August 2014


SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES After the blogger brunch, it was time to delve into the race proper. I was lucky to hit a lull in the packet pickup line–I learned from volunteering last year for two days that there is a huge ebb and flow–and there was literally no line after brunch when I walked over to the big tent. It took all of ten minutes to collect my bib, packet, and shirt. I really love the colors for this year’s D.C. race (the plum of the runner shirt, and the turquoise used for many other things) and via facebook and Instagram already had my eye on a plum colored pullover. But before I headed to the Nike Store–a practically mandatory pilgrimage before any Nike Women’s event–I went over to the Expotique. SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES The coolest thing about the Expotique was entering the tent. The welcome screen displayed messages for each individual runner by name, presumable triggered by the timing chip on the back of the bib. Perhaps I’m spoiled from other races, or maybe it is that I remember the San Francisco Expotique from my first Nike race as bordering on magic (no line, massage, manicure, smoothie samples, games with prizes from sponsors, and a guaranteed prize area for Nike+ users where I scored some headbands), but the Nike Expotiques at both D.C. races have seriously disappointed me. This year there was a huge line for Nike+ people to have a treadmill gait analysis (something available to me at most of my local running stores), a few mannequins with new Nike fashions, hair braidin by Paul Mitchell, cheer sign making with Luna and some Luna bar samples, the Team in Training station, and a big wall-like poster/cutout for all of us to sign. I think I was in and out in about five minutes.


On to the pilgrimage to the Nike store in Georgetown. Every Nike Women’s race has featured a wall with each runner’s name on it; naturally, it’s sort of a thing to find you name and pose. Almost obligatory.


The store itself was much better managed this year, in that it seemed like there was more merchandise constantly brought out (everything was available in every size on the floor), and many more registers open. The Nike store tends to get slammed during these events because of (1) race-specific merchandise, and (2) limited edition race-specific shoes. They’ve never had the race shoes in my size–I wear a 10, and for larger sizes there are often just a few pairs available–so I’ve pretty much given up on ever owning a pair. Too bad, they’re very nicely done. The race displays include course maps and the infamous Tiffany necklace. A quick note on that necklace…Nike Women’s races have had firefighters (or similar) handing out those little blue Tiffany boxes since the races started. The “necklace reveal” is part of the pre-race festivities every year. It is part of the draw, and there are even morale signs along the course that say “That necklace is mine!” so I was VERY disappointed in Nike’s pre-race behavior around the prize this year. Previously the registration forms and publicity all referred to the Tiffany necklace. This year not only did the D.C. pre-race materials omit all mention of the necklace (the lottery registration form had some vague reference to a “finisher award,” or something like that) but Nike’s responses to inquiries on all social media before the race were dodgy. (Specifically, Nike categorically refused to answer the question, “Do D.C. finishers get a Tiffany necklace this year?” multiple times. I know because not only did my question get blown off, I watched the official facebook page where Nike also refused to answer several dozen other variations of that question.) WTF, Nike? While speculation ranged from Tiffany not wanting to be associated with the race, to the possibility of such a high trademark usage fee that Nike wasn’t willing to pay to use the name Tiffany, to Nike doing a little marketing test to see if the same number of runners would enter the lottery, after seeing the necklace my own theory was that Nike or Tiffany waited until the last minute to have it commissioned. While it looks a bit better in person, and the design has grown on me, my first impression was that it looked like an Easter egg and the New Year’s Eve ball from Times Square had a baby. (In other words, Meh.) Despite my love for plum, the aqua color suited me much better so after I grabbed my 1/4 zip pullover I headed to the hotel to relax.











I met my Philadelphia runner buddy (who used to work for Nike, when we both lived in Portland) and had dinner with some other runners at Buca di Beppo. Because, you know, any excuse to eat more pasta, right? Race day morning I was pleased to be staying at one of the Team in Training host hotels (though I wasn’t with the Team for this race), within walking distance of the start and with coffee on the way. I bumped into a fellow lost Half Fanatic, and together we failed to find the group photo and instead grabbed a groupie.

Nike DC HFs Nike DC HF

The race itself was pretty glorious. The course was essentially the same as the inaugural course last year, only run in reverse. (I’m not sure what the complaint was, but apparently Nike made this change in response to feedback from runners last year.)

Nike DC course

The weather was perfect, and once I again I really enjoyed running through all of the monuments and sculptures and greenery that is the very best of the District of Columbia. Well-stocked water and aid stations met me and the other cheap runners (we’re not slow, we’re “maximizing the value of our entry fees”). After I collected my little blue box–without the cheerleader-like lifts some women performed with the firefighters because I’m about twice cheerleader height and weight–I was delighted to see Nike upped the ante at the finish line.

Nike DC near finish line

First, no disposable water bottles.

Nike DC fillable water bottles

Instead, individual refillable bottles (already filled, but with gigantic water refill stations at the read), followed by bags to collect only the snacks we intended to eat (allowing one to leave behind anything you don’t like). There was a great refresh tent, where after I grabbed one of the refreshing face wipes (but didn’t partake of the other beauty items available), I spent some quality time with a foam roller on a yoga mat. Nike DC post race stretch Nike DC stretch 2014 From there, I went to the mocktail bar and enjoyed some rehydration. (Initially I spent a few minutes in the finisher boutique merchandise line, but it was insanely long, and there was no shirt or jacket in the world cute enough for me to wait that long on my feet.) After I added my name to the haircut list–I needed one, the line wasn’t long, and the proceeds went to charity, to it was like all kinds of win–I sat and watched the rest of the runners finish. I enjoyed a lovely haircut, then walked back to my hotel (grabbing another mocha on the way). Nike DC finisher merchNike DC finisher red jacket The best part of this race, for me, is definitely the course, followed closely by the national participation (meaning my runner-friends from all over attend it). I actually enjoy the D.C. course much more than San Francisco, the Nike race in my ow backyard. Sure, it is an expensive race, but part of the entry fee goes to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and few races have such great scenery. I’ll be back for 2016, if they will have me. (Team in Training has automatic entries, as do college students–a nice touch, supporting younger women in their running–but the rest of have enter the lottery and cross our fingers.) So…fingers crossed!

I’ve found the ultimate in non-slip head bands: Bani Bands!  Read on and learn how you can score some of the best headbands out there for yourself.

Confident I’ve tried pretty much every brand of headband out there, Bani Bands are THE headband for me.  These are the only ones that really stay put on my head because they are adjustable–you can make them longer or shorter to accommodate the size of your melon (and apparently I’ve got a big head, who knew?).

When I was in first grade, having long hair was really cool, because if you were a girl with long hair, then one of your friends could sit behind you during show and tell and play with your hair.  No, I’m not kidding.  (Hey, it was the 70s, cut me some slack, okay?) Up to that point Mom–a wise woman!–had kept my hair cut short, realizing she’d likely be responsible for long-hair-care, and with two kids in diapers who can blame her for not being interested?  We already knew my hair was unruly, since every time Mom tried to curl it under at the ends (you know, school concerts, photo day, etc.) it rebelled by uncurling, either going totally flat or reversing the curl at whim. Anyway, one day I came home from school and BEGGED my parents to let me have long hair. Like any self-respecting first grader I bugged them and bugged them and BUGGED them until they finally relented.

Aside from a the unfortunate era of the spiral perm, and the subsequent uber-short boy-cut to deal with the aftermath, I’ve had long hair ever since.  Adamantly stick-straight, incorrigible, long hair. It refuses to do anything at all whatsoever, other than get in my face while I’m running, or turn into one giant dreadlock if I ponytail it and then go swimming. No joke. When I was a competitive Irish dancer we used to curl our hair. I’d wash it with no conditioner, blow dry it, put a tiny bit of mousse on the roots, put it in rollers, spray it, sleep on it, spray it, unroll it, recurl the end bits, spray it, and add the headband; when my competitions were over, I’d run a brush through it and it would be back to straighter than ever.  THAT straight.

At one of  my first running expos I saw some beautifully sparkling headbands by Sparkly Soul: 360 degrees of sparkle, backed with a velvet ribbon.  Since it was the Divas Half Marathon, I carefully selected a stretchy dark aqua blue band, intending to run with it.  Unfortunately, during the day it very slowly slid off of my head.  While the velvet ribbon tried as hard as any ribbon could to make that headband stay put, the baby-hair-like texture would not permit it to stay on my head. Non-slip for most, I guess, but not for me.

Later on at the Detroit Marathon expo, I was very excited to discover Sweaty Bands: adorable headbands in hundreds of patterns both sparkly and no, and backed with a similar velvet ribbon.  “Guaranteed not to slip!” Yes! I thought I’d found Nirvana (the place, not the band). I decided the Sparkly Soul headband must have slipped because it had velvet ribbon all the way around, and since the Sweaty Bands had elastic around the back (the part that would fall under my hair), surely THIS was the solution.  Sadly no, instead the elastic around the back gradually crept up the back of my head, and the headband wiggled its way off.  (I’ve since learned that Sweaty Bands does offer an adjustment service to make the elastic longer or shorter, for $3 per headband.  The cost is reasonable, given that the work has to be done by hand, and I’ll likely have them extend the elastic on my Disney Wine & Dine headband . But it nixes my ability to buy it and wear it at the same time.)


It's magic!
It’s magic!

Things continued like this–me trying on headbands all the time, all the headbands deathgripping my head or shooting right off–until the Nike Women’s Half Marathon.  My gift bag had this beautiful purple sparkly headband in it with an ADJUSTABLE back!  I slid it out to almost all the way and put it on my head…where it stayed ALL DAY.  I could cinch the elastic down super small so that the same band could fit on a toddler’s head too. Brilliant!

Adjustable slider on the elastic
Adjustable slider on the elastic (just right of tag)

I had to learn more about the company, so I hopped over to the website, where I learned that not only do I love the headbands, I love this company. It was founded by two sisters (one of whom apparently also has a larger melon). Bani Bands are sewn by home sewers in the U.S. and China, supervised by the founders and a close family friend. This production method lets moms choose to stay home with their kids, and grandmas supplement a fixed income, and college kids help pay their way.  You can read about some of the women who make your headbands right on the website. Seriously, how cool is that?

Even better, Bani Bands is licensed to make headbands for major league baseball teams and some sororities.  When I was offered the chance to try out some Bani Bands, of course I had to represent my home team.  (Go, Tigers!) The MLB headbands come with the same kind of “this is the genuine article” tag that you’ll find on an officially licensed jersey or ballcap, too. As you can see from the picture, mine came with a tag that also told me who made my headband.

Bless You Boys! This is the Year!
Bless You Boys! This is the Year!


Officially licensed MLB product
Officially licensed MLB product


Another clever innovation: the braided headband.  These are made from sparkly ribbons, literally braided.  Instead of the soft velvet-like ribbon underside, these rely on the texture of the sparkly material to stick to your head.  I was doubtful, so I asked to try one.  True story, it stayed put!

The Braid stays put, even in slippery hair
The Braid stays put, even in slippery hair

As if all of this wonderfulness was not enough, there are two other really great things to love about Bani Bands.  First, they offer a selection of headbands at discounted rates for use in fundraisers.  There is a color for your team (and your opponents’!) or organization.  Second, there is an ambassador program (and you bet I’ll be applying as soon as I’ve got this giveaway posted and live).

You can order from the website, or use the site to find a retail partner.  Better yet, how about you win some right here?


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