Humana Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon: Fun race, steady pace

Here I am posing with a Virginia Beach beach ball sculpture after finishing the Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon. (Veronica James photo)

Disclaimer: I received free entry to the Humana Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out to review, find and write race reviews!

After finishing the Mike Sterling 10K last Saturday, I got in the car with my friend Veronica and we headed south to Virginia Beach for the Humana Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon.

I know it’s probably not advised to run a 10K the day before a half marathon, but sometimes there are just too many good races. I have been doing a lot of running and I also did both last year, so I knew I could do it.

The day before heading to the expo, I saw on Facebook that Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon 51 years ago as an official entrant, would be at the expo. How cool!

The expo, which we attended Saturday, Sept. 1, prior to the Sunday, Sept. 2, race, was at the Virginia Beach Convention Center, and picking up my bib and race shirt was fast and easy. There didn’t seem to be a whole lot at the expo, and there were less people there than I would have thought. However, it was also open that Friday — the race weekend also includes a 5K and Mile in the Sand on Saturday — so people could have come then.

Here I am posing for a photo at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach expo. (Veronica James photo)

I did run on a treadmill briefly with some sensors from Brooks to see, according to their calculations, what kind of shoe I should wear. According to the test, I should wear a neutral shoe, but I’ve been fitted before and really like the Brooks Adrenaline, which is a support shoe. I’ve been wearing it for about 11 years, and the Brooks staff member seemed to think running in that shoe would be fine, anyway.

Veronica and I also got pictures at the Brooks photo booth.

We knew that Switzer would be available to meet starting at 2 p.m., so we headed over to the Humana booth and were among the first people in line to see her. She was very friendly and took pictures with each of us separately, along with a picture of all three of us, and she also signed our bibs and a postcard-sized photo of herself. It was cool to be able to meet such an inspiring running icon!

Here I am with Kathrine Switzer at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon expo.

I didn’t get that much sleep before the Mike Sterling 10K, so I was really tired. I ended up falling asleep briefly before we left for dinner around 6 p.m. Veronica and I had dinner at La Bella Italia and were then in for the night. Our hotel was not far from the start and finish of the race, and it was right on the ocean.

Before the race started, I got to meet up with fellow BibRave Pro Katie, of Adventures by Katie. We had already gotten to meet at least year’s Crystal City Twilighter 5K, but it was fun to see each other again and get our photo together in our BibRave orange.

The race began at 7 a.m. I liked the early start time because running in the summer heat and humidity can be brutal.

I knew it was going to be hot and humid, but I still started out the race thinking I would try to aim for slightly under 10-minute miles. Although I ran the first mile in 9:41, I realized this would not be sustainable for the whole race.

I soon lost the 2:15 pace group, but I was OK with that. Of course, it would have been nice if I could have gone faster, but I wasn’t going to worry too much about speed with the hot weather. I still ended up going a lot faster than my usual training run pace.

Fellow BibRave Pro Katie and I were rocking the orange for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon. (Veronica James photo)

The race started at the intersection of Pacific Avenue and 14th Street, and we headed up Pacific Avenue until about 31st Street before heading back on Atlantic Avenue, the main strip of shops and restaurants behind the oceanfront hotels.

We then went over a bridge and onto General Booth Boulevard, and the course continued into a military base. We then headed back, over the bridge and onto the Virginia Beach Boardwalk for the finish. (See the course map here.)

Rock ‘n’ Roll races are known for their bands along the course, and there were plenty of those, which were fun. The mile markers also played music.

There were some energetic crowds of high school groups — I think they were cheerleaders — and at one tough, hot point later on in the course, around Mile 9 or 10, one of these groups was decked out in ’80s gear and the girls were giving energetic high-fives. This was much appreciated!

There was also a row of fake flat hands to high-five on the course. I’m thinking they were made out of wood or something similar to that material. I hadn’t seen that on a Rock ‘n’ Roll course before, and that was fun. I high-fived these hands when I passed them in the first half of the course.

Kathrine Switzer signed my bib! (Vanessa Junkin photo)

In the area of these high-five hands, I also got a pink ice pop from a kid on the side of the course. I had a pink ice pop at the Vermont City Marathon in May, and it was just what I needed, so I figured I would have one again. It took me a little bit of time to eat it, but I enjoyed it.

I stopped at every water stop except for the last one, because I felt I could handle it from there. From the beginning, I was getting two water cups at each stop, and sometimes I would pour one on myself.

There were also lots of places where runners could run though water sprays. This included some sort of setup with at least two separate fire hydrants. I tried to run through as many of these as possible, although I do think there was one I missed.

I only walked at the water stops and a little bit after getting water, and I didn’t feel the need to walk at any other times. There were a lot of water stops, so that did mean that I stopped somewhat regularly, but I was happy that I did not get to the point where I just felt like I couldn’t go on running — as this has happened to me in races before. Of course, I do go on — I just take a walk break — but I was glad that feeling didn’t come on at all.

For the hot weather, I felt surprisingly strong — probably the result of all this running I have been doing in the heat as I prepare for the Freedom’s Run Marathon.

Kathrine Switzer, in the green shirt under the Rock ‘n’ Roll tent, waved to participants before the start of the half marathon. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

I tried to pick up the pace and aimed for negative splits. I looked down at my watch when it said it had been 6.55 miles, and I remembered seeing 1:09-something. I wish I could remember what that “something” was, so I would know whether I was actually able to run negative splits, but I think it’s likely I did, since my watch logged 13.21 miles. My finish time was 2:18:17 on my watch and 2:18:15 according to the results. If not negative splits, it was close to even splits, which I feel good about.

On my way heading toward the finish, I got to meet up with a fellow Instagrammer, @mostlyirun, which was cool. She recognized me by my orange BibRave shirt!

I started with Corral 5 at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

I was looking forward to seeing how I’d do on the bridge/only hill, since I’ve been doing some hill training for Freedom’s Run, but on Strava, the segments showed I was a little slower than last year. Oh well, though — it was hotter, or at least it felt that way! Last year, I ran this race in 2:14:17.

I got in the Atlantic Ocean after finishing the Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon (Veronica James photo).

As I headed back to the finish, I was able to run my second-fastest mile of the day in my last full mile of the race — 9:48. Then, I ran the last part, for which my watch logged 0.21, in 1:50, an 8:38/mile pace.

Here I am with my Dairy Queen dipped cone after the race. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

After crossing the finish line, runners continued down the boardwalk to get water and different snacks. I had water, chocolate milk, a banana and cheese curls. I also got a wet towel, which felt great on my neck.

The finish line party is right on the beach, so I got my legs in the water — not going in too far until later, when I wore my bathing suit — and got some photos. The headliner, also on the beach, was Steel Pulse, which was a cool band.

I saw someone at the post-race party with a Dairy Queen Blizzard and realized we were right across from Dairy Queen, so I decided to get a cone — yum!

Eastern Shore Running Club half marathon finishers, from left to right: Me, Veronica, Lynn, Liz and Connie.

We also got to meet up with fellow Salisbury friends who were running the race, and the five of us posed for an Eastern Shore Running Club photo.

The race entry also included access to the American Music Festival, but we were pretty exhausted, so we didn’t make it. I feel slightly lame for admitting how tired I was, when I’m only 27.

However, I did run two races in the heat that weekend and expended a good amount of effort. Plus, I didn’t get much sleep Friday night, like I said, and I got up early for the race Sunday as well.

I had a fun weekend and I plan to return next year!

I also claimed my results on Athlinks here. Do you have an Athlinks profile? There are probably already numerous results tracked for you if you race regularly, so you can claim those and use the site to keep track of your results and connect with others.


Mile 1: 9:41

Mile 2: 10:27

Mile 3: 10:34

Mile 4: 10:15

Mile 5: 11:04

Mile 6: 10:41

Mile 7: 11:12

Mile 8: 10:18

Mile 9: 10:20

Mile 10: 10:43

Mile 11: 10:23

Mile 12: 10:56

Mile 13: 9:48

Last part (watch had 0.21): 1:50 (8:38/mile pace)

Read my BibRave review here. 

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Veronica and I pose for a photo after the Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon.

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