District of Columbia,
- 3 miles/5K, 13.1 miles/Half Marathon, 26.2 miles/Marathon
- Road Race
Unfortunately, weren't able to see much of the expo because we were in a bit of a rush. The tough part about coordinating travel with a group of ten is scheduling everyone's arrival/transportation. Then once you add snow and flight delays to the mix, any pre-existing plans go out the window.
We finally made it to the expo around 5 pm but with long security lines, we didn't make it inside until around 5:30. This was the first Rock 'n' Roll race I've been to that had a security checkpoint and it didn't seem like they had quite prepared for the volume of runners. I think the snow delays also, unfortunately, caused a much larger rush later in the day.
I prefer to aim for negative splits when I race but I honestly wasn't sure how I was going to be feeling by the end of the race. That being said, here's a brief breakdown of my initial pacing strategy:
Miles 1-3: 9:08 pace
Miles 4-6: Work towards 9:00
Miles 7-13: 8:55 pace
Miles 14-23: 8:53 pace
Miles 24-26.2: As fast as possible
So now that you know what my plan was, you'll see that went out the window relatively quickly. I kept an eye on my pace but I was more focussed on heart-rate and how I was feeling. Still, through the first 3 miles, I hovered around a 9:01 pace. There were so many more people running this race as opposed to my first marathon so I was content just to take in the sites and enjoy these early miles.
I was feeling really good at this point but I knew I had a long way to go. Still, I couldn't shake the feeling of seeing what pace I might be able to accomplish if I pushed just a little harder. I noticed myself speeding up a few times but overall maintained an average of an 8:55 pace. Mile 6 also brought the first serious hill which was a bit of a reality check.
I knew there were still two more hills coming, one just past the halfway point and one around mile 22. I wanted to make sure I still had gas in the tank, especially for that final push.
After the burning in my quads subsided from the first hill, I was still feeling really good and I thought I'd take the opportunity to put some extra time in the bank in case I slowed down later on. It helped that overall the course had a slight downhill trajectory for this chunk of the race. I was holding onto an 8:45 average pace as we passed by the finish line marking our halfway point.
The back half of the course was one long out and back so I started preparing my mind for the dark periods ahead. The second hill was brutal but I was still able to recover quickly on the downhill. There wasn't nearly as much scenery and watching runners pass by headed towards the finish I couldn't help but focus on how long I still had left to get there.
I had expected this and had timed my playlist accordingly as my music transitioned from my "relaxing" first-half jams to something a little louder. I started to feel the soreness creep into my legs but was still able to maintain a solid pace with a little more effort.
Miles 20-22 were definitely the darkest part of my race with a lot of long straightaways and far-off turnarounds. Although the miles seemed to flow by somewhat quickly, I was conscious of every stiff step I took. I was so zoned in on moving forward, I forgot to lap my watch at mile 20 but averaged 8:47 over this chunk of the course.
The final hill almost killed me and took a long time to recover from. I'm glad I had banked a bit of extra time early. I just kept visualizing the finish line in my head and putting one foot in front of the other. Despite how my legs were feeling, I focussed on my form and maintaining control. The mile markers were passing by more quickly and I knew I was close. My pace slowed to around 8:50.
Coming around the final turn, I summoned everything I could to shave off any seconds I could. I knew I'd crushed my previous PR and couldn't wait to see my official time. With 30 or so yards to go, I heard my friends and family call out giving me the last burst of energy I needed to cross the finish line in 3:53:08.
There was a lot of emotion crossing the finish line but I was also immediately struck by how much better my legs were feeling compared to my last marathon. I basically fell over after my first marathon but was walking comfortably through the finish festival in DC.
I've wanted to run a Rock 'n' Roll marathon since I first ran one of their events in 2015 and Rock 'n' Roll DC did not disappoint. They had a separate "Marathon Finisher Zone" with plenty of snacks, a heated tent to get changed, massages, and BEER! I spent plenty of time their refueling and warming up while waiting for a much-needed massage.
I'm so happy I finally crossed a Rock 'n' Roll full marathon off my list, I'll definitely be back for another. I'm not sure I'd do DC again if only because of the elevation but I've got my eye on New Orleans in 2020. I'm a huge fan of the Rock 'n' Roll series because they tend to be very well organized, they offer awesome swag, and the finish line celebrations are the BEST!