Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Half Marathon Recap!

I’m very excited to announce that I officially have a new half marathon PR (personal record): 1:48:01!! Thank you all for the good luck wishes – as always, knowing that you guys believed in me helped me to better believe in myself. And we all know running is just as much a mental game as it is a physical one!

The morning of the Rock ‘n’ Roll USA half marathon began bright and early. My friend Lauren and I met at the metro at 6:15 (the race started at 7:30 and we were a 10 to 15 minute metro ride from the starting line), questioning our own sanity at thinking that getting up so early and running a race with tens of thousands of other people was a good idea. When we arrived down on the metro platform, we realized we’d made a rookie mistake – not checking the metro times to see how often the trains were coming. Next train? 16 minutes. FAIL.

While we were waiting, I had Lauren get a picture of me so friends along the course would know what to look for in terms of an outfit. Funny story – I decided to wear a really bright mint green shirt, thinking that I’d be easy to spot. When we got to the race, I was like, “Why the heck is everyone else wearing green, too?!” D’oh. St. Patrick’s Day weekend. I’m an idiot. Lol.

15 minutes later, the metro finally arrived, and it was so crowded that we smushed on for one stop before deciding to get off to wait for the next one, which was thankfully only a minute behind and way less crowded.

A little while later, and we finally made it to the starting area! It was nearly 7 a.m. by this point but I was hoping we’d still have plenty of time.

I made a beeline over to the Brooks VIP porta potties, which I had access to as part of my Brooks Run Happy Ambassadorship. Others could gain access by purchasing $150 worth of Brooks or Moving Comfort (their sister company) gear at the expo. There was still a bit of a wait, but it was much faster than the other porta potties. Plus, they had running water! Having waiting in hour long porta potty lines at other races, I knew how lucky I was to have this option.

And check out the cute “appetizers” – how fun! GU chomps with toothpicks in them and mini Body Glide. So creative!

From there, I raced over to the bag drop – only to find there were HUGE lines. I was kicking myself for not getting to the race earlier. Big time fail! I ended up getting really lucky because I’d been going back and forth on Twitter with the PR team from Rock ‘n’ Roll since last week (they were at the PHA Summit but we missed each other), and we finally connected right before the race. A HUGE thank you to them for taking my bag! For my next race, I’m seriously arriving at like 4 a.m.

With my bag gone, I raced over to my corral. The race had already started, but I was in Corral 7, so we started a few minutes after the official start.

Just as I raced into the corral and starting frantically tying my shoe laces, I ran into Theodora!

And then, a minute later, we were off! Whew. Nick of time.

Love this picture – borrowed from the Rock ‘n’ Roll Instagram account!

I decided to wear my CamelBak for the race, and I put my cell phone in the CamelBak pocket so I’d have it to find friends after the race. I knew that the few seconds I might lose from carrying a little extra water weight would be made up for by not stopping at water stops. I like my water when I want it – and I suck at drinking from those little cups, anyway.

In my hands, I carried my camera (I’m used to carrying this when I run, so it doesn’t bother me), and a little baggie with some fuel (I had one Clif Shot Gel 15 minutes before the race, and then another during) and a little pace card I made with my goal splits and total times needed to finish in 1:49:00. I loved having this with me – I’ll definitely do this again in the future!

Right from the start of the race, I felt great. My legs were feeling good, I was relieved I’d been able to start on time with my coral, and I was ready to rock. Here’s the course map – we went winding all through the city. I love this race – such a cool tour of real DC that’s off the beaten tourist path.

The first few miles were a total blur. I was feeling great, enjoying the crowds and scenery, and aiming to stick with my goal paces (or a little below – but trying not to go out too fast out of excitement and burn out). Even though I was going a little faster than planned, I felt good and didn’t feel like I was overdoing it, so I went with it.

At mile 1 we ran by the Washington Monument:

A little while later we headed over Memorial Bridge:

And then hit mile 3 coming back over the bridge.

    • Mile 1: 8:15
    • Mile 2: 8:02
    • Mile 3: 8:07

Miles 4 through 6 I still felt great. I settled in and kept chugging along – still enjoying the scenery and crowds, although this part of the course had less crowd support than the rest.

Dear random girl: Sorry for taking a picture of the back of your shirt like a creeper, but I loved this phrase.

Here we are heading under the bridges towards Rock Creek area. Around here somewhere, I saw my friend Steve on the sidelines, out cheering for his girlfriend Lauren who I’d metro-ed in with. It’s always a nice boost of adrenaline to see a friend!

    • Mile 4: 8:00
    • Mile 5: 8:16
    • Mile 6: 8:15

When we finished mile 6, I knew from studying the course map and elevation that we had a big ole hill waiting for us on Calvert Street. You can see it coming in the photo below. I took a deep breath, shortened my stride, and focused on making the hill my bitch.

To be honest? I actually didn’t think this hill was so bad! Part of it was knowing that I had friends waiting at the top and that there were a few blog readers along the hill who cheered for me (thank you!), but mostly I am just very hill trained because most of my runs include massive hills! A special thank you to the Rosslyn to Courthouse hill that I run at least once a week. It’s just as steep and twice as long as the hill during this race, so I really wasn’t too fazed by it.

Just as I was reaching the top of the hill, I saw Heather, and then shortly after my running buddy Karen and her boyfriend Jeremy. They snapped a few photos of me coming up the final ledge – big smiles since I’d just seen them there cheering!

With by far the biggest hill of the course behind me, and having just seen a bunch of friends, I continued on, adrenaline and runner’s high pumping like mad. Bring it on, DC. I’ve got this!

  • Mile 7: 8:59 – pretty good for the hill!

Next, the course took us into Adams Morgan, where I saw my college friend Sarah! She yelled at me that her dad was running literally 4 people in front of me, in bright yellow. You can actually spot him in the photo below on the far right! I went up and said hello to him before continuing on. 🙂

Next up was one of my favorite areas of this course – it was one of my favorites when I ran the National Half Marathon (that’s what the race was before it became Rock ‘n’ Roll last year) two years ago – the reservoir area just north of Howard University. There’s always great crowd support here – this time, we had a really cool drum band, some houses blasting great rap music, and someone playing the Rocky theme song. Loved it!

The miles continued to fly by. Faster than I was planning splits kept popping up on my watch, but I was still feeling really good. I just had to hang on!

    • Mile 8: 8:09
    • Mile 9: 8:03

The next part of the course had us running down North Capitol Street towards the Capitol. We had a slight downhill going so I was able to bang out a really good split. Sub-8 minute miles – woohoo! I was pretty pumped when I saw that pop up!

  • Mile 10: 7:54

Miles 11 and 12 were probably the hardest mentally for me – obviously by this point I was getting tired, and the crowd support was a lot more sparse here, too. I knew that I had a couple more friends to look for along the course, so that kept me going. Just as planned, my friend Kathleen was there cheering when we turned on 4th street! She snapped this picture of me as I ran by. 🙂

I also saw my former coworker Sarah and her husband on H street. It was awesome having so many friends out watching!

Mile 11 was my slowest mile of the race and when I saw that time pop up on my watch, I thought “NO! Yes, you are tired, but you aren’t that tired. Don’t throw away a PR in the last few miles of the race just because you let yourself get too comfortable – you’ve got this!” A pep talk was just what I needed to bust out a faster 12 mile split. I was still feeling really good all things considering, and at this point it was just a mental game.

    • Mile 11: 8:56
    • Mile 12: 8:15

At mile 12.3, we split off from the full marathoners. Major props to them! So impressive.

And then suddenly we were in the home stretch! I pretty much FLEW through the last mile. It’s amazing how much faster you can go when you know you won’t have to do it for too much longer, right? Again – it’s all mental!

  • Mile 13: 7:41 (!)

With only 0.1 miles left to go, I saw the finish line looming ahead. Last 0.1ish mile pace: 6:55 (!) – finishing strong!

I crossed the finish line elated. There’s really nothing quite like the feeling of crossing the finish line at a race with a new personal record. I had done it! Woohoo!!!

Overall pace: 8:15 minute miles.

  • Overall rank: 2,293 out of 19,945
  • Division rank (females aged 30 to 34): 149 out of 2,439
  • Gender rank: 693 out of 12,525

Check out these awesome medals!

I immediately grabbed water, chocolate milk, and a big raisin bagel (unpictured). Props to Rock ‘n’ Roll – there was a ton of great food at the finish line, and it was organized well, too.

And then I ran into my friend Sokphal, who’d also rocked the race! Celebratory finish line area picture:

Shortly after, I found Theodora, who had also crushed her PR. A great racing day for all! We ended up hanging out after the race for nearly 3 hours, enjoying the live band, waiting for other friends, watching the finishers come across, and then eventually hanging out in the “VIP” area with some of the Rock ‘n’ Roll PR team. There were mimosas! A big thank you to Rock ‘n’ Roll for having us over there. You made us feel way cooler than we actually are.

I’d also like to give a thank you to the weather for not raining as planned. 🙂

I’m so proud of myself for getting out there and staying strong. What I really love about running is that unless you’re insanely good and actually winning races, running is totally a personal battle. I’m not competing against anyone but myself, and I love watching my splits and my race times decrease over the years and to look back and see how far I’ve come. I know some of you might be reading this and thinking, “Geez – 1:48? That’s so fast. I could never do that.” Just like how I’m reading about friends that finish in 1:42 and thinking the exact same thing (congrats, girl!). But honestly? Never say never! Just get out there and run and do the best you can, and the speed (and longer distances) will come.

Nearly 3 years ago, I ran my first half marathon. It was terribly hard (and hot) and I literally almost passed out when I crossed the finish line at 2:04:03.

A year after that, I ran my second half marathon with the goal to break 2 hours and ended up crushing my old time, racing across the finish at 1:51:47, nearly 13 minutes faster than I’d been the year before.

A year after that, and I had broken 1:50, crossing the finish at the Tobacco Road Half Marathon in NC with a time of 1:49:37.

And now, another year later, I have a new PR.

1:48:01 – you’re mine. And I can’t wait to beat you. 🙂

Anyone else set a new PR this weekend? Please share!

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