Rock 'n' Roll Washington DC

Rock 'n' Roll Washington DC

Rock 'n' Roll Washington DC

( 58 reviews )
89% of reviewers recommend this race
  • Washington,
    District of Columbia,
    United States
  • March
  • 3 miles/5K, 13.1 miles/Half Marathon, 26.2 miles/Marathon
  • Road Race
  • Event Website

Katherine Ericson

Maryland, United States
7 3
"Updated Course, Same Rock 'n' Roll Experience"
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Race Management
Katherine Ericson's thoughts:

I've run the Rock 'n' Roll Washington D.C. half marathon race three times (2021, 2022, 2023) and it's a staple of my spring racing schedule. Most D.C. races have a similar route: East Potomac Park, Tidal Basin, and an out-and-back stretch on Rock Creek Parkway (notably, the CCUB ten miler and Pacers Running D.C. Half boast this route). Even with its updated 2023 course, the Rock 'n' Roll does something different and takes runners from the Mall to the Potomac to Adams Morgan to K Street then back to the Capitol. From a sightseeing standpoint, Rock 'n' Roll has the superior D.C. running route of all the major races.

It also has the hilliest. The infamous nine-degree-grade hill at Calvert now hits at the 7.5, rather than the 6, mile mark. I like to challenge myself to run up this hill, no matter how tired I am and no matter how many runners slow to a walk beside me. The flatness of the first half of the course gives way to rolling hills, but there were plenty of aid stations and community support. Some performers are hired by the race (like the military sergeant with the megaphone and the drumming troupe) but there are plenty of local residents with homemade signs and ad hoc water stops (some in AdMo, true to the neighborhood's reputation, offer jello shots).

With about two miles left of the race, runners are treated to excellent views of the Capitol building. Shade is sparse, but March weather in D.C. tends toward the chilly and heat usually isn't a problem. The finisher's chute is always jam-packed with cheering spectators, so there's a lot of energy carrying runners through the final stretch.

I paid approximately $70 for the race during presale at the 2022 expo, and for that fee, I received a completely closed course, a tech tee shirt, and a cherry blossom-themed and distance-specific medal. At the finish line, volunteers passed out water, gatorade, fruit snacks, granola bars, chips, and tiny cupcakes. There was plenty of space to reunite with family and stretch.

Are Rock 'n' Roll races a little hokey? Yes, but they're also expertly managed. As a local, I attended the expo on Thursday and had my bib and shirt within minutes. No line, no malfunctioning technology, none of the chaos that haunts expos for races of similar size. (In 2023, a combined 15,000 runners participated in the half and 5k). On race morning, I got to the start line thirty minutes before gun and didn't have to wait for a restroom. There were seemingly hundreds of port-a-johns in every direction.

I was seeded in corral five, so I only had to wait about fifteen minutes in the corrals. For those seeded in the second group (the race referred to these runners as "the red bibs," whereas runners in corrals 1-8 had blue bibs), wait times were a good deal longer. I didn't mind my brief wait, because this meant the course wasn't crowded and I had ample space to settle into my pace, but I might've gotten impatient if I was slow and seeded later.

I usually love the Rock 'n' Roll t-shirts, but this year, the manufacturer must've made sizing updates and now, my true size small fits like a medium or maybe a large. I compared my 2023 shirt to 2022 and the difference is wild, especially in terms of length. I'm short, so this is specifically irksome to me.

All in all, Rock 'n' Roll is my favorite D.C. half marathon, and I'll continue to run this race for as long as I live here. The 2023 course updates only improved the experience, and allowed runners/spectators to park and enjoy the logistical convenience of a loop route. (Before, the race ended all the way across the city at the Armory, which was a hassle and a half). The trick with this race is to register EARLY and snag a good deal! Oh, and train for hills.

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