Damn You and Thank You, Nike

Last December, the Nike women’s race series announced that it was dropping its San Francisco half marathon, so this is not new news to the running world by any means. I’ve had nearly 7 months to get used to the idea, but that doesn’t mean I’m not still angry at Nike because I AM still angry and after running that race for 5 consecutive years in a row (plus Nike DC its inaugural year so 6 times total), I expected a little more explanation from Nike as to why they made that decision and took away my lucky #7 and what they were going to do to replace the race here in California, but noooooooo… no reasons, no future plans for a U.S. race, no more tuxedo-ed firemen, no more running for Tiffany’s… grrrrrr!!! <shakes fist in air>

In my 41 years of life I have learned that all things, especially the good things, do come to an end. I get that. Doesn’t make it any less annoying knowing that truth but I also realize the other side of the coin- be sure to enjoy while it lasts.

And when it comes to the Nike Women’s Marathon, I certainly did just that…

My first Nike finish line and my first 26.2.

My first Nike finish line and my first 26.2.

Nike Women's Marathon SF, October 2011

Nike Women’s Marathon SF, October 2011

I knew about the Nike Women’s Marathon even before I began racing in 2009 and always thought there would be NO WAY EVER I would be able to accomplish a half marathon let alone a full when, at that time, just a 5K was challenge enough.  But in 2011, after a handful of halfs, I decided to go for my first full marathon, fund raise and run for a worthy cause, so I joined Team in Training and did just that.

Thanks to the motivation of that very challenging 26.2 through the hills of San Francisco I had to look forward to, plus the support of my coaches and team, Nike provided my first marathon finish and that is really and truly why the race has meant so much to me over the years- as I once read from a spectator’s sign, “You never forget your first time.”

The Nike Women’s race series has always, since its first running in 2003, benefited the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and guarantees Team in Training participants an entry by fundraising a minimum amount for LLS. All other race hopefuls enter a lottery and hope and pray for a chance to run this iconic race- I know legacy runners who have run all 12 years; I also know runners that, going the lottery route, have never been granted entry.

Nike Women’s Half SF, October 2012

I stayed on with TNT, became a mentor and that following year, ran my second Nike SF, opting for the half this time around. I was so proud to represent my team, the cause, and the fight to end cancer, I always viewed Nike SF as a celebration of TNT participants and staff in this way- a victory run for all the hard work we do to train, to raise funds, to increase knowledge and visibility about blood cancers, and to run for those who can’t… I will forever be grateful to Nike Women for the opportunity they gave to TNTers all across the country.

On the other hand, I am also mad at Nike for taking that opportunity away from a cause and a team I hold oh so dear. Of the 25,000+ runners at Nike SF, nearly 75% of them are there because of TNT. The sea of purple singlets, the constant “GO TEAM!” cheers all along the way, all the branded race collateral marked with TNT icons only helped to raise awareness for the cause and draw more people to join TNT… in a time- now- when it is so much harder to raise those much needed funds, I feel the removal of Nike races from the United States is a severe detriment to TNT, thereby LLS.  The exposure Nike Women’s provided was huge… I’ll never forgive Nike for that.

Nike Women's Half DC, April 2013

Nike Women’s Half DC, April 2013

Renewing my commitment to TNT, I continued on and fund-raised for the inaugural Nike Women’s Half in Washington, DC just 6 months later. Flew over with my team, got in a bit of sight seeing, got to meet running idol Shalane Flanagan at the pre-race dinner, ran a very awesome DC 13.1 with all the monuments along the way, concluding yet another successful season with Team in Training.

Of course I planned to run my 4th Nike Women’s/3rd Nike SF that October but having just fund-raised for the April race in DC, I stayed as a mentor with TNT but decided to <gulp> enter the lottery. I figured, if it is meant to be, it will be, so we shall see… thanks to the power of the Internet and my work here on this blog, I got nearly 300 people to use my group code and with the if-one-is-chosen-all-get-in rule- we got in!!!  WOW, was I relieved and felt assured that Nike loved me too.

Nike Women’s Half SF, October 2013

In 2014, Nike announced that it would be re-routing the half marathon while dropping the full marathon from the roster. That caused quite a bit of chatter among my local running peers, “Dropping the full?! How dare they! New course?! Why would they! Same necklace?! Sign me up!!”  The new course still began in Union Square but went in the opposite direction, winding through Golden Gate Park, and then the Presidio, to finish at the Marina Green (opposed to ending on the Great Highway at Ocean Beach in the past).

At that time in 2014, I was not with TNT nor did I have the bandwidth to continue fundraising so, I again <gulp> decided to enter the lottery and cross my laces in hopes of an entry. Drop the full- okay, since that 2011 course nearly killed me… reverse the course- okay, I’m up for a new challenge… but limit the lottery groups to 10 people only- not okay, there go my chances.

My group of 10 did not get in. That really ruined my day. Yes, I took it very personally.

I thought you loved me, Nike.

Luckily, again thanks to my efforts here on the blog and after working with Whole Foods the year prior to promote their brand and give away some entries to Nike SF, they approached me again in 2014 and offered me a guaranteed entry to the race in exchange for my assistance in promoting the store and the race again and OF COURSE I said yes!  Thank goodness!!!

Nike Women's Half SF, October 2014

Nike Women’s Half SF, October 2014

2nd year of the new course for last year, 2015, and I again was not with TNT nor did Whole Foods come knocking, so I had no choice but to go by way of the 10-person-per-group lottery option again and, to my surprise, we got in!  Reciprocal love between Nike and I restored, I trained and successfully ran what I didn’t know at the time to be The Final Running of Nike Women’s Half in San Francisco.

Nike Women's Half SF, October 2015

Nike Women’s Half SF, October 2015

So there you go, the Nike streak is over and I am still pretty mad about that and of course wondering what I will replace the race with come this October… part of me thinks I should grab a group of buddies, run 13.1 in SF on our own, then all go to Tiffany’s afterwards and buy a new silver necklace of our choosing. I don’t need Nike to make me run and I don’t need Nike to give me jewelry, I’ve got my own willpower and fancy tastes to give me just that. Hmph.

However, I know that just wouldn’t quite be the same as crossing the finish line of a race I have come to love these past 5 years… just not the same. Chapters close but the story remains and the tale of Laura & Nike sure was a good one- thanks to all the characters along the way and the plot twists that always kept me coming back for more. It truly was glorious running fun while it lasted.

Damn you, Nike, for leaving but thank you, oh so much, for the miles of memories you’ve left behind.

What do you think?