Obsessive Runner Rock and Roll USA Half Marathon Race Recap: It’s good to be...

Rock and Roll USA Half Marathon Race Recap: It’s good to be over the hill



Mile 6 – this is where you need to keep your chin up and will your way up and over the hill at Rock Creek and enjoy the spoils of a mostly downhill run to rock a negative split the rest of the way. This race could be a great one if you can get your own water and find your gear bag at the end. Here’s the essential recap of what you need to know about the Rock and Roll USA Marathon in Washington DC to help you determine if you should do this race next year.


Why you would want to run this race

  • Its mid-March date makes it a great tune up for spring goal race
  • Average March temperatures in DC can make for great running conditions
  • For Canadians in Ontario, the scheduling coincides with spring break and serves as an excellent excuse for families to visit and enjoy the museums


What was done well

  • Great quality Brooks technical t-shirt with a nice design provided you like red, white, and blue
  • Nice medal design, but the ribbon could be a bit more beefy
  • Early morning metro subway opening made it easy to get to race start
  • Perfect weather conditions due to some fancy rain-dancing
  • Wide variety of post-race fare included chocolate milk, nutrition bars, applesauce, smoothies , chips, bananas, sports drinks and water (and yes, I consumed all of the above)


What wasn’t so great

  • Gear check-in had frustratingly long lineups which meant that many runners ran with later corrals (including myself)
  • Sports drinks were only available at alternating aid stations
  • Understaffed aid stations meant sometimes getting your own drink from the table
  • Limited volunteers meant that medals were quickly handed out rather than being draped over your head like the champion you deserve to be with nary a “congratulations” mentioned (and yes, I happy to thrive on the affirmation of others)
  • An even more frustrating gear pick-up process where you had to wait in line for 30-60 minutes and then have to dig through a school bus full of identical black gear bags to find your own
  • Sparse crowd support except for the great cheerers up that massive hill


About the course

  • The half-marathon starts off flat as you run by the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial
  • The Batala Percussion Band at mile 8 was awesome – their rhythm really got you moving!
  • Running along N Capitol St NW towards the Capitol was an awesome sight
  • The biggest challenge is the hill up and out of Rock Creek, but once your over the hill, it’s an enjoyable downhill run which can really help you nail a negative split


Suggestions for the race organizers

  • Recruit more volunteers and ensure their attendance on the day off – apparently there were a number of no shows due to concerns over the rain forecast
  • More crowd support throughout the course – some races stage “neighbourhood challenges” to encourage different neighbourhoods to have the best cheering section
  • Sports drinks at every stations – this should just be a given
  • For directions on taking the metro, clearly identify the distance from metro stations to race start as well as to gear check (for me I took the metro nearest to race start which was quite a ways from where I needed to be at for gear check which prevented me from starting with my original corral)


Tips for runners

  • If you’re going to do gear check, place a unique coloured ribbon on the gear bag to make it easier for you to identify for pickup; arrive early and plan around traveling to where the gear check is specifically going to be as it can be quite away from race start
  • If you prefer sports drinks, consider carrying your own hydration
  • Take the metro and get a SmarTrip card ahead of time to avoid long lineups on race day
  • The race is on the Saturday, so get to the Expo on the Thursday because Friday will be crowded


The bottom line

This is a race that has lots of potential – it’s got a big hill that challenges but rewards you. 30,000 runners makes this a significant race, but without adequate numbers of volunteers and crowds, the race can feel a little unsupported. Can you enjoy this race? You can if you prep a little and keep the above tips in mind to workaround the blemishes.


Over the hill and proud,


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