th Street Tunnel - race entertainment on both ends of the tunnel! Last year it was drums that reverberated through the tunnel.  Expect Garmin to go wonky from lost satellites. More race entertainment, Bureau of Engraving and Printing, Holocaust Museum, and "Moms Run This Town" water stop close to mile marker 3.
    • The tunnel was freaking amazing. There were drums and bands throughout and the sound traveled beautifully. The giant "Run DC" neon sign was set up in the tunnel and many stopped for a photo op there. My Garmin did not lose its signal in the tunnel! Water stop at mile 3 was on left side of course.
  • Fourth Mile: Around the Tidal Basin, views of Washington Monument, WWII Memorial, MLK Memorial.  Race entertainment past mile marker 3.  Have my first GU towards the end of the mile, before water stop at mile marker 4.
    • I remember seeing the Washington Monument and the WWII Memorial. I'm not positive which side of the course the water stop was on, but I think it might have been the right side this time. We ran over the 5k timing strip towards the beginning of this section - this is a good place to mention that the race tracking site worked great and my friends were able to track my progress and get updates at 5k/ 10k/ 15k/ 20k/ finish.
  • Fifth Mile: Lincoln Memorial and Memorial Bridge.  Race entertainment at both ends of the bridge.
    • There was an awesome band with an Asian dragon (?) at the beginning of the bridge. A great college band at the end of the bridge. I ran on the right while on the bridge so I could high five people running on the other side of the bridge - totally empowering and fun!
  • Sixth Mile: More Memorial Bridge, up Rock Creek Parkway toward Kennedy Center.  Water stop at 5.5 with Clif BloksRace Photographer before mile marker 6.
    • Water stop was on the left side of the course and the Clif Bloks were first, followed by Nuun, then water. There were Clif Bloks all over the ground and they were sticky. Run with care! There was no race photographer at mile marker 6 like the course guide had indicated.
  • Seventh Mile: Back down Rock Creek Parkway, second peek at Lincoln Memorial.  Race entertainment towards the end of the mile.
    • Giant tv screen with live video feed at mile 6.55 to announce that you are halfway! Wave your hands in the air to help you see yourself. There was a great band in this stretch - I think the George Mason University Green Machine band.
  • Eighth Mile: Heading into West Potomac and towards Hains Point. Views of Jefferson Memorial and George Mason Memorial.  Have my second GU before water stop ~7.75.
    • I don't remember anything particularly memorable about this mile, so I will mention here that there is great signage along the race course for the porta-potties, and each bathroom station had a sign that told how many miles until the next set of porta-potties. Very informative and a nice touch. There were lines at all of the bathrooms, but they weren't too long. They were much shorter than the pictures I saw of the lines during the first year of this race.
  • Ninth Mile: More running towards Hains Point. Race entertainment around 8.3.  Hoping for energizing signs like they had last year, this can be a tough stretch with limited spectators and possible wind.
    • Not a lot of spectators in this section. The band and dancing at mile 8.3 was very welcome. There were no clever race signs in this stretch like there were the first year (things like, "Run harder than your mascara"). There were coaches in green shirts in this section (and throughout the race course) that provided encouragement for the "team in training" runners and made sure they were doing okay.
  • Tenth Mile: Rounding Hains Point, race entertainment at the tip.  Water stop at 9.25 with Luna Bars
    • This mile included lots of good stuff, but all packed pretty closely together at the base of Hains Point. There was a water stop (on the right?) with Luna bars (first tables), Nuun (middle tables), water (last tables). There was a huge presence of college students from George Mason and Howard (maybe other schools that I didn't notice) that were cheering runners on - very welcomed after such a desolate stretch. There was an announcer who was calling out names of random runners as they passed.
  • Eleventh Mile: Heading back out of West Potomac. Entertainment and race photographer around 10.75.  Have my last GU (wait until you pass the photographer! No GU pictures!!) before water stop at mile marker 11.
    • There was good signage telling us the photo opportunity was coming up and photographers were on both sides of the course. (And by the way our race photos came to us through the Nike "We Run DC" app and they were free!!) The water stop was on the left.
  • Twelfth Mile: the mysterious "Whole Foods Chocolate Mile". What is it? Chocolate Milk? Chocolates? I think Nike Women's in San Fran had Ghirardelli chocolates.  Race entertainment around 11.25.  Expect a steep uphill highway ramp.
    • Whole Foods was handing out individually wrapped truffles in this mile. There were many chocolate stations over the course of a quarter mile or so. Lots of truffles on the ground, too, so tread carefully again! And the hill wasn't too steep but it was definitely a hill and a little long since it was a highway ramp. 
  • Thirteenth Mile (plus a tenth): lots of race entertainment during this last stretch.  Back through the Garmin-killing 9th Street Tunnel, a couple of blocks on Constitution Ave, a sharp turn onto Pennsylvania Ave and the finish line is in sight with its promise of Tiffany pendants!
    • We went back through the tunnel and my Garmin surprisingly kept the signal again. There were giant screens at the end of tunnel that flashed random names of runners when they crossed the 20k timing strip with a message of encouragement. The last water stop was on the right at mile 12.75 - but you are so close to the finish you might want to run right past it. The course was changed for the second year, so when you see the finish line ahead it really is pretty close and you can pull out that final kick.

Finisher area

  • There are race photographers at the finish line on both sides of the course. 
  • We got Whole Foods/Nike water bottles filled with water just past the finish line. 
  • Just beyond that we were given a bag, a large chocolate milk, and a heat sheet.  
  • I heard that there was also almonds, granola, luna bars and electrolyte powder in this area but did not see it. I am guessing they ran out of food by the time I got there.
  • Next was the area where the Tiffany necklaces were handed out - you could take a picture of the handsome man handing you your necklace, but if you wanted to be in the picture with a handsome man you needed to stand in line in the next area where the photos ops were being staged.
  • Then there was a finisher tent that I did not go into so I am not speaking from first hand experience...but I heard there were foam rollers and yoga mats for stretching out and makeup wipes, hair spray and lip gloss.
  • There was also a finisher boutique where the official finisher shirts/hats/jackets could be purchased. The gear was also available online but most of it sold out in a few hours following the race. The finisher gear was available before the race online, so if you aren't superstitious about buying it before you finish and you know you want it, think about buying it online early.
  • Down one of the side streets there was another area set up for finisher photo ops.
  • There was a great family meet-up area next to the finisher tent/boutique that was organized by alphabet. It was easy to find my husband and son there after the race.

Overall this race was really superbly organized and such a fun race to experience. I highly recommend it and hope to return next year!


  1. My gosh, you remembered so much more than I did! I think miles 9-11 sort of ran together for me. I just kept looking at my Garmin (which lost signal in the tunnel, boo!) and hoping it said that I was further along than I was! ;) Great play by play!

    1. Thank you Meridith! Those miles run together for me, too. That was a tough stretch! I hope next year they bring back the funny Nike signs for this part. It sounded like those were pretty entertaining/motivating.

  2. Hi Kim I've nominated you for a Liebster award check out my site for the details http://confessionsofamotherrunner.com/2014/04/29/liebster-award/ congrats and I can't wait to see your responses

    1. Thank you Deborah! I am honored :-) Looking forward to responding soon.

  3. Great guide - I ran it last year but not this year. I am glad they went to a wave start this year.

    1. Thank you Cynthia! It sounds like Nike really listened to the feedback they got after the first race and made lots of good changes. I was pleased to get a survey after this race asking for my feedback on it.