- 13.1/Half Marathon, 26.2 miles/Marathon
- Road Race
If you couldn't tell from the rest of my reviews, I LOVE the Rock 'n' Roll series and was thrilled to be traveling to a new city. I was especially glad I chose Raleigh when I learned that the location would be discontinued after this year. I'd heard it was one of the smaller races in the Rock 'n' Roll series but wasn't sure what to expect. Rock 'n' Roll had also implemented a lot of new features for 2018 so I was excited to try them all out first-hand. In typical Rock 'n' Roll fashion, the pre-race communication was great and I got plenty of email leading up to race day. I especially appreciated the weather warning I got the week before the race reminding me that it was going to be unseasonably cold this year (starting temperatures in the low 30s).
I have to say, I was slightly underwhelmed by the expo in Raleigh, only because the Rock 'n' Roll expos usually feel like one big party. The expo was a lot better than some other races I've been to but not on par with what I've come to expect from the Rock 'n' Roll series. That being said, I did like the addition of the live band playing in the lobby of the convention center.
I may be a bit biased but I loved the location of the start and finish area. My corral was literally 15 yards from the entrance to my hotel and the finish line was only about 2 blocks away so transportation to and from the race was easy. I definitely appreciated getting to hide inside until the very last minute to avoid the cold since I hadn't quite packed appropriately.
If you've ever run a Rock 'n' Roll race than you know that one of the highlights of the race is the on-course entertainment and Raleigh was no exception. There were plenty of stages and I always love when there's a bagpipe band playing around the halfway point so a huge thumbs up for that!
The biggest change I noticed this year was the increased signage which I LOVED! For 2018, Rock 'n' Roll really amplified the on-course signage to help you navigate the course. Especially as you approached the aid stations, you could tell from 50 yards out where the water was, where the Gatorade was, and where the gels were which made the stations way easier to navigate. This change may seem trivial but it made the aid stations so much less chaotic as runner's filtered past without needing to stop mid-stride to find what they were looking for.
The other big change was added clocks along the course which I also liked because I try not to check my watch too often during a race. It's actually because of the increased clocks that at mile 9, I realized I was in reach of a PR. I'd started the race taking it slow because this was supposed to be a "tune-up" race before my marathon in a few weeks. After mile-9 though, I kicked it into high gear for the last 4 miles of the race. In the end, I shaved about 25 seconds off of my previous PR which felt pretty good on such a hilly course.
Another thing I love about the Rock 'n' Rol Races is the plethora of snacks you get as soon as you cross the finish line. I was happy they also had mylar blankets because although I was pretty hot crossing the finish line, that only lasted about 5-minutes before I was shivering on the curb. It was nice to curl up under the mylar blanket with a bottle of chocolate milk and catch my breath. They also do a great job pushing people through the chute and down the road so runners keep moving without feeling like you're being pushed out of the way.
The finisher's parties are always a highlight at the Rock 'n' Roll races but unfortunately, my group was in a bit of a time crunch to get showered, eat something, and get to the airport so we couldn't stick around for long. If you've got the time though, there's nothing better than collapsing on the ground post-race and enjoying some live jams and a free beer!
I had a blast in Raleigh this year and am sad that this was the last year that they'll be on the tour. I'm glad I got to run the course before it was discontinued!