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The Nike Women's Marathon

Stephanie has run seven marathons, including the Boston Marathon and numerous half marathons, 10Ks and 5Ks. She loves running and exercise!

The 7th Annual Nike Women's Marathon

On October 17, 2010, the 7th annual Nike Women's Marathon took place in San Francisco, California. I was one of the over 20,000 participants that toed the start line at the dark hour of 7:00 a.m. It was my second marathon (I ran the Portland Marathon in 2008), and definitely a wonderful race.

If you are a runner, I suggest putting this one on your "bucket list" of races to run in the U.S. The race is the largest woman's marathon in the world!

The Nike Women's Marathon is open to both women and men. A full 26.2 mile certified marathon course is available, as well as a half-marathon distance race of 13.1 miles. If you are looking to qualify for the Boston Marathon, you can do so on this USATF-certified course. However, it is quite hilly and difficult, so be prepared!

Anyone who loves San Francisco should consider this marathon; it is a wonderful way to see the City. The first half of the marathon - the complete 1/2 marathon route - will take you along the waterfront, past Pier 39 and the Fisherman's Wharf, around Ghirardelli Square, up and under the Golden Gate Bridge, to the Pacific Ocean and through the famed Golden Gate park.

The end of the Nike Women's Marathon is an extra-special treat for the ladies. San Francisco firemen, dressed in tuxedos, greet you as you cross the finish line. Each of them are holding a silver platter, piled high with blue Tiffany's jewelry boxes and tied with crisp white bows. Instead of a finisher's medal, you get a silver Tiffany's necklace. Each year's design is unique!

We definitely left our heart in San Francisco - will be returning for next year's Nike Women's Marathon

We definitely left our heart in San Francisco - will be returning for next year's Nike Women's Marathon

Golden Gate bridge from along the Nike Women's Marathon course

Golden Gate bridge from along the Nike Women's Marathon course

Wall of participants' names at the Nike Women's Marathon outside of Niketown, San Francisco

Wall of participants' names at the Nike Women's Marathon outside of Niketown, San Francisco

Registration for the Nike Women's Marathon

The Nike Women's Marathon is so popular that there is a lottery system to get into the race. Regardless of whether you want to run the full marathon or half, you will need to first submit your name - or register as a team with other friends that also wish to run.

Race officials will draw names of participants until the maximum number is reached. The only guaranteed entries are to those that have run or walked in every one of the Nike Women's Marathon since its first year, in 2003, or those that are participating with the Leukemia Society Team in Training Program.

Although I got into the marathon through the lottery - registering as a team with my sister and her friend, I know many others that have registered for the Nike Women's Marathon through Team in Training. Team in Training raises money for blood cancer research, and you'll have to do some fund raising to participate. It's a great way to accomplish your fitness goals while donating to a worthy cause. Supportive coaches will be with you throughout your training and while running the race!

Cost is approximately $120 to register for the full marathon, or $95 for the half-marathon distance. You cannot change your registration to run a different distance.

The Nike Women's Marathon is held in October each year, usually the third Sunday of the month. Registration/lottery begins the first week in March!

Outside the Nike Women's Marathon Expo in Union Square, San Francisco

Outside the Nike Women's Marathon Expo in Union Square, San Francisco

The Nike Women's Marathon Course

The full marathon and half marathon follow similar courses for the first 13 miles. Other runners that have completed the race have commented that the first half is more scenic than the second half of the marathon. I would have to agree!

The races start together (runners, walkers and both distances) in Union Square, downtown San Francisco. You'll run about 3/4 of a mile through downtown streets towards the Embarcadero. Miles 1-3 are right along the waterfront, past Pier 39 and other sights. Its fairly dark as dawn starts breaking about 15-20 minutes into the race.

At about mile 3, there is a short 1-2 block hill when you circle behind Ghirardelli Square. You'll run through Fort Mason, which includes another 2-3 block climb. By mile 4, you run through a cheering zone in front of the Safeway grocery store on Marina Boulevard.

The next 2 miles are enjoyable. Right along the waterfront, along Crissy Park with the Golden Gate bridge looming off to your right in the distance. Enjoy it now. Things are about to get interesting....

As you run through the Presidio, mile 6 will start a challenging 1 mile climb past a popular viewpoint for the Golden Gate bridge. Take it slow and steady to save your legs for some additional challenges coming up soon. When you reach mile 7, you'll enjoy a little break as you run through some gorgeous neighborhoods. Prepare for another climb from miles 8-9. Big cheers when you reach the top and then coast down for about 1.5 miles to the waterfront on the Great Highway - along the Pacific Ocean.

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After you run past the famous Cliff House, you'll spot the turn into Golden Gate Park. You are just about to mile 11 now. Approximately 2.2 miles into and out of the park is next. Its still a climb, but a much more gentle slope. For those that are only doing the 1/2 marathon, you will split off around mile 12 from the marathon runners.

You exit Golden Gate Park at around mile 15 and head south along the Great Highway. Expect the weather to be different here - windy, rainy or both! You are right on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, which has its own micro-climate within the City. You'll run about 2 miles along the highway, rutted and rough, so watch your step. Past the entrance to the San Francisco Zoo, you'll climb a very small, gradual hill from the highway to Lake Merced. Don't expect scenic views here. The 2-3 mile run around the lake is tough. Fewer spectators, traffic passing you on the street and the "Bite Me" zone - that part of the marathon where you just want to be left alone and get it over with!!

After you circle the lake, you'll head back to the Great Highway for the last 2+ miles of the race. Its flat - which is good - but you'll be tired! You can start to spot the finish line from about 3/4-1/2 mile away, depending on weather conditions. Spectators start lining the last mile of the course to the finish. An announcer calls your name (make sure your bib is visible) and you cross the finish line onto a red carpet where your swag awaits!

Today, I Ran... (Video from the Nike Women's Marathon 2010)

Support Along the Nike Women's Marathon Course

Nike really has this race well-organized! You'll find ample support along the Nike Women's Marathon Course. Each mile is not only marked for distance, but a digital clock displays the time elapsed since the gun at the start of the race. Excellent for keeping you on pace!

You'll find water stations every few miles, offering both water and electrolyte drinks (Gatorade). Portable toilets are everywhere! First aid is also offered along the course, whether you simply need a band-aid or more intensive medical attention.

If you are the kind of runner that enjoys entertainment along the course, you won't be disappointed! Cheerleaders and live drumming bands will encourage you along the way, and there are at least 7 Nike stations at which energizing music is playing. For runners that have a Nike+ wristband, you'll get your exact mileage/time displayed, as well.

My sister and I enjoyed using the automatic Facebook updates offered this year at the marathon. Nike Women's Marathon created an application that you can use to pre-write your status updates that will be posted to your Facebook wall as you cross miles 3.1, 9.3 and 22.7. The timing chip on your shoe tells Facebook when you've reached these distances. The course itself has strips set up, over which you run, to show your splits at the 5K, 10K, 15K, 20K, 25K, 30K, 35K and 40K distances. The tracking is also to make sure that runners don't cheat!

Towards the end of both races (1/2 and full marathon), Ghirardelli offers you chocolate squares. Grab one and put it in your pack. Wait until the end before enjoying it...

Nike requires that all runners and walkers finish by 1:30 p.m. That's 6.5 hours from the start of the race at 7:00 a.m. If you will not make it, they will pick you up in a shuttle to the finish line.

The course is a point-to-point run. That means you'll need a ride back to Union Square at the end. A shuttle ride is only $15 ($10 if you purchase it when you register for the race). Be prepared to stand in a long line to wait to board the buses.

Enjoying Ghirardelli Square after the Nike Women's Marathon

Enjoying Ghirardelli Square after the Nike Women's Marathon

The 2010 Nike Women's Marathon

My sister and me before the Nike Women's Marathon 2010

My sister and me before the Nike Women's Marathon 2010

Goodies and Perks at the Nike Women's Marathon

Anyone that has ever run a race knows that the finish line is where its at! The Nike Women's Marathon doesn't disappoint.

After you complete the run and pick up your Tiffany's necklace from the cute firemen, proceed through the finisher's area to re-fuel with Gatorade recovery drinks, chocolate milk, bananas and oranges, bagels and many other handouts from companies like Luna (Luna bars, lip balm), and Kashi (cereal samples). Your finisher's T-shirt is also available. Pick up a dry-fit, high quality Nike apparel in a range of sizes (XS-XL) for both full and 1/2 marathon distances.

If you run with a Nike+ sportband (like me), you will have special access to a VIP tent. Free massages, coffee and tea and breakfast burritos are part of the spread sponsored by Safeway.

In fact, a Nike+ sportband may be worth the investment of about $50-75 if you are planning on running the Nike Women's Marathon. At the Expo prior to the race, you'll get a wristband that gives you a prime starting corral at the starting line (I crossed the line just 9 seconds after the gun). You also get a free song for your iPod from Nike. Before the race starts, Nike+ sportsband users can check their bags for free in a locked secure location, and will be able to pick up the bags at the finish of the run.

If I had one negative thing to say about the Nike Women's Marathon, its that there were no toilets available at the Expo. Thousands of women, family and friends crowded the area from Thursday-Saturday prior to the race. Lots of fun items to try (gels, bars, massages, shoes, songs, jeans), and of course you have to go to pick up your bib number and timing chip. But no porta-potties? Across the street, at Niketown, the lines for the women's bathroom were LONG!

Participants and friends and family look for names on the wall outside Niketown

Participants and friends and family look for names on the wall outside Niketown

Footage from the 2009 Nike Women's Marathon

Found my name on the Nike Women's Marathon wall outside Niketown!

Found my name on the Nike Women's Marathon wall outside Niketown!

Final Notes About the Nike Women's Marathon

My sister and I loved the Nike Women's Marathon. While the second half of the course is boring (and tedious), the support along the course is amazing. Products and services at the Expo and finish line are top notch. You won't find vendors other than Nike selling items - perhaps not surprisingly!

The course is definitely challenging with the hills in the first half. If you can drive it prior to the race to set your mental plan before the race, I would recommend it.

My finishing time was 3:49:31. A little less than 90 seconds to spare to qualify for the Boston Marathon! Training starts in December 2010 for that event, to be held on Monday, April 18, 2011. Stay tuned.....

A little wine tasting after the marathon!

A little wine tasting after the marathon!

© 2010 Stephanie Marshall


Jacante on January 07, 2013:

My favorite race ever! I'm from RI, but have gone out to SF twice to run this race. Hope to do it again next year!

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on August 15, 2011:

Good luck Laura! I am going to run it again this year. Its a fun race. Take care, Steph

Little-L from Los Angeles, CA on August 15, 2011:

I loved this article Stephanie! This race was definitely on my "bucket list" already, but after reading this, I can't wait to apply for next year's lottery!

Thanks for all the helpful tips!


mojo on February 19, 2011:

nice post.. i like it.. thankss

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on February 19, 2011:

Hi Chirose, a 1/2 marathon is a great distance for people that want to run and race. It will take some training and dedication, but sounds like you could do it! Good luck - Steph

Chirose on February 19, 2011:

I love the marathon video!!! I'm not a runner, but it has inspired me to shoot for a half marathon next year. I have a lot of training to do.

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on February 18, 2011:

Thank you Austin!

austinhennry from USA on February 17, 2011:

Very interesting hub, your great effort is showing in your article.

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on February 17, 2011:

Good luck - maybe do a few other "local" runs and then come to the U.S. for the marathon :) on February 17, 2011:

I hope I can participate in it too. But currently I'm not in the US and busy with other things: preparing for an important examination, changing job etc. Thanks for your invite though, you're such a nice person I ever met!

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on February 17, 2011:

Hi lender, thank you! If you've done a few half-marathons, you could jump to a full with just a bit of extra training. Good luck out there! Steph

lender3212000 from Beverly Hills, CA on February 17, 2011:

Wow! Sounds like a fun and challenging experience. I have a lot of respect for those who can get in the kind of shape necessary to complete an endurance event like that. I've done a half a few times but never a full. Great hub!

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on February 17, 2011:

Thank you laine! Running is definitely great exercise. Have a great day, Steph

laine harrison on February 17, 2011:

great hub! made me realize how badly i need to go back to the gym.

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on February 16, 2011:

Hi char4u - that is great! Sign-ups for the Nike Women's Marathon start soon. Maybe I'll see you this fall in San Francisco? on February 16, 2011:

I'm quite good at running, I may try marathon next year. It have already been added to my bucket list of running!

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on February 14, 2011:

Thanks "situation," - I know what you mean about "love-hate relationship with running. I find that if more than 2-3 days go by without getting out there, its really hard to get going again. But, it helps clear my mind and calm my nerves too!

Keep up the great work! Best, Steph

LaRoussou on February 14, 2011:

What an awesome and inspiring hub!! 17??? Amazing. I definitely have a love-hate relationship with running, but I took it back up recently and I'm starting to remember the good times. You get so much clarity from running. So much of life can be excruciating, but running is like giving the pain of life the finger. I was running today, realizing that what I am about to try and pull off with my business is darn near insane...but I can do it. I really believe I can. Running makes me feel so--collected.

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on February 14, 2011:

Thanks Ingenira, I really love training for marathons - almost as much as running them :)

Ingenira on February 14, 2011:

Wow, Steph, what a fun event! And you certainly are in your top shape for the run. Very inspiring indeed!

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on February 05, 2011:

Hi Barry - great to hear! 17 marathons is quite an achievement! I am running Boston in April, and am looking forward to it. Of course, I'll write a hub on that too. Happy running - Best, Steph

Barry Rutherford from Queensland Australia on February 05, 2011:

Your hub has inspired me to start running again. In the late 1980's & 90's I ran a total of 17 marathons here in Australia along with many more training miles. Great hub love the personal photos.

WallStickerDecals from US on January 18, 2011:

Thanks for posting, so fabulous event.

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on January 03, 2011:

Hi Lisa - I'm not sure where you live, but you should do an Internet search for the phrase "Team in Training." By participating in TNT, you simply have to do some fundraising (typically $1000) for leukemia research and your "team" should be admitted to the Nike Women's Marathon. Team in Training can give you the details - the other benefit is that you have a group to train for the marathon with. Good luck!

Lisa on January 03, 2011:

Hi Stephanie, I have a group of women that want to train for the NWM. My son was diagnosed with a rare form of childhood cancer and we were told that all we had was hope that he would make it. Now 10 years later he is strong and healthy and competes in swimming, soccer and triathlons. My friends and I want to raise money for research that is going on into this type of cancer and we want to all race in SF. The website and lottery system is hard to make head ways into, do you have any tips?

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on December 17, 2010:

Thanks Kern and Michael! I had a great time at the Nike Women's Marathon and am thinking about registering again in 2011. Happy running... Stephanie

michael ely from Scotland on December 17, 2010:

Hi stephhicks68, A really good inspiring Hub. A lot of good information and photographs. Cheers. Michael.

Kern89 from Manhattan,KS on December 08, 2010:

Very interesting article. Good job

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on November 26, 2010:

Hi Courtney,

I trained with USA Fit Bend - I know there is a Portland chapter, too. Loved the people and great tips for marathon training.

NWM is a fun marathon! Good luck,


courtney carter on November 26, 2010:

Who did you train with for the Portland Marathon? I also ran the 2008 and got an ankle injury... want to do another one and feel like NWM would be awesome for a 2nd marathon.

David on November 05, 2010:

Thanks for this info. Very usefull. Regards. I'm thinking in run the marathon the next time ;)

lillm from Berkeley, CA on November 01, 2010:

Great report! I hope to be able to run this race next year.

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on November 01, 2010:

Wonderful - that is so cool! Do keep me posted! Best, Steph

acanderson24 on November 01, 2010:

Ok that's a deal..!! And ahhm I'm going to put you on the spot....because seriously, your hub has inspired this you will hear from me again....You have found a new friend in me...(lol) to you later!

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on November 01, 2010:

A.C. - tell you what! You help pull together a marathon in San Antonia and I'd love to come run it. Marathon running is becoming so popular and a nice venue like your city would be just perfect. Thanks for the comment and good luck to you, too!

acanderson24 on November 01, 2010:

Hello....First let me say congratulations on the marathon. This was a great hub....full of details. Now you have inspired me. I live in San Antonio, Texas. A very beautiful city. I have really gotten involved with Breast Cancer Awareness here in my city. I am sitting here now putting together a plan to bring a marathon here. I think it would be great. I am excited already. Thanks....and I will definitely keep you posted. Take care and keep running!!!

~ A.C.

Loren's Gem from Istanbul, Turkey on November 01, 2010:

Haven't been there, but would love to visit there soon! :-)

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on October 31, 2010:

Amy - that would be sooo great!!! Would love to see you in Boston! The marathon is Monday, April 18, 2011. :)

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on October 31, 2010:

Thanks Loren's Gem! So glad to hear that you are running. Do you get to San Francisco often to visit? Cheers, Steph

amy jane from Connecticut on October 31, 2010:

Congrats Steph! I'm putting the Boston Marathon on my calendar - I'll come cheer you on!

Loren's Gem from Istanbul, Turkey on October 30, 2010:

Congrats Steph! Enjoyed reading your hub and looking at your photos and videos. After reading your hubs about running, I got inspired doing the same - even just for a daily exercise to keep fit.

And yes, San Francisco is a great city. My sister lives there and she said it sometimes reminds her of Istanbul. :-)

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on October 27, 2010:

It was very fun - San Francisco is a great city, for any number of sporting events! Thanks so much Bill.

ocbill from hopefully somewhere peaceful and nice on October 27, 2010:

It seems like a very exciting sporting event in San Francisco, aren't they all, my Niners and "GO Giants". It is one of my favorite cities. I've only done a 10K years ago and can't imagine finishing a marathon. I applaud those who can "just do it".

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on October 25, 2010:

Thanks dallas - there are a lot of extreme sporting events these days! Monterey is nice, but I'd avoid the sharks. ;-)

Dallas W Thompson from Bakersfield, CA on October 25, 2010:

Great hub. Thanks for sharing. I have a friend who just completed three weeks ago the marathon in Monterey.. Sharks were a concern...

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on October 25, 2010:

Thanks Jaynie! Where did you run your marathon? SF was quite fun - the hills were challenging, but not awful (so she says post-race...) ;)

Jaynie2000 on October 25, 2010:

Awesome job! Sounds like a great event. I ran my first 26.2 in 2009. Quite grueling, but well worth it. I also am a huge fan of SF and would love to go back someday. I'll have to keep this race in mind for the future. Thanks for sharing.

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on October 24, 2010:

Hi Minnow - thank you! I was really lucky to get my registration in for the Boston Marathon the morning it opened. I cannot believe that it filled in just 8 hours this year!

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on October 24, 2010:

Hi Solar - we had a great time. There was a heat wave in San Francisco the week before the Nike Women's Marathon, but the temps cooled into the 60s the day of the race. Perfect running weather.

minnow from Seattle on October 24, 2010:

congratulations! were you able to enter the Boston Marathon before registration filled? I hope so.

solarshingles from london on October 24, 2010:

The Nike's Woman's Marathon looks like it was a lot of fun Stephanie. Very happy that you got to run it with your sister. Hope it wasn't too hot in San Francisco that day.

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on October 24, 2010:

Kathy - you always inspire me with your running! You should try the Nike Women's Marathon someday. You'd love it. San Francisco is such a fun city, too! :)

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on October 24, 2010:

So glad you enjoyed it Robie! Now, you need to find a marathon race in New Jersey... I will come visit! :)

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on October 24, 2010:

Thanks Ricardo! I took almost a year off from running after the Portland Marathon (injuries, etc.) Started again last fall and I have to say that running is my favorite activity these days! Cheers, Steph

Kathy L on October 24, 2010:

Great account Stephanie and sounds like you had a blast! You enjoy the marathon weekend experience as much as I do! So fun to read about it!

Roberta Kyle from Central New Jersey on October 24, 2010:

What a fabulous personal account of running a marathon-- and I really love the pictures. Looks like you had a great time. No wonder you left your heart in San Francisco:-)

Ricardo Nunes from Portugal on October 24, 2010:

Hey Stephanie, you keep inspiring me :)

I remember reading your first hubs about running and the marathon goal... I now try to run regularly (beside my bicycle rides) but still short distances (8-10km) and it feels great!

Have fun!

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