Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon: A weekend filled with music

Vanessa Junkin poses in a selfie on the beach with her Rock 'n' Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon finisher medal.
Here I am with my finisher medal after the Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon on Sept. 1.

Disclaimer: I received free entry to the 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!

I remembered the ice pop I got during the Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon last year, but I didn’t see the stop on the way out during the first half of the run. However, the Croatan Pop Stop was back during Mile 12, and I was excited to again get that treat.

I was eyeing the pink one in a community member’s hand, and then a runner ahead of me took it. But thankfully, he had another pink one, so I asked for that one, and he gave it to me.

That was just one piece of the entertainment along the way, which included live music, cheer groups and neighbors who came out for the event.

This was my third year running the Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon during Labor Day Weekend. Although the Sept. 1 race was my slowest non-pacing half marathon, I still had a fun weekend filled with running and music.

I headed to Virginia Beach with my friend Veronica after the Mike Sterling 10K in Crisfield on Saturday. Since Crisfield is already south of Salisbury, after some post-race festivities, we continued south along Route 13, crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel into Virginia Beach (and stopping for coffee and doughnuts along the way).

Vanessa Junkin and her friend Veronica posing for a selfie with their finisher medals.
Veronica and I pose with our finisher medals.

Our first stop in Virginia Beach was the race expo, held at the Virginia Beach Convention Center. It was easy to pick up my bib and shirt. I tried to hold back from buying things at the expo, but I did end up getting a $15 tank that says “Run This Beach.” Veronica got one too, so we got a deal for getting two for $30 (rather than one for $20). The expo seemed small, but I really didn’t need to spend money anyway.

After that, we checked in at our oceanfront hotel and then went to dinner at La Bella Italia. I went to bed earlier than usual — around 9:15 p.m. — for our early wake-up the next day.

Although I’m not a morning person, I was happy the half marathon race start time was moved up from last year, as I’m always happy to avoid any extra heat and humidity. This year, the race started at 6:30 a.m. instead of 7 a.m.

I signed my first name and wrote “#bibchat” on this poster at the race expo. (Veronica James photo)

I’d seen temperatures would be in the 70s ahead of time, so I thought it might not feel that bad. But after seeing a mention of a dew point of 71 on TV, and based on my performance and how I felt at the Mike Sterling 10K, I was thinking the weather might not be ideal for me.

I had 15 miles on my Marine Corps Marathon training plan, and since I’d gotten up early anyway and had been thinking about it the day before, I decided to do an easy two-mile warmup before the race. I got to see the finish line and saw some other runners warming up, too.

I couldn’t get to my corral, Corral 6, at the beginning of the race, because we’d gotten there on the later side and there were so many people, so I started with Corral 7, near the 2:30 half marathon pacers. Since I’d hoped to be around a 10-minute mile, I would have needed to stay well ahead of that pace. However, like at Mike Sterling, I realized early on that I wouldn’t hit my goal time.

As I ran, I adjusted to wanting to keep my pace under a 10:30 mile, then under an 11-minute mile. On my watch, I ended up with a 10:59 average pace, although the results had my pace at 11:05, since I ended up with slightly over 13.1 miles on my watch (I always do).

Vanessa posing in front of art showing a guitar and the beach.
Here I am with artwork before the start of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon. (Veronica James photo)

My first mile was the second-fastest of the day, at 10:25. My legs still felt heavy from the day before, and there were times during the race that I looked down at my watch, feeling like I was going faster than I was. However, I didn’t feel terrible — just like I couldn’t go much faster.

Since my first name was on my bib, I loved that some of the volunteers cheered me on by name. That’s always fun! There were also cheer groups that came out.

During the beginning of the race, spectators may have still been waking up. I assume they were just waiting for their people to come by. A nearby runner was encouraging the groups to cheer for us.

Runners heading toward the start in the early morning before the race. It's more a view of the closed road.
It’s always fun to walk right in the middle of closed roads. I took this photo as runners headed to the race start.

And of course, there were bands throughout the course, which is what Rock ‘n’ Roll races are known for.

Around Mile 10, there were volunteers offering various snacks (and even Jell-O shots), and I took an Oreo. While it sounded like a good idea at the time, it did make me want some water. Luckily, water was not far behind. There were plenty of water stops, staffed with numerous volunteers.

I stopped at all the water stops except for the last one and walked during those. I also walked up the one hill twice — a bridge that we crossed on our way out and back, and I walked when I got my ice pop. Other than that, I ran.

Large group of runners in the corral facing the starting line.
Runners are ready to go as the sun rises in Virginia Beach. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

At one point, I remember hearing the song “Jungle Boogie,” which brought me back to when I was a child. I did all kinds of different activities, and I participated in ice skating for a short time. Our performance song was half something classical and half “Jungle Boogie” — an interesting combination.

Once I got to the last mile, I decided to give it what I had left. Feeling confident I was hydrated enough, I skipped the last water stop. This would be my fastest mile of the day, at 10:11.

I was able to run the last little bit (I had 0.23 on my watch) in an 8:53 pace. At that point, I knew the race was just about over, so I was able to give it that extra push. My final time was 2:25:25 on my watch/2:25:24 on the results.

BibRave Pros Vanessa and Ben pose for a photo.
Ben and I rocked the BibRave orange at this race. (Veronica James photo)

I was disappointed that my average pace of 10:59 was a little slower than what I would ideally like to run at my full marathon at the Marine Corps Marathon (approximately 10:52, but it might have to be faster because I expect I’ll get more than 26.2 on my watch), but I’m not giving up hope. Hopefully, in late October, it won’t be hot and humid (knock on wood) — and, for this race, I’d also run a 10K race the previous day.

After crossing the finish line, I met up with Veronica, who had been practicing the 2:30 pacing time that she’ll be doing in a couple weeks. I also saw my neighbor and friend Matt, who had seen my other neighbor/friend, his wife, Lauren, finish. Unfortunately, I missed Lauren, but she had a great race. I also missed seeing another friend at the race, Channing.

Ben, a fellow BibRave Pro who was running the race, found me afterward and we hung out on the beach with Veronica. This year, the post-race concert was by the boardwalk rather than on the sand. I preferred the location on the sand, but I figure there was probably a reason it was moved. I enjoyed my two post-race beers and the snack-size bag of cheese curls I’d picked up. I also had water and chocolate milk after the race.

Rock 'n' Roll Virginia Beach start line
The Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach start line! (Vanessa Junkin photo)

The half marathon entry also included free admission to the American Music Festival, and Veronica and I saw Dashboard Confessional that evening.

It was a fun weekend, as always, and I’m looking forward to another year at this race next year.

Mile 1: 10:25
Mile 2: 10:57
Mile 3: 10:45
Mile 4: 11:05
Mile 5: 10:59
Mile 6: 10:47
Mile 7: 11:28
Mile 8: 10:51
Mile 9: 11:13
Mile 10: 11:16
Mile 11: 10:58
Mile 12: 12:21 (included the ice pop stop and walk up hill)
Mile 13: 10:11
Last part (watch had 0.23): 2:03 (8:53 pace)
Final: 2:25:24/11:05 pace on results (watch had 2:25:25/10:59 pace)

Rock 'n' Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon medal with the beach as a backdrop.
Here’s my finisher medal, with the beach as the backdrop. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

Read my recaps from previous years: 2018, 2017

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