RnR USA: Racing in Washington DC!

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.

pantsFarewell, old friend

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.

rock1The start

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!

rock2

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!

rock6With Keri, who is GLOWING, after her first half! Congrats lady!

I also enjoyed a post-race beer at the concert beer garden. The beer’s included in your race entry. Sweet!

rock3my blinged-out beer

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.

rock4With The Head and the Heart, after the concert

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!

rock5Traci and me, post race!

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!

27 thoughts on “RnR USA: Racing in Washington DC!

  1. I love the RnR races! The DC one sounds like a great race with tons of crowd support. I think it still might be a little too cold for me to do that yet in March ( I know i’m a wimp). We’ll be doing RnR in VA Beach again this year and RnR Vegas for the first time!

    • You know your limits, that’s a good thing. I was absolutely thrilled that I was able to wear shorts for this run, but I was freezing once I stopped moving. I’ve heard great things about RnR Vegas! By the way, I’m running the RW half this year! Will I see you there? 🙂

  2. How awesome! I have heard such mixed reviews about the RnR series, but I would love to run one in either Savannah or DC one of these days.

    I don’t think I could ever pace anyone for a race. I’m too inconsistent. I did run with a struggling friend at a half this year, to help get her through the last few miles, but that was it.

    As far as recovery, it just depends on how I’m feeling. A beer after my last 15K was just the thing, but sometimes a gatorade or a chocolate milk sound just as good.

    • I’ve had good experiences with the RnR series, but know others who haven’t. My first was in 2010 at the inaugural RnR New Orleans (called RnR Mardi Gras then) and it remains one of my favorite half-marathons! I ran the now-defunct RnR St. Pete last winter and LOVED it- it was smaller than most RnR races, which might be why its not around anymore….) Savannah would be a lovely place to run!! I loved DC and would do it again, but having watched most pf the post-race festivities, the big concert was over by the time a marathoner at my pace would finish. Not an issue for me, but it might be for some.

      Good for you on helping a friend! I’ve paced a few friends in the past few years, and I’ve been blessed (more than once) to have a few zippy friends pace me! Paying it forward!!

      And Yes, I totally agree with you on the post-race drink! Once I had champagne. Yeah, sounds good, but its usually not what I want

  3. This sounds like such a fun race, despite THE hill (I got to hear all about that from Ker too). I’m so glad that Traci was happy with her results and that you all had such a good time. The weather definitely cooperated!

    Also, how cool was it that the gas station let Traci use the employee bathroom. That’s good stuff right there.

    I’m really looking forward to our DC experience at the end of next month. I wonder if the courses are similar…

    After race drinks? I’m not usually a beer fan AT ALL but if it’s a tasty one, I can definitely get behind that. I’m a fan of chocolate milk too – yummmmmm.

    • Oh that HILL. I knew it was coming, but I thought (for some reason) that there were two in a row and I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. And it never did, so that was good. Traci hauled up that hill and I had to sprint to catch her once we reached the top! Traci was so happy with her results, and I couldn’t be prouder!

      And that gas station clerk- he was an angel. (and so so kind for allowing us to burst in and take over!) we need to find the address and send a thank you note!

      I have no clue what the NikeDC course is – I sure hope that hill isn’t on it! (its near the zoo, for the record)

      chocolate milk……. BEST

  4. I ran this race too and thought the weather was PERFECT. That hill was killer because it keep climbing afterwards for a few miles-I was waiting for the downhill! I ran with friends and had a great time. I love post-race beers but had a post-race chocolate milk after this one, and it hit the spot!

    • The weather was absolutely perfect, yes! You can’t tell in this post, but I wore shorts!! And that hill – I honestly thought there was another huge one after it so I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. Oof!

      Congrats on your race and yay for the post race chocolate milk !

  5. Oh the hill. That nasty, &^$*&%(&^ hill! Pure torture. I checked the Nike course and THANK GOD it is not a part of it! Oh, and that was THE best chocolate milk ever. Ever.

  6. Hahahaha, I know that hill from when I lived in DC-proper!

    I wanted to run that race but was out of town – boooooo! Hopefully next year! I may now need to check out RNR VA Beach, since it’s not far from me. (I had been thinking of Savannah, too, but this is a much shorter drive…) Anyway, glad to hear you had a fun time in DC and Virginia! Come back soon!! 🙂

    • Thanks Kimberly! I’ll be back soon for the Nike women’s half next month! Hoping I’ll see you then?

      And yay for RnR VA Beach 🙂 that’s around Labor Day, right?

  7. I REALLY enjoyed this race too! I wish we could have met up! 🙁 Congrats on running a great time, and crushing that last mile! (That hill WAS steep)!

    • Hi darling- I wish I had seen you as well! Despite the hill, I really loved this course and would definitely do it again — and just might next year!! How was your run? Did you do Shamrock on Sunday as well?

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