District of Columbia,
- 3 miles/5K, 13.1 miles/Half Marathon, 26.2 miles/Marathon
- Road Race
The expo was held at the DC Armory. The Armory is located right nearby RFK stadium, the location of the finish. There were two days of the expo: a half day on Thursday and a full day on Friday. I think having more than one day for the expo, when all the races were on a single day was a nice benefit. Overall, the expo was well organized. The pick up was very efficient. When you came in, you went downstairs and got your bib, with tables grouped by number. There was an area to adjust your corral. Then, you went back upstairs and it put you right where you needed to go to get your shirt and gear check bag.
After the t-shirt pickup area, you were out into the expo area. More specifically, they put you in the large Brooks area with the official Rock 'n' Roll Marathon goods. They even now offer their own Rock 'n' Roll Brooks shoes. Brooks also had a spot for you to take a picture, and if you used the hashtag #runhappydc, it would print your picture for you. Since it is the 20th year, the had a giant banner you could sign, since you're a part of it. This was simple, yet cool. The selection around the expo was a pretty good mix with some bigger names. I didn't personally find too many killer deals, but just browsed lightly. Overall, I felt the expo was pretty good, but not overly exceptional.
Let's start with this: it was cold. Ok, now that we've settled the story of race day, let's move on.
With the Metro Rail SafeTracking, there are no early or late openings for special events. Needless to say, this can cause some problems for things in DC. With the fact that Rock 'n' Roll DC having a full marathon, they are able to keep the course open for longer, and therefore start the half marathon later. If you were running the full marathon, things were a little trickier than normal, but for myself, the half marathon started at 8:30 am, so I was able to take the metro in.
There was also a very chilly wind, which I was prepared for. At the museums near the start were a line of UPS trucks ready for bag check. I thought this was an awesome way to do it. Trucks were divided based on your last name, so your gear went in, was driven to the finish line, then you'd go find your truck again to get your bag back.
In the block between the gear check and corrals, there were both bananas (half frozen from the weather, not kidding) and small water bottles. It was nice to be able to grab a quick banana before or water if you needed. There was a stage with music at the start line and they had speakers all the way back the corrals (something often overlooked). Back in the cheap seats, there weren't really fully walled off corrals, just number posted, so I just moseyed in with everyone else. Frankly, everyone back there wasn't really bothered by it anyway.
I love running in DC. Like many cities, there are such different areas to see. The course takes you on a nice tour of a portion of DC. You get to start with the museums and monuments, head up the river, see areas of NW like Adams Morgan and running through Howard University, get a view running toward the Capital and then finish up down at the Armory and RFK stadium. Mile 6 holds the hardest part of the course: the hill of Rock Creek. It's a winding hill in NW at the almost half way point. It's also an inspiring part. Every year, the hill is lined with people with American flags. Wear blue: run to remember is there to honor the service and sacrifice of the American military. They have signs honoring those who have lost their lives, as a reminder of their sacrifice, but they're there with their flags and amazing words of encouragement to help get you up that hill. Once you reach the top, you're reward with some flat course and the knowledge that you're on the homeward half of the half. Near the end, you're running straight back towards the capital, before turning away to get to RFK stadium and the finish, which makes for a nice view. The second half is mostly flat with only some slight increase, helping you finish strong.
The on course entertainment was pretty good. There was definitely more than I remember than 2014 in the rain, but it still felt dead during the middle portion of the course. The one thing I think they could do to better the on course entertainment would be to run speakers out in either direction from the stage, extending the music on those portions of the course a little more. I'm not sure how technically feasible that may be but it would be nice to make the most of the stages you have.
I really enjoy the course. It's a good one to pair with some other DC races to see the city on your two running feet. The marathon has a tighter time limit, but the half was given 4 hours, which is a fair bit of time for a race, making this more accessible to runners of all levels.
One of the best thing about Rock 'n' Roll marathons is the post race concert. They get some good bands and always go for a bigger name headliner. For DC, they had The Family Stone. I'd like to tell you how they were, but I didn't get a chance to see them. With the half starting later, I got to the finish line as they were performing. I did get to hear a portion of their playing, but until I got my medal photo, banana, chocolate milk, and my check bag, they were already finished. It was a little bit of a bummer, but I think the timing was fair. If they races had all started at same time, I would have had an hour and a half of music, so I have no hard feelings. It's just a side affect of the Metro SafeTrack this year. In addition to your free snacks and your free beer, you had several food trucks lined up ready to serve your runger. I opted for a quick slice of pizza before heading to the metro.
Early March is a tough time in DC when it comes to weather. There's a lot of variation, evident by the 70° - 20°F swing we had in the week. In the two times I've run this race, I haven't had great luck: chilly and rainy one year and downright cold this year. Even with that, this is still a great race. I love the course for the diverse parts of DC you get to see. Rock 'n' Roll puts on a well organized race with a great course. If you don't mind the dice throw that is the weather, I suggest seeing DC via this race.