The Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco, CA is arguably one of the most popular women’s marathons in the United States, with 30,000 runners participating in the race every year. The race has gained so much popularity and traction that Nike has had to hold a random drawing every year to choose the 30,000 lucky participants that will have an opportunity to register for the race. If the race was open to all interested runners, the number of runners would far exceed the 30,000 mark. The Nike Women’s Marathon is targeted to women, and this is shown throughout the race and pre-race expo. It is not, however, a requirement for participants to be female. Men are definitely in the minority though, and I would estimate that less than 10% of all participants are men. Proceeds from the race benefit The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
I ran the San Francisco Nike Women’s Marathon (NWM) as my first full marathon after hearing rave reviews of the race from a friend. I absolutely loved the experience, but it definitely was not the easiest marathon course I could have chosen. The race course was very hilly and, with 30,000 participants running the race, the first several miles were extremely congested. On some of the large hills, I had to walk because I could not get past the large crowds of walkers blocking the entire roadway.
The marathon and half marathon course splits around the 12-mile mark, but joins back up for miles 15 and 16. Miles 15 to 16 take you past the finish line, where you’ll hear spectators cheering on all the half marathon finishers and music blasting through the speakers. It was a high energy environment, but also a little depressing because it made me realize I was only a little over halfway through my 26.2 miles. The first half of the full marathon race course was filled with spectators cheering on the sides of the roads, but the last half of the full marathon was very quiet in comparison. The energy and support along the course, in general, was amazing. Women were cheering each other on throughout the course and I would see strangers run past other strangers and yell words of encouragement. I saw several walkers start running again after these words of motivation. It was inspiring to see the power of positive thinking firsthand. Sometimes, we all just need a little push.
The second half of the full marathon course took me along the San Francisco waterfront and around Lake Merced. The scenery was absolutely breathtaking. It was foggy and misting, which created a surreal scene with the fog and mist blurring the trees in the background and the reflection bouncing off the lake. The amazing scenery was one of the highlights of the Nike Women’s Marathon for me, and it was present throughout the entire race. There were a few moments where I was so entranced by the the scenery that I forgot about the pain and soreness in my legs.
One of the best parts of the Nike Women’s Marathon is the “medal” waiting for all finishers at the end of the race: a little blue box with a custom-designed Tiffany’s necklace inside, handed out by firemen dressed in tuxedos. The necklace design is the same for both half marathon and full marathon runners, which was a little disappointing for me since most races differentiate their medals. A Nike Women’s Marathon Finisher t-shirt is also handed out to all finishers at the finish line.
Being a Nike-sponsored race, there was a wide variety of merchandise available for purchase both before and after the race. San Francisco’s Niketown was filled with marathon and half marathon themed merchandise ranging from shirts to jackets to water bottles. A limited edition, custom Nike Women’s Marathon running shoe in Tiffany’s colors was also for sale, but sold out extremely quickly. The merchandise tent at the finish line offered even more merchandise with “finisher” themes. However, being a Nike-sponsored race, the merchandise was not cheap. If you don’t care much about selection, you would be better off waiting a month or so and buying the excess merchandise online once it goes on clearance.
Overall, I would highly recommend the Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco, CA. The race lived up to my friend’s rave reviews, and the Tiffany’s necklace I received at the finish line is now one of my most meaningful possessions. It represents an incredible accomplishment and a day that I will never forget. Imagine 30,000 women (and a few men) getting together to accomplish something big. Imagine all the words of inspiration being shouted during the six and a half hour event. Imagine all the people running in memory of loved ones lost to leukemia and lymphoma. It is difficult to adequately describe the amount of energy, pride, and inspiration that can fit into such a short time frame.