Betty Says: Welcome to SF for Nike Women’s Marathon

I love the energy as the crowd gathers at the start of a race.

Ladies, it’s that time. Next weekend, all of our hard work and training will end with us lining up around Union Square in the pre-dawn hours.

Dear Betty,

What should I know about in advance of race weekend?

– Ready in Raleigh

Hi Ready,

As an out-of-towner, there are so many cool things to see, do and eat in San Francisco. If you need any specific tips, don’t hesitate to email me directly. Here are a few quickies to get you through the weekend.

  • Coffee. Blue Bottle and Peet’s are the local favorites.
  • Cheap eats. I’ve consulted with a true San Francisco local for those cheap gems near Union Square that this girl from the ‘burbs wouldn’t know about. He recommends Dottie’s True Blue Cafe on Jones, which isn’t on the best street but is close to Union Square. Lefty O’Douls on Geary is described as an old-time SF eatery. Sears Fine Food on Powell is good for breakfast. But his all-time favorite is Shalimar, a Pakistani restaurant also on Jones Street. I should also mention that if you’re shopping at the Westfield shopping center at Powell and Market you’ll find a fancy food court in the basement. This isn’t your typical food court; Westfield features express versions of some very nice local eateries. No, it’s not glamorous, but there’s some surprisingly good stuff there, and it’s ideal if you’re traveling with a group and can’t agree on a single place.
  • Carb loading. North Beach is the Little Italy of San Francisco. If you can’t find the carbs you need here, you won’t find them anywhere.
  • The Ferry Building. Located at the east end of Market Street and jam packed with tourists, you’ll find a variety of gems like Cowgirl Creamery, my favorite cheese shop. My favorite cheese is the Mona from the Wisconsin Sheep Dairy Cooperative. If they have some, you have to try it.

And don’t forget, we’ll have a Run Like A Mother meetup on Saturday at 3:00 PM at the Peet’s Coffee & Tea at 595 Market Street. It’s about a four block walk from Union Square and has an outdoor patio that should be perfect for accommodating a group. Will I see you there? Let me know in the comments.

And here’s my insider’s guide to running Nike, the stuff that you can’t find on their impossible-to-navigate website.

  • Pre-race caffeine. Yes, there will be open coffee shops in the area in the pre-dawn hours. They’ll all have insanely long lines. Allow plenty of time to wait in line.
  • Starting line. Bathrooms/potties are at a premium in and around Union Square. It doesn’t matter how many bathrooms there are; there are 25,000+ runners. You do the math. Make friends with someone who has a room near the starting line and use the facilities in their room. You’ll be glad you did.
  • Clothing. You’ll be surrounded by thousands of Team in Training runners, all in purple. Want to stand out from the crowd for your adoring fans? Wear anything but. The brighter the better.
  • Passing. I’m thrilled to see you running with your friends. Please don’t do it four abreast, blocking others from passing. Just like on the highway, slower traffic should stay to the right to leave the passing lane free. Because even though we’re all starting in the same pace corral, there’s always someone faster coming up behind you.
  • Photographers. Run close to them. Smile. A photographer recently told me that he’ll try to get half a dozen shots of a smiling runner vs. maybe one or two of someone in misery. More shots = better chances of getting one you’ll actually like.
  • Candid photos. If the weather is nice, you’ll see lots of people stopping to get photos of their running group with the Golden Gate Bridge as the backdrop. Awesome shot, ladies. Really. But please, pull over to the side of the road and don’t stop in the middle. (This sounds like a joke; from my experience, it’s not.)
  • Take the chocolate. I’ve seen people complain about the calories contained in the Ghirardelli chocolate squares given out at mile 12 of the half. Seriously? You’ve burned roughly 1,300 calories in the race and you can’t indulge in an antioxidant-laden 65 calories of dark chocolate? Eat the damned chocolate.
  • Finish line. Don’t look down at your Garmin. Look up. Don’t sacrifice the great finish photo because you’re looking at your wrist.
  • Post-race. Nike tees tend to run small in the shoulders. Hold up your finisher’s shirt to check the size before you leave the finish. My 2007 finisher’s shirt is uncomfortably small; in hindsight, I should have gone up a size, but I didn’t know better at the time.

Do any other repeat runners have tips to share? Add them in the comments.

Here’s to a great race with beautiful weather! Don’t forget to chime in after the race is over and let me know how you did. Good luck, everyone!

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17 Responses

  1. Greg O. says:

    Love the tips related to photography. After all, most runners dislike their “en route” running photos. For past two races, I’ve started to try to straighten my form when I pass near a lens.

  2. Alisa says:

    That was a really valuable lesson for me, too. Remember the dozen shots I had to choose from after Angel Island? All because I applied the smiling runner philosophy.

  3. AJ says:

    Anyone not wanting their chocolate can send the calories my way. Chocolate is a food group.

    Great advice about the Garmin, I’ve actually never thought about it…even though I’ve seen soooo many finish photos with that, “GOTTA STOP THE CLOCK TO GET MY *REAL* TIME” look. (And I may or may not have done that a time or three.)

  4. Alisa says:

    I know. Why would anyone pass up on chocolate, particularly good chocolate?

    I’m perfectly willing to sacrifice a few seconds on the Garmin for a good photo. After all, the official time will always be on my permanent record online. Nobody sees the Garmin/Runkeeper results but me.

  5. Kate says:

    I ran in 2008 and 2009 – the chocolate wasn’t unappreciated at mile 12 (of the HM for me), I just couldn’t eat it right then and there. I carried it with me until finish line, at which point it was squishy and gross. For me it was a waste of really nice chocolate!

    My tip – put long pants in gear check bag. It’s usually cool and windy in the finish line area with breeze off the ocean.

  6. Denise says:

    Ahhhh I’m so excited/nervous for next weekend. It will be my first time in San Fransisco as an adult and my 2nd half marathon (been fighting undiagnosed knee pain since my first last November). Ill definitely be checking out the Farmers Market at the Ferry Building on Saturday after taking a brunch cruise.

  7. Alisa says:

    You’ll do fine. Just relax and let the crowd carry you. It’s amazing how much the adrenaline and race energy can do for you.

  8. Alisa says:

    Kate, I can’t believe that I forgot about the pants. Long pants, long sleeves. I may have to post an addendum just to cover this, because there’s nothing quite like standing along the edge of the misty, cold Pacific to make you long for cozy clothes!

  9. Hollie says:

    We’re gonna try to make it Saturday, two of us. Question, is the bag check quick and efficient? We’re having family meet us at end but can you get your bags before leaving finishers area? Before seeing family? What’s the best bet for getting the long sleeves so I can enjoy the end?

  10. Alisa says:

    As I recall, the bag check pickup area is still within the gauntlet of the finisher’s zone. Double check that, though. One of my teammates says that she saw a map of the finish area so that people could make plans to meet after, but honestly I can’t find anything on the Nike website, so I can’t verify that to be sure. I’ll try to get her to forward the map link to me, and if I get it, I’ll post it for you.

  11. Hollie says:

    A map of the finish area would be great! My husband has kid duty and we’re trying to figure it out. I’m assuming all the finish area and fun stuff is roped off and once you leave you’re done?

  12. denise:) says:

    Thanks! Good info, i appreciate!

  13. Robin says:

    Who isn’t going to eat their chocolate? Oh, please.

    Hoping to be at the meet-up Saturday. My sister and I are running the full with TNT Iowa!

  14. Alisa says:

    Excellent! I’m always happy to meet other TNT runners. Are you going to the Inspiration Dinner on Saturday night?

  15. Robin says:

    We are here with family, so we decided to not hobo the dinner. Hope to meet you and others Sat @ 3.

  16. Robin says:

    We’re on our way if you are still there!

  17. Robin says:

    Oh, it was closed. Message me on FB if you are elsewhere.

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