NWM 1/2 Marathon – San Francisco

OK, I got the expo post out (I know, still late), and I’ve been so completely swamped at work that the posts I’ve been wanting to share with you all has taken a back seat.

It’s been a few weeks since 1/2 marathon #11 and I’m fully recovered and looking forward to my next one (we’re nuts, right?).  The expo was a crazy hot mess, but I’ve semi come to expect that from NWM unfortunately. I know it won’t be a pleasant stroll through aisles glancing at awesome products, like most big expos. I know I’m going to get pushed and my feet stepped on and elbowed (because I’m short) multiple times. I know I’ll be sweating like a pig by the end of it because it’s so hot in that tent with all those bodies. I know I’ll stand in line for a minimum of 30 minutes for pretty much anything I want to do or taste.  I’ll get so overwhelmed that I’ll say “never again,” and then they bring out Kara Goucher and Joan Benoit Samuelson and all my troubles melt away listening to them talk!

The night before, my cousin and I showered and put out our “flat runners” to make sure we weren’t missing anything. We also took care of the back of her shirt, to honor the memory of her best friend since 5th grade, Jenny, who had passed away from lung cancer less than a week before the race.


Her thoughts were: “why do you have so much stuff when you run?!”

and the back of her shirt:


They were best friends since 5th grade, so for the past almost 30 years, despite having completely different upbringings, and being pretty polar opposite. I’ve known Jenny Attaway since I was born and she was one of the nicest, most kind people you could ever hope to meet. When she was diagnosed with lung cancer, she thought she had a flu that she just couldn’t shake, since she was constantly coughing and it just wouldn’t go away. Turns out she has Stage IV lung cancer – and had never been a smoker. It’s things like this that really give you a reality check in life.

This was her first 1/2 marathon and she wanted Jenny with her every step of the way.

I set my alarm for 4:45am, and had called to have a taxi pick us up at 5:30am, since the race started at 6:30am.  It was a fitful nights rest since the neighbor decided to what sounded like a first or second date, where he tried to woo her with loud music until about 2am. I hope she wasn’t impressed; I sure wasn’t.  I woke up and it was still dark out, so I figured we had a little time still. I looked at my cell phone and it was 5:37am!! My alarm never went off (iPhone FAIL). Less than 30 seconds later my phone started ringing – it was the cab driver wondering where the heck we were. We had to apologetically call him off, rush around to get dressed and try to call another once we were close to being ready to go. We were really lucky we had put everything out before. This is NOT the ideal way to start a race morning AT ALL.  We were lucky enough to reach another cab company on the 3rd try, and were out the door around 6am, trying to shove peanut butter covered English muffins down our throats.  We didn’t finish it all since it was now so close to the race starting, and we should have eaten about an hour hourly.  So goes life though, right?

We got to the start line and tried to bob and weave through the millions of people to get to a bus that would take our gear check bags. We got denied by 3 busses, so had to try to keep pushing forward.  Either the busses were “full” or they had run out of stickers to give to us to put on our bib that showed the bus name and #, and window #. NWM FAIL.  We finally found one that had stickers left and gave them our bags and headed into the corral, which was jam-packed.  It was packed that you couldn’t stretch or anything. You barely had room to back up to take horrible pre-race, “what the heck am I doing out here at 6:15am” corral photos.


We look rough. Both of us were in agreement as soon as we saw the picture.

We stood in our corral for what seemed like forever before the gun went off, and even longer for us to snail pace crawl to the Start line since we were one of the last corrals to start. The wind had picked up a bit and it was COLD.


This doesn’t even begin to show how many people there were!

We finally made it to the start and waited for them to let our corral go and we were off! (but not before a few photo opps, clearly).


Gotta love that adrenaline rush you get when you finally see the Start line and the amazing feeling you get when you cross underneath it!

See that little sign above the Start line? It was talking about how it’s the 10th anniversary. I thought they were going to do it big for the big 1-0 but it felt no different than when I ran it in 2011.  Small disappointment/1st world problems.

The first few miles were the standard bobbing and weaving in and out of runners and walkers and trying to get our bodies warmed up and into a good rhythm. She wanted to run with me as long as possible so every 15-20 seconds I’d look around to make sure she was still with me. At about mile 2, my knees started to feel stiff which is NOT good. I’ve felt that before and it usually meant that I wouldn’t be able to walk after the race. It also meant it would be really painful if I needed to stop (to walk an aid station since their so crowded) and restart, so I had to just keep chugging along.

It was originally forecasted to be a beautiful day but it was grey and cool the entire time and foggy, so you never got good views of anything unfortunately. At least the signs were hilarious though:

When we made the turn towards Lincoln, we knew the big hill was coming. I told her to slow down on the hill to save her energy. We went up slowly and she did great but when the hills continued, she needed to walk some to catch her breath, so I walked with her. We did that couple times and then at mile 7 I wished her luck, told her she had it in the bag and that I’d see her at the finish, and picked up my pace a little bit. Since my knees had already been in pain since mile 2, and my left hip had been tightening with ever mile I ran, I ended up having to stop about 4 times between mile 7 and 12 to pull over and attempt to stretch it out. I hate that because it adds so much time but I know it’s needed to avoid more pain later. Those 4 times were probably about 2 minutes and then just before mile 12 I had to go to the bathroom and I knew I couldn’t make it to the finish line/knew it would be nuts trying to get to a port-a-potty at the finish line, so I had to stop at mile 12. That’s even worse because you’re SO close to the end and have to waste more time! Totally not down with peeing on myself though, so a stop that worth it again lol

That final turn couldn’t have come soon enough. My knees were so painful that I knew I was running unevenly, which was causing my left hip even more distress. Then as soon as you cross the finish line, you abruptly stop and have to wait in line to collect your necklace, a bottle of water, even more time if you want to take a picture (not great when your body was just in motion for 2.5 hours), grab your shirt and grab your food bag. Total time to do all that = roughly 40 minutes. Seriously!?

20131110-191921.jpg Then try to brave the crowds to even see what’s in the tents to the left? FORGET IT! You could barely move forward to get to the walkway. We tried but after about 15 minutes said forget it and went to the busses to pick up our gear check bags. By that time it was freezing outside and a sweater was waiting for me! Try found hers pretty fast but couldn’t find mine. After 4 people asking me my bib # (and 15 minutes), I asked if I could come onboard to help them look since I was so cold (and just over it at that point). They said no and asked me my bib number again. I kept yelling into the window what was in it since the bags were clear, hoping that would help. They finally found it after another 5 minutes and we were on our way (both hobbling with stiff knees) to the shuttle bus line to take us back to Union Square. Total time waiting in line for the bus: almost an hour. Better than the 2 hours we had to wait for them in 2011!

We went back to the apartment, showered and packed up and then walked down to Fillmore to have a much needed delicious lunch. We were starving at that point (and I was starting to get a headache). Both of us were hobbling – literally every time I bent my knees, it felt like someone was shoving an ice pick into the back of them, and a couple time one of my knees just have out as I put weight on it. Awesome. Lunch was fabulous and then back to the apartment to grab our stuff and head to a hotel we booked last minute in Union Square so we could enjoy the rest if Sunday and just go straight to work on Monday.

By the time we made it to Niketown on Sunday, there was hardly anything left and the tank top I wanted was only available in a 2XL. Super bummed about that one.

When we finally got back to the hotel, I looked at the necklace for this year.

20131110-192519.jpg It’s going to go into the bag that holds my necklace from NWM 2011 that I’ve only taken out to take a picture and have never worn.

All in all, it was a zoo (as experienced before and expected again) and always seemed not very well planned out logistically, but I get why so many people want to run it – it’s all about the Tiffany necklace. I’ve now done it twice. All I wanted for this years race was for her to have a good first 1/2 marathon and for me to beat my 2011 time (revenge!). Both of those happened, so I’m a happy camper. Will I do this race again? Probably not anytime soon. There are plenty of other races in and around the Bay Area that offer better logistics, aren’t as crowded and are way cheaper, so I’ll probably stick with them. But it did feel good to see this posted:


Comments (8)

  1. Pavement Runner

    Glad you were able to take it as best as possible. It was madness and there are just SO many people. Congrats on another finish and a nice shiny necklace to go with it.
    Pavement Runner recently posted…Encore: LAST DAY TO ORDERMy Profile

    1. happenstance13@gmail.com (Post author)

      Pure madness! I’ll be looking for smaller races for the near future! Good luck this weekend you crazy crazy man! I’ll be cheering for you from up here!

  2. Elle

    I would hate the massive crowds and all the waiting. Great recap! And nice finish!

    1. happenstance13@gmail.com (Post author)

      it’s not fun, let me tell you! Especially when it’s cold. I’m a patient person, but after running a 1/2 marathon, I just want things to go a little smoother, you know?

  3. Kelly @ Cupcake Kelly's

    Congrats on finishing, sorry to hear you had a rough time with orginization 🙁 that is a huge bummer!

    1. happenstance13@gmail.com (Post author)

      Thank you! Worth it to get another race under my belt, but I think I’m going to branch out to smaller local races now 🙂

  4. Jane

    I recall how crazy it was last year running the half. If you run the full, you don’t run into any of those problems (although, there’s that whole having to run 26.2 miles thing.)
    Jane recently posted…What’s Next?My Profile

    1. happenstance13@gmail.com (Post author)

      How was the full?! Was your TNT experience everything you imagined?


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