Just Do It – Nike Women’s Half Marathon 2014

“Hey, how are you the first one to finish Jess? You’re like the most out of shape.”

I just do. Thanks friends for believing in me. *sigh*

Let me start by saying I’m no runner. I loathe running for the most part and for me training for a marathon is repetitive and boring. Yet earlier this year when Yvonne suggested I run the Nike Women’s Half Marathon my response was “Surprisingly, I’m down. Will count on the fates of the lottery to see if I can get in this time.” 

Believe it or not, this is not my first trip to the rodeo. It’s been a decade since I ran the very first Nike Half and the thought was “maybe if I get in this year I can use it as a means to accomplish a personal feat for this year other than Shop-stinance“. Additionally races are more interesting than training. There is this wonderful transference and absorption of energy that can occur when 25k people are motivated to do the same thing you are at the same time.

Flash back to 2004. Helen chats me and asks if I want to run this new marathon co-sponsored by Nike and Tiffany’s in San Francisco, her coworkers were all doing it. She wanted a running buddy and sold me on the fact that they are giving away a Tiffany’s necklace at the completion of the race. My resounding answer was “sure why not”. At the time I was still working at a start-up, and living with my folks. My parents had a treadmill in the garage and I ended up practicing every other night. With Nextel phones there was this awesome J2ME GPS tracking app by NavTech, that was great at tracking runners info. It featured additional functionality that allowed friends to login and follow your progress, so that they could properly time meeting you at the finish line. I had borrowed a work phone to run with and with a steady pace through the crazy inclined course we managed to finish at a time of 2h34. My very first half marathon at a decent time.

For 2005 we signed up again. What I remember from this time was that I just started my first big corporate job and I was fighting with an ex for various topics when I brought up the marathon. He then began to lecture me about training and just to prove him wrong I refused to train. Not one mile was run before the 2005 race. Helen wisely decided to book us a hotel room in Union Square so that we wouldn’t have to wake up at a ridiculously early hour and commute. At mile 3 when when trying to break for water I lost Helen. There was a crowd around the watering hole and what I didn’t see was her darting further down to get a drink, instead I thought she bypassed the station all together. Needless to say I kept pushing forward thinking she was ahead of me the whole time, meanwhile she kept lingering waiting for me. I ended up besting my old time with 2h10. The lack of training this second year cause some severe ligament strain and I basically spent every day for the next 2 months limping everywhere.

In 2009 and 2011 I ended up trying to sign up again via their lottery for only to get rejected by the powers that be.

10 years later. When Yvonne asks, I’ve gotten so used to rejection from the lottery that I immediately agree to entering thinking that I could look cool, calm, and committed, when really not banking on getting in at all. I mean honestly I’ve tried for 2 years prior and not gotten in. Then we get the confirmation email in June and it’s a complete shock. In my head I already know I can do it, but it’s time to match my head up with what my body can do.

I tell my trainer Lisa that I need to prepare and she works with me on strengthening my legs and looks at my gait while wearing the vibram shoes that I always wear to training. With vibrams you need to focus your energy on front of your feet, controlling your stride to strike the ground less and roll into the movement. At training I only end up doing 15 minute bursts of running.

Vibrams require much discipline.

Vibrams require much discipline.

Yvonne tried to motivate me to train with her but I just never feel up to it. 5 weeks out Laurie and I do a practice run in LA of 1 mile before I give up because it’s hot.

Photo Sep 14, 7 49 18 AM

Two weeks out from the race I start feeling a bit concerned and I try running 4 miles in my vibrams when I realize, they are killing my back. One week out from the race I try another 2.5 miles, and decide definitively that I need new shoes for the race. Within the Nike Marathoner’s packet is a coupon for $20 off Nike.com shoes. Immediately I pick the Nike Free 5.0s I’ve been eyeing which are light and similar to vibrams but have significantly more cushioning.

I'm Free!

I’m Free!

These beauties show up Thurs before the race and I wear them as I’m walking around the house for the 3 days before the race to break them in.

Breaking in clean shoes at home selfie.

Breaking in clean shoes at home selfie.

Friday before the race coworkers ask me what I have planned for the weekend, our conversations go as the following:

Coworker: What are you doing this weekend? Anything fun?

Me: I’m running a half marathon.

Coworker: Oh seriously? Have you been training?

Me: No not at all. Running for me is a mind game.

Coworker: Um ok if you say so.

Me: It’s the truth, I can run the race with my mind.

Coworker: Well good luck. *giving me crazy eyes, as they walk away*


Crazy Eyes – The widening of eyes and look of incredulous disbelief at something someone is saying. 


Here’s the truth if what I was thinking about before the race:

  1. It really is a mental activity. I know that I can complete this race despite dubious comments from my friends. I have done it twice before.
  2. Not only can I complete the race with no training, I have completed it before with no training and bested my previous time with training.
  3. I’m going to need a peppy music mix to keep my spirits up and motivated throughout the run.
  4. I need to gain time on the downhills as I waste more energy trying to work against gravity going down hills, and I won’t be able to maintain my endurance if I expend the energy here.
  5. My running modus operandi is: sprint and recover. Studying the route map in my head I’ve briefly outlined the mile markers where I need to sprint and where I need to walk to maximize my personal efficiency.
  6. At mile 10 is where my legs usually want to give up and begin to cramp, I need to rest shortly before mile 10 and then commit to run the rest entirely or I will not finish.
  7. I will immediately schedule a massage for after the event to help recover.

These 7 pre-meditated points and self awareness are what will help me get through the 13.1 miles.

Yvo had hurt her knee prior to the event day, and while I wanted to walk the entirety of the marathon with her in solidarity, I had to call out point #6 to them early so they wouldn’t be surprised that I need to disappear at some point.

Once the race started I tried to keep up with the gradual pace that Yvo and Laurie set out with the walk one run one technique, but it just didn’t work with my style and was making me more fatigued. Instead I had to let them know about point #4, I would run downhills and they would catch up with me on straight aways. This way I would always have a break before needing to run with the girls. Also key to keeping the pace was the playlist of music I had spent a hour the night before preparing:

Turn Down For What!

At mile 10, there was the great hike up to the Presidio. Normally this would be where I take off, except it was all uphill. Near the peak of the mountain I feel my legs burning and cramping as I have almost hit my limit. I recover a bit from the at 10.5 miles but that’s when I feel it. My legs want to buckle right on cue. I tell Yvo and Laurie that I need to run for a bit and they will catch up in the straight aways again and run all of the downhills. On mile 12 I hold back my urge to run to see if they will catch up, but after waiting a minute I don’t see them anywhere behind me and decide to run the rest. I am yet about to give up again when I can see the 13 mile marker in the distance and sprint toward the end.

On the 10th anniversary of my first half marathon I completed my third half marathon and two days afterwards I feel generally sore, but not too bad. I run not because I love it, not because I trained, but because I tried playing chicken with the Nike lottery system for the third year in a row and lost.

More so, I run because I believe I can.

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