I’ve been living in my car (my new car!) for like the past week. Not like literally, I still have a beautiful little apartment downtown, but I’ve been riding around like a nutjob for days and days. To the point where I actually thought listening to Rush Limbaugh might be an interesting change of pace. UGH WRONG GURL. First I headed home. Then to Winston to take care of some bidness. And finally, I made the 4-hour trek to Washington, DC, and began my weekend. We did a bunch of un-Nike-related things, some of which included eating my weight in delicious food, losing house-keys in a cab, and participating in a super cool Lupus Walk on Saturday morning.
As a side note, I’m completely, madly, deeply in love with Washington, DC. I live in Raleigh. I’ve had a rough relationship with Raleigh. Story time! I moved here for a guy (and for graduate school). The relationship ended disastrously, and here I was, sort of stuck in a city where I knew no one. So my solution was to take a job in Pennsylvania, attempt to transfer to Pitt to finish my graduate studies, and move on with my life. But my mom, whom I typically don’t listen to (do us kids ever listen?), encouraged me to stick it out. “You can’t run away from your problems. Everywhere I go, there I am. Do you know what that means?” Ugh. She was right. So I came back. Made a few more friends, and began to find my place here. I still have days where I’m not sure about the city, where I’m not sure if I fit it in. The loudness of New York never left me. I teach Zumba. I speak like Hilary Banks, but I wear my locs long and natural. I think I confuse people. So I’m just not sure. So you can imagine my heartbeat going a-flutter when I came to a city where the black girls look like me. Wear bright colors and long Senegalese twists. They ride bikes. They love dogs. Everyone runs. I love it!
So Saturday afternoon, we metroed and hoofed over to Georgetown, where packet pickup was held. The line? Let’s not talk about it. But it moved quickly and pretty smoothly. The expo, held in a tent in Georgetown, could have been super cool, but it was hot, and I don’t do well in small, hot, ill-ventilated tents with everyones breath just like, combining in the same space. I find that absolutely foul, and I think it could have been done better, and in a bigger space. But everything else? Cool as heck.
Nike erected this like, street-length billboard with all of our names on it. So 15,000 women’s names were plastered in Georgetown, and my name was one of them. Super cool to see. And it was doubly cool to see a bunch of women with a smile of their faces. Score 1 for Nike for making us feel special.
Race day. I metroed down to Pennsylvania Avenue, where the start line was. Pre-race chatter makes me nervous, so I put my headphones in, and listened to Gustavo Lima sing me a “Balada” while women buzzed around me, scrambling to get into their pace groups. The way pace groups were done was pretty sweet too. We were identified by these colored bracelets which identified our pace, and getting into corrals was super smooth. I glided into my pace group, and hunkered down to start to run for a long time. My first bought of tears during the race? When the National Anthem was sung. I’m not a stupid emotional idiot either, I saw other women beginning to tear up. It was sung beautifully, and it was a lot of our first races since Boston. We felt…united? The race started. And I became emotional again when I realized the coolness, and the gravity of 15,000 women (and a few guys), running down the streets of the District, with the Capitol building as a backdrop. As we ran, Nike had organized cool bands. A go-go band in the tunnel. Marching bands. A Chinese New Year Themed parade. Beautiful, inspirational signs. A river. It was so beautiful that I marveled a number of times at how lucky I’d been to get into the lottery for this race. And I could not stop smiling.
Here’s where I screwed up, though. I’d wanted to do well in the race, even though I’d lied and told everyone I was just going to take this one nice and easy. I’m competitive by nature, and I’m not sure why I said that. But in my head, I wanted to break 2 hours. So I’d assumed that this race would be like a small-town race, just like how it was in Raleigh. But 15,000 women and 1,200 are totally different. And my plan to start at the back of my pace group and work my way up was a profoundly stupid one. After 3 slow miles, I realized that I’d have to do some work to make it to the finish line in under two hours. So I had to push. And push. And push some more to continue hitting under 9 minute miles to make it to that finish line. So I talked myself through about 10 super fast miles. I told myself I could eat Nutella. I told myself I could go to the medical tent and get hydrated. I told myself I could eat bread. I told myself that people were counting on me. And I did it. 1:59:57, with my fastest mile being a 7:36 around mile 12, when I saw a clock and got a little nervous that I wouldn’t make it. I’m sore as heck from running like I stole things.
My final verdict on the Nike Women’s Half Marathon? Worth it. A stellar race. My only complaint is that the expo was in a frighteningly small space. It was gross in there. But women. The weather. The scenery. The history of DC just existing all around us? Pure magic. So….
GURRRRLL let me tell you.
And are you wondering what 15,000 beautiful women look like?
True beauty. Ladies, you better WERQ.