Disclaimer: I received free entry to the United Airlines Rock ‘n’ Roll Washington DC Half Marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review, find and write race reviews!
It turns out I am quite a consistent runner when it comes to the half marathon. With my run at the United Airlines Rock ‘n’ Roll Washington DC Half Marathon on Saturday, March 10, the last three half marathons that I have raced (not paced) have all been within 13 seconds of each other.
So, I was really hoping to get to that sub-2:14 on Saturday. In my last blog post, I wrote about how I would have liked to maintain an average per-mile pace of under 10 minutes (closer to 2:10), but that I thought the sub-2:14 was a little more in reach at this time.
Although it’s a little disappointing to be a few seconds off, I still feel like I had a strong effort — and it is a somewhat hilly course, with one particularly steep hill. I’m also proud that I was able to make my last mile my fastest of the race, at 9:17.
I do feel like I’m going to race the St. Michaels Running Festival Half Marathon now, though, because I want to prove to myself that I can run that sub-2:14 (or faster), and that’s a flat course. I wasn’t sure how fast I should run the course because I am running the Vermont City Marathon the following weekend, but I think I will have enough time to recover in between, and if I start feeling off at the half marathon, I can always slow down.
I stayed with my family, who live about an hour away from the New Carrollton Metro stop, so I left at about 6:30 a.m. for the 8:30 a.m. half marathon start. It was an easy drive to the Metro, and I knew I wouldn’t have to change lines on the way there or the way back — I’ve done it before, and it isn’t that bad, but it’s still more convenient not to have to.
I had also used the Metro to get to the expo the previous day, and last year, I remembered that there were lines to reload cards after the race, I put $20 on a SmarTrip card I had tucked in my glove compartment before boarding for the expo. (Unfortunately, I only had $1.40 left on the card for what I thought would be $2 parking, and I couldn’t add it with the Exitfare at the end, so I took a chance — and parking with my credit card cost $8.95. Beware! If that were to happen again, I would add fare at the regular machines before leaving.)
There were fellow runners on board race morning, and we exited at the Smithsonian stop. When we were up at ground level, we were very close to the start and there were runners everywhere. I made sure to get a photo with the Washington Monument in the background.
I checked a bag with the gear check and then got in line for a portable toilet. I waited longer than I would have liked, but it didn’t turn out to be a problem. There were people saying that there were some without a line a little bit farther away, but after already waiting, I didn’t want to risk it. I got my turn right around 8:30 a.m., when the race began. However, I easily found my corral — Corral 13 — and then still waited a bit before I started. I actually started the race at 8:51 a.m.
I thought I had placed myself in Corral 13, but event staff kept a group of us back until the next corral, as I guess enough people had already started. So, I started with the beginning of Corral 14. I was right at the starting line for this corral, which was pretty awesome. I heard my name very early on and it was one of my fellow BibRave Pros, Sam. We would see each other a few times throughout the race and finish very close to each other.
My strategy was what I had outlined in my last blog post — to try to keep most miles under 10 minutes, but know that the steep hill would slow me down some.
It worked for the first few miles. I felt good and ran the first four miles under 10 minutes each: 9:33, 9:57, 9:42 and 9:50. After passing the Mile 3 marker, or somewhere around there, I decided that I was focusing too much on my watch and decided to run mostly by feel, checking my watch when it buzzed for each mile.
However, Mile 5 had an unexpected obstacle. I normally am more likely to wear less than the average runner, but seeing temperatures in the 30s on the weather app on my phone scared me a little, and I left wearing long running tights and my short-sleeve BibRave shirt with a long-sleeve tech shirt under it. I was starting to get hot, and I knew I was not going to want to run the rest of the race with two layers of shirts.
Right before I hit the Mile 5 marker, I pulled to the side by a water stop and took off the bottom layer. I am not usually one to change in front of possibly hundreds of people, but I did have a sports bra underneath, so I figured it would not be that bad. I felt much better after tying the long-sleeve shirt around my waist and continuing on, but I lost a little bit of time, with that mile coming in at 10:59.
Not too much later, I came to the steep hill that I knew was coming. I think I ran more of it than I did last year, trying to pick a milestone to get to, but around a red tent, I started walking. I thought I would just lose energy trying to run.
However, it must have been faster than last year, because my slowest mile last year at this race (also Mile 7) was 12:11, and I ran that mile in 11:14 this year. I did take some pictures on the course during last year’s race, but I ran this year’s race five minutes and one second faster than last year.
In the mile after that, I decided to take the UnTapped syrup fuel that I had brought for some extra energy, so that mile was also a little bit slower, but then I got back on track. I’d been doing some mental math and knew it would be close. I saw about 1:07 on my watch when it hit 6.55 miles — the halfway point — so I knew it was going to be tough to make it to the finish in less than 2:14, particularly because my watch was a little ahead of the mile markers, which can easily happen, particularly in a larger race — I’m sure I was not running the tangents perfectly.
There were some downhill stretches, which I enjoyed, and I tried to push it in the last mile. After a long downhill stretch near the end, there was an uphill section to get to the finish.
In addition to the super steep hill and the hill at the end, there were other hills throughout. I ran most of the race, but I did do a little bit of walking. It did not seem as hilly as the RRCA Club Challenge two weeks prior.
My watch logged 508 feet of elevation gain over the 13.1 miles on Saturday and 643 feet of elevation gain over 10 miles at the RRCA Club Challenge. Despite the Club Challenge being a shorter distance, I was able to keep up a faster average pace for the half marathon, and I was much more sore after the Club Challenge.
At Rock ‘n’ Roll DC, there were bands along the course, as well as mile markers that played music — a new addition this year. I enjoyed seeing some of D.C.’s unique scenery along the way, like the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial and the Capitol, and we also ran along the waterfront. There were also plenty of spectators out — some with fun signs (I remember one I liked that said something like “Way to half-ass this marathon”). There were also people in costume, including as a unicorn.
I met up with Sam for a photo right after finishing the race, and then I got some snacks — a couple bottles of water, a bottle of chocolate milk, a bag of chips and a bag of popcorn. I usually don’t check a bag at races, but I decided to for this one, and it was a seamless process. The bags were separated by last name, and I easily checked my bag and got it back with all its contents. (There were signs saying not to check valuables.)
One thing I put in there was a portable phone charger with a cord, which I will now have to do again. Despite not using my phone during the race, it got down to 5 percent battery, so I plugged it in and was able to take photos and communicate with people after I finished.
I met up with fellow BibRave Pro and East Captain Brenda after her race (she ran the marathon, but it started an hour and a half earlier, so we were not actually far apart in the finish time of day), and it was great to get to chat with her.
The headlining band at the post-race party, Vintage Trouble, was fun and brought great energy.
I went to the expo the day before, and although I did have to wait in a line to get in (there were security staff checking bags and using a metal detector), it wasn’t as long as last year. They had shirts with the runners’ names on the back, so I bought one of those, and I also got a sweatshirt from Jot & Tittle Designs, a brand I have been following on Instagram. I also had some photos taken at a Brooks Running photo booth. It was easy to get my race bib and shirt, too.
I hope I will be able to get past that 2:14 barrier soon. It’s frustrating, because I used to be a lot faster, but it’s also understandable, because I’ve hardly been doing speed work (although I have been trying to work in some faster runs). I’m hoping to post a much faster average pace at my first flat race of the year, the Tim Kennard River Run, on March 25 here in Salisbury.
I also listed my result on Athlinks! The official results should show up shortly, but for now, I put in my time as unofficial. Check out my profile here and follow me so we can keep track of each other’s upcoming races.
Mile 1: 9:33
Mile 2: 9:57
Mile 3: 9:42
Mile 4: 9:50
Mile 5: 10:59 (shirt change)
Mile 6: 10:19
Mile 7: 11:14 (steep part of hill)
Mile 8: 11:10 (consumed fuel)
Mile 9: 9:41
Mile 10: 10:02
Mile 11: 9:45
Mile 12: 10:11
Mile 13: 9:17
Last part (watch had .29): 2:36
Final Time: 2:14:20 (10:15 pace according to official results); watch time was 2:14:22 (10:07 pace)
Note: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated the time that I started the race.
P.S. I somehow forgot to mention initially that a runner recognized me on course and asked if I was from the Eastern Shore Running Club! That gave me a happy boost of energy that this happened in such a large race in a huge city!