The expo is super fun, too - when I went, they raffled off Tiffany diamond earrings every hour, provided free engraving on your ipod nano's, had wine and desserts, Jamba Juice samples, etc.
The course has a lot of fun perks too with lots of freebies like Ghiradelli chocolate squares and Nike dri-fit socks.
I also like how the race is targeted for both hard-core athletes as well as the leisurely runner or walker.
I did the half last year and the full this year. I plan to run it again next year as well and encourage all my friends, no matter where they live, to join in as well. But here's the thing - sign up for the HALF! Because the full marathon course is mean and cruel and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. But maybe it's just me. During my training runs, a lot of the Nike pace leaders and other runners had done the Nike full before and I never heard anyone complain about the course. But I will - so here is my rant, just in case you are interested in running it and want the scoop!
Below is the course map for the full marathon. There's also an elevation chart so you can see there are some hills - those aren't horrible and are in the half as well, so that's not my problem.
My problem with the course (which I realize I've whined about to several people already, so my apologies for the repeated information) - is the way it keeps killing your spirit by making you feel that you are not making any progress! There were several spots on the course which made me want to cry, "Are you kidding me???!!!" I will now refer to these spots as "Cruel Nike Zones".
Cruel Nike Zone #1: My first moment of frustration occurred around mile 13 when we were deep in Golden Gate Park. The course puts you right next to people running in the opposite direction that eventually turn off from your path. So you know there is hairpin turn somewhere... but I didn't memorize the course map so I didn't know when. But as you're running alongside these people, you know you're just going to have to repeat the same path again. And I kept hoping the u-turn would come sooner than later, but it was actually about a mile overlap before I got to turn around and run the same path back. Annoying. Not only that - I don't even think they had a sign or anything to let you know that you passed the halfway point (i.e. 13.1 miles). Even Chicago had that! At least give me something to get all excited about when you're giving me the run around.
Cruel Nike Zone #2:The next moment of torture came as you exit the park, just past mile 16. You empty onto the Great Highway where full marathoners go left and half marathoners go right - where the finish line (for both half and full) is about 300 yeards away!!! Sure, there were signs that said "Don't look yet!" which I didn't, but you can still *hear* all the cheering and music playing. But don't get excited, you still have 10 more miles to go. :(
Cruel Nike Zone #3: The third cruel zone is similar to the first, this time along the Great Highway. I knew this would be a long stretch but it still sucks to run these three miles that you just know you're going to have to repeat at the end. Oh yeah, the sun had come out at this point and it was hot!
Cruel Nike Zone #4:OK, now you've done 18 miles and you're coming to the end of the long, boring Great Highway stretch (first time, anyway) and then you see the big a** Lake Merced. It looks gigantic. And you know that before you can repeat the long, boring Great Highway stretch, you've got to now run around this sucker:
It doesn't look that big in the picture, but trust me, it seemed massive. And this is when I lost it. I didn't hit a physical wall, just a mental one. It's one thing to pass a mile 18 sign and know that you have 8 more miles to go, it's another when you can literally see those 8 miles in front of you. The unknown is better in my book.
Discouraged, I started walking - thinking I would alternate run/walking. I did - sort of. It was more, walk, walk, walk, oh cheerleaders making a tunnel? I'll run through that! Walk, walk, walk, I'll run until that mile 22 sign up there, walk walk walk, is that a Brightroom photographer? run, run, oh, it wasn't, walk, walk ... and so on.
There were a few other factors as well. One, I had developed a massive case of hiccups at this point which were very painful and hard to run with. (BTW - I totally sounded like an alkie on the course, it was pretty comical.) Two, it was pretty hot around Lake Merced so *everyone* was walking! Really! Three, I didn't know anyone was at the finish - I thought I was out there on my own so I pretty much took my sweet ole time. I was even making conversation with people! Sad, I know.
Truth is, I only really started full on running again once Neeraj and Renu found me around mile 25 and ran alongside me. They let me finish on my own and once I could actually see the finish line, I kicked it into high gear and FLEW past everyone else. (I should - I did have plenty of rest. heehee) And that part was awesome! I guess that's when Pete, Karen, and Paul were cheering my name but I didn't hear them. I was in the ZONE! Just kidding, I did hear people saying my name but because I had it on my TNT jersey, I just assumed it was the friendly TNT folk.
Anyway, there's my review of the Nike full marathon course. I definitely do not plan to run this one again. But I would definitely like to do the half next year.
Also, my official marathon time was 5:33:58 and I'd really like to finish one in under five hours. I don't know if it will happen at Disney World in January, but I have a feeling that until I accomplish that goal, there will still be other marathons in my future. I know it doesn't seem like it from this post, but I really do enjoy running these endurance races - makes me feel like a little bit of a superwoman. :)