It was well over a year since my last Rock n’ Roll marathon event and I was long overdue.
So when my friend Traci asked me to join her for the 2014 Rock ‘n’ Roll USA marathon and half-marathon, the decision was simple. We headed south Friday, the day before the race, and after a quick stop to drop our bags at the hotel we headed to the race expo, held at the Armory. We’d left behind about 20 inches of snow from a mid-March blizzard and were itching for warmer weather.
We were in and out of the expo quickly, as we were on a schedule and needed to get to Virginia. The expo had quite a few vendors – running gear for any and all was aplenty! But we retrieved our race packets and changed Traci’s corral quickly. She bought a new shirt and visor and we headed right back out door.
On race morning, we left early and took the Metro in from Virginia to Central DC. We arrived just before 6 a.m. – well ahead of the crowd of nearly 25,000 runners. We were able to drop our bags (to collect after the race) with ease and found an indoor restroom to use multiple times before we headed to the starting corrals along Constitution Avenue, adjacent to the National Mall.
We headed into our corral, right next to the Museum of Natural History, about 15 minutes before the 7:30 a.m. race start and chatted race strategy for a bit. Before we knew it, it was time to toss the throwaway clothes.
It may sound silly, but I was rather attached to this pair of pants and honestly, I wasn’t completely willing to discard them. They’d accompanied me to numerous regattas over the years, including The Head of the Charles and even Worlds in St. Kit’s. They also came with me to celebrate my most recent marathon in NYC. But I knew they would go to good home, as all discarded clothing is collected and donated in the DC area.
Before I knew it, we had started moving toward the starting line. 12 minutes after the first wave started the race, we joined them on the course.
Within the first mile, we ran past The White House and the Washington Monument. Our second mile brought the Lincoln Memorial and a run-by of Arlington National Cemetery. The next few miles flew by – we hugged the Potomac River, we ran through a wooded area by the National Zoo and up one darn steep hill toward Calvert Street.
I knew that hill was coming, but ouch. STEEP!
I ran the half to pace Traci for the first part of her full marathon. Our goal was to stay as close to 10-minute miles as possible, even building in a bit of a buffer as we ran. Every so often, I’d call out our pace — letting her know if were were going too fast or too slow.
Shortly after we passed the Mile 7 marker, Traci let me know she needed a bathroom. We spotted a gas station and veered off the course. Why not? It couldn’t hurt to ask.
Inside, the clerk waved Traci into the employee-only restroom as soon as it was vacated by another relieved runner. I stretched and thanked him repeatedly as she was otherwise occupied.
Two minutes later, we were again on the road and on a mission to make up at least half of the lost time. We sprinted by a hill on Harvard Street and zipped past Howard University before we pulled in the reigns.
We were back on track.
We didn’t chat a whole lot those last few miles together. We were busy admiring the views – particularly of The Capitol building as we ran south along North Capitol Street.
The half course included 12 live bands and the full course had twice as many on-stage performers. I loved the live music as I ran ran past each stage. Also on the course were thousands of DC residents and fans, many holding witty signs and offering beer to runners. No really, it’s beer, a few fine folks chanted as we ran by.
Traci and I split apart shortly after mile 12, and I cheered her along, knowing full well she was on track to meet her time goal of 4:30.
My last mile was my fastest of the race. I zipped past other runners and cheered as I bolted along those last few streets. Several last turns and I reached the finish line just outside RFK Stadium. 2:06:31. I’ll take it!
I grew up not far from DC and my family visited many times each year. But as an adult, I hadn’t spent much time in our nation’s capital. I actually hadn’t been there in over a decade, outside the airports. Running through DC – past monuments and neighborhoods – yielded a flood of childhood memories.
I bee-bopped my way around the post-race party for the next few hours and cheered a few friends to the finish. I spotted friend Keri shortly after she finished her FIRST-EVER half-marathon!
I also enjoyed a post-race beer at the concert beer garden. The beer’s included in your race entry. Sweet!
A jammin’ post-race concert is always a large draw for the Rock n’ Roll Marathon races, and RnRUSA was no different. Indie-folk rock band The Head and the Heart headlined the post-race concert to a lively crowd.
Then it came, the notice I’d been waiting for – the text that Traci had finished her race! She surpassed her goal and bested her previous marathon time by 30 minutes! It took me another 30 minutes to locate her – but we connected at our prearranged meeting spot and together headed back into the beer garden for her celebratory drink!
We had a fabulous day and look forward to running again in 2015!
Have you run in our nation’s capital? (In a race or just for fun?) Have you ever paced a friend? What’s your post-race drink of choice? BEER? Gatorade? chocolate milk? Tell me in the comments!