I ran the Rock ‘n Roll half marathon last weekend in D.C., and ended up pleasantly surprised with how things turned out. The race exceeded my expectations on a lot of levels.
I ran this half years ago while I was in grad school when it was just known as the National Marathon and Half Marathon before the Competitor Group took over making it part of the Rock ‘n’ Roll series this year. I remember it being freezing cold, and I’m a bit of a cold weather wimp. I remember a lack of crowd support especially in the last few miles. I remember crossing the finish line, going right to bag claim and immediately heading to the metro wrapped in a space blanket saying never again.
Despite that, I found myself at the start line again on a beautiful St. Patty’s Day morning last Saturday. Temperatures were around 50 at the start and probably got up to mid-60s by the end of the race. It was probably a bit hot for the full marathoners as temps continued to climb, but it was my favorite kind of race weather. Not half bad for mid-March!
The Competitor Group has gotten some bad press in recent years including rising prices, a large amount of racers getting sick at the Las Vegas Marathon or frequently running out of medals or food for slower runners. My last experience with them wasn’t so great either. I ran the Nashville Country Music Marathon several years ago and it was a bit of a disaster as most of us had to be diverted to the finish line at the 22-mile mark because of an incoming tornado. While I understand they had no control over the weather and probably made the right decision to cut the race short, there were a lot of
other issues that could probably fill an entire blog post on its own. My biggest problem was that they started the race 15 minutes early without making an announcement leaving me stuck about 15 corrals behind where I should’ve started wasting energy weaving my way in and out for the entire first half of the race.
I had good intentions when I signed up for this last November, but unfortunately started training about a month later than I should have and followed a plan geared toward the Cherry Blossom 10-miler next weekend instead of focusing on this race. I’ve been running a lot and working on my speed, but other than one 13 miler a few weeks before the race, I haven’t run more than 8 miles since Marine Corps Marathon so I didn’t have high hopes for my time.
The race was underway right at 8 and thanks to starting in a corral near the front, the first few miles were much less crowded than I expected. We started out running behind the Capitol Building and worked our way down Constitution along the Mall before turning up 18th. I hit the 5k mark in 23:19, a much quicker pace that I thought I’d be able to run. The course was hillier than I remembered (selective memory has a way of making that happen) as we winded through Adams Morgan and worked our way to H street before making our way back to the finish line at RFK.
The crowd support was also better than I remember it and I was feeling pretty good making it a fun race. I surprised myself setting a PR with a 1:43:14 finish, maintaining a 7:53 pace. (Full disclosure I’ve only run 2 other half marathons.) The perfect weather, better than expected organization of the race, and a PR all exceeded my expectations. The post-race beers at Four Courts and a Syracuse win made it a great day. I might even run this race again someday!