Disclaimer: As a Rock ‘n’ Blogger I received a complimentary global tour pass, which I used for entry into this race. As always, all opinions are my own.
Last Saturday, I crossed the finish line of my seventh half marathon. When I started planning out my race calendar for the year, the idea of running or running/walking a half marathon only two and a half months after giving birth had not once crossed my mind. My original plan was to run my first postpartum half marathon at the beginning of June, which would allow myself to have five and a half months to recover and train for my first major race after giving birth. But as my return to running went more smoothly than expected, and I realized I didn’t have to run the entire race, the idea of toeing the start line of Rock ‘n’ Roll DC developed.
My race weekend started off on Friday afternoon at the expo. I had toyed with the idea of going to the expo on Thursday in order to avoid the expo crowds, which was held at the DC Armory, just under an hour from my house. However, as plans developed for a joint Rock ‘n’ Blog/We Run Social meetup Friday afternoon, I started to think about whether taking little man with me into the city on a Friday afternoon during rush hour would be a good idea. The armory isn’t stroller friendly (not only do you have to go through security, but bib pick up is downstairs in an area not elevator accessible). Thankfully, my husband was able to come home from work early, which allowed me to go to the expo baby-free.
I arrived at the expo just before 4:00 p.m., about half an hour before the meetup. I quickly acquired my race packet, and browsed the official merchandise and expo floor before heading to the meetup, which was at the Rock ‘n’ Roll series booth. The Rock ‘n’ Blog/We Run Social meetup happened to occur at the same time as the Rock ‘n’ Roll legacy runners meetup, so we got the chance to mingle with some serious all star runners. We found out that one guy has run over 120 Rock ‘n’ Roll races – wow!
At the meetup I got to meet several familiar faces. After a long period of time of interacting online I finally got to meet Janelle and Steff, and it was great to see Cynthia and Lauren again. We spent almost 45 minutes mingling, and the time just flew by as we all caught up with each other.
After the meetup, I headed home and later that evening set out my gear for the next morning. Since my last race was back in October, I was panicked that I had forgotten to get something out, but thankfully I remembered everything.
Saturday morning, I got up at 4:00 a.m., and by 5:20 I had showered, fed little man, and was heading out the door. In order to save time at the end of the race, I opted to purchase a parking pass for the lot at the finish line at RFK Stadium. By just after 6:00, I had pulled into the parking lot and was walking towards the Metro, since the start line for the race was downtown on the National Mall. Thankfully there weren’t any Metro issues that morning, and I arrived downtown with plenty of time to spare before the 7:30 a.m. start. Just prior to getting on the Metro I was greeted with an absolutely beautiful sunrise. It must have been a sign that I’d have a good race that morning.
Once I made it downtown I immediately headed for gear check, checked my bag, and then started heading for the porta potties. Back in 2014 I learned that there are two sets of porta potties, and that the set furthest away from the start line is usually less crowded. As I walked along the National Mall towards the further set, I ran into Steff and Lauren, who were standing on the steps of the Natural History Museum. We said a quick hello, and then I ventured off to take care of my pre-race business. After using the porta potties I texted Cynthia since we had planned to meet up before the start of the race. We found each other, and headed for the start line where we found Mar. Mar and I both wound up being in Corral 11, so it was nice to have a friend to chat with while waiting to start the race.
At 7:30 a.m. sharp, the race started, and at 7:45 I crossed the start line. The first 5k took runners along the mall, past the White House and Lincoln Memorial, and for a loop out and back across Memorial Bridge towards Arlington National Cemetery. I often think of this first 5k as the typical DC race course, since it seems like nearly every major race includes all or most of this loop. It was such a great way to start a half marathon before the course took you into other areas of the city that other races don’t.
My race plan was to run the first 7-8 miles, and then walk the rest. During the run portion of the race I used run-walk intervals of 4:15 run followed by 45 seconds of walking. I’d been using this run-walk interval set for all of my long runs up until this point in my half marathon training, and since I treated the first 7-8 miles of the race as my long run for the week, I wanted to stick with what had been working for me.
After the first 5k, the course took us towards the Kennedy Center and onto Rock Creek Parkway. Even though it was a cloudy morning, with the occasional drops of drizzling rain, it was still one of the most peaceful and beautiful parts of the course. I wish that we lived closer to DC so that I could run in Rock Creek Park more often.
In order to exit Rock Creek Park, you have to climb the dreaded Calvert Hill just before the mile 6 marker. Its a total climb of close to 150 feet in a single hill, and often catches racers off guard that are unprepared for the hill. This year just prior to the hill there were members of Wear Blue to Remember, an organization that recognizes and honors fallen soldiers. The left side of the course was lined with pictures of fallen soldiers, and it was just the motivation that I needed as I pushed to the top of the hill. I successfully ran up most of the hill, and only stopped to walk just short of the top of the hill since I had finished a run interval.
At the top of Calvert Hill I crossed the 10k mark at 1:1046 (11:24 pace), and then entered Woodley Park, where I was greeted with very heavy crowd support. I was feeling great, and decided to push myself as hard as I could for the last two miles until I started walking the rest of the race. Throughout Woodley Park, and then Adams Morgan and Columbia Heights, plenty of residents came out to support runners, offering runners beer, margaritas, and champagne. I kindly passed on all the offers (you just never know what’s really in those cups), but still showed appreciation for all of the support that so many residents showed.
According to my Garmin, I reached mile 8 at 1:29:20 (11:10 pace), which I’m more than happy with for my longest run since last fall. Although my legs felt good, I didn’t allow myself to get caught up in the excitement of the race, and enjoyed walking the rest of the race, which included walking through Howard University where the women’s drumline played alongside the course, as well as down North Capitol Street and through part of the H Street Corridor. And just before the mile 12 marker I found Courtney along the course, and made sure to get a huge hug from her before I walked the last mile of the race.
I walked until just before the mile 13 marker, and then decided to jog the last uphill and across the finish line, which I crossed at 2:46:37 (12:43 pace). Not bad at all for having walked the last 5 miles of the race! After I crossed the finish line I received my medal and walked through the long finisher’s chute, collecting water, Gatorade, and more than enough food.
Due to snow piles that still hadn’t melted after the blizzard back in January, Rock ‘n’ Roll had to slightly alter the course and move the finish line festival to a different parking lot than the festivities are usually held in. This last minute change seemed to result in a lack of signage and some general confusion among runners and spectators. The layout wasn’t ideal (gear pickup was down a hill and to the right from the finish line, while the concert stage and beer garden were to the left of the finish line), and maybe with some more planning the finish line festival could have been better organized.
Other than confusion at the finish line, Rock ‘n’ Roll put on another fabulous DC event. I have no doubt that I’ll run this race again in the future.
QOTD: What are your favorite neighborhoods in DC to run in?