Rock and Roll USA Race Recap
I’m guessing like most people, I had intended to get to sleep early the night before the big day but the excitement and nerves (and the headache I’d been suffering with earlier in the day) was keeping me awake so I probably didn’t get to sleep much before 11pm.
I was woken at about 1.30am by my fabulous hubby, who brought a bowl of oatmeal & chopped bananas as he knows I struggle to eat when I get up before a race and hate to run on any kind of full stomach. I ate what I could in the dark and then went back to sleep until my alarm woke me at 4.50am.
The morning I’d been training for was finally here! I was excited!
As soon as woke I was aware that excruciating headache I'd had the day before was back, I wouldn’t go as far as to say that it was migraine like but it was pretty painful. I wondered if it was nerves, but carried on. I wasn’t going to let anything stop me. Everything ran like clockwork, I made myself a cup of tea, donned my neatly laid out gear, took double the dose of my inhaler than was necessary (just to be sure – you know) and headed out to my friend’s awaiting car to head to the metro.
We met at the metro and it was like the Brits had been let out on a field trip! There were loads of runners but we were the only ones dressed in bathrobes! We were a sight! But we were warm and that was all that mattered and we knew the robes we would plan to leave at the start line would be donated via clothes-pin (clothes – for people in need) is a Philadelphia-based 501(c)3, non-profit organization who focuses on the collection and distribution of sneakers and clothing for people in need.
A bit about Clothes-pin “The Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Marathon & CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield Rock ‘n’ Roll USA 1/2 Marathon and clothes-pin have partnered to develop unique programs for the race weekend, including the sneakers collection at the 2-day Health & Fitness Expo (all types of men’s, women’s and children’s shoes welcome), as well as all discarded clothing at the start corrals. All collected apparel will be distributed to local Washington, D.C. shelters.”
We got to the Smithsonian Metro in about 20 minutes and wandered out onto the still dark National Mall. We decided to head straight for the porta-potty line which was really quite short (06.20am) and as a bonus for getting there early, it was still sweet smelling and clean too! On our way, we spotted our first photographer!
Portapotty stop one done – we headed for our Moms RUN This Town photo meet up in front of the Smithsonian Castle. Capital Building to our right and Washington Memorial on our left, it is quite a memory I can tell you! How privileged and lucky to be able to experience this?! There was going to be about 125 of us running that day from all the surrounding chapters that I knew of and so we wanted to get as many as possible for a photo before hand! How awesome is this!!! This was where I met up with my running buddy Amy - we had done whom I had done many of my long runs with. We knew we'd run our own race but both hoped we'd stay together for as much of it as possible and if all of it - then that would be fabulous!
Photo done we walked towards the corrals and stopped for another bathroom stop – we were in that second line for something like 40 minutes – enough time for 3 photographers to walk past and snap us. If you want to be photographed a lot at a race – clearly the portapotty line is the place to be! Seriously though - we were in the line on the end close to a big thoroughfare and there were photographers EVERYWHERE– I was glad this was portapotty stop 2 and not 1 as it seemed to take forever but apart from the physical shaking (nerves) and headache which was still bothering me, I was really pleased we weren’t in a rush.
07.20am and we were all done and so headed to the corrals just around the corner on the National Mall to meet up with even more MRTT mamas to start with. It was busy and the race adrenaline had kicked in. The music was playing and I could hear the race being started and the encouragement the athletes were being given. It was a great feeling.
07.30am and the first corral headed off, so with physically shaking hands & butterflies in my stomach, we edged forward and then when given the signal, we were off!!
I planned to keep a consistent pace all the way through – eeer not brilliantly successful but looking at my splits I’m relatively happy with it (up until miles 20/21)at least. I thought as soon as I started to run my headache would disappear and in short, it did for a bit between mile 9 & 16 but for the most part I just had to run through it. It was worst at mile 6/7 which made me panic a little that I would get through the whole thing as I even felt my vision blur a couple of times it was banging out my head & right behind my eyes. Anyway, truthfully, I don’t think you could tell I wasn’t comfortable from my race photos because headache aside, I really was just LOVING the race and the rest of me felt just fine.
So we headed for the MRTT cheering squad at mile 5 and it was a great feeling having people out on the course for us! We high fived them on the way past which definitely gave us a little boost before the mammoth hill that came soon after – the streets were feet deep with spectators….for miles and miles it was just wild.
I remember the noise of the cheering, the BBQ’s and brunches going on in people’s front yards, the beer being handed out (seriously though – NOT real aid stations but FUN – and no I didn’t have one) and the great atmosphere all the way - including the NYPD team shouting and giving high fives to the DC police as they ran past! I also noticed the number of police around – it felt like they were lining the course every 5 yards and also in the skies, I saw at least two police helicopters following parts of the route. It was impressive and I felt REALLY safe!
There were so many highlights to the race, but one of the big ones really had to be running past all these incredible monuments, from starting at the Washington Memorial and being able to take photos as the sun rose over the Capitol Building…
To running past the same building between miles 13 & 14.
I know it is a Cliché but I felt so privileged to be one of the relative few that day who had the streets to ourselves, it truly was incredible.
There were something like 24 bands along the route so it was never long before you passed another and I really enjoyed the music. They were all a bit different and the ones at the end of the 26 miles route were as fun and uplifting as the ones at the beginning. People even danced a little a little as they ran past – that was fun.
Before the race I’d heard that after the half and the full courses part ways, that things got quieter and the runner support somewhat disappears so I prepared for things to be decidedly more dull – but truly, NOT the case in my opinion. It was incredibly busy for the first half marathon distance and whilst, that gave the atmosphere a great buzz, by the time the courses split, it was nice to have more road space to ourselves. It was peaceful at times but I could just enjoy the run, but there was always a significant number or runners around me and it was never long before we passed another cheering supportive crowd. We passed through some really diverse areas of Washington but it wouldn't be right if we didn't see all that the city has to offer. It didn't seem to matter whether we passed through an affluent uptown area or a distinctly less privileged neighborhood, there was NO LESS ENTHUSIASM – I remember seeing a couple both dressed as the Statue of Liberty. Now I’m all for throwing yourself into the fun of the event but I’m not sure I’d go that far - I was really impressed, it made me smile and I certainly appreciated it! So cool! I loved that people were out cheering for everyone & not just those they may have come out to support, I gave high fives to as many as I could that put their arms out for them and made the effort to come out and cheer. It was just awesome! Talk about runners high - this was it!
So as I drew toward the late teens, mile 19/20 all of a sudden I started to feel sick, like I was going to vomit – sorry TMI but the head and the stomach together were killing me. I had been taking my gels every 5 miles & was due to take another at mile 20 with water but I just couldn’t get it in and it was going everywhere, my fingers were sticky and it all just got a bit gross. I thought my stomach was going to eject everything in it so I told my running buddy Amy that I needed to walk, just for a moment I thought. Truthfully, I didn’t think I would need to walk for more than a 30 seconds, so when my running buddy said she needed to keep going I waved her on thinking I just needed to let the nausea go away or throw up and move on. I’d be off again any second - or so I thought! I’m pretty sure I walked for longer, 3 or 4 minutes maybe and that was it – my downfall. The rest of the race I just couldn’t get back up to the same speed and found myself walking more than I thought I would. I was still enjoying it, I really was but I’d lost my mojo. However, did I ever get to the bit where I wanted to die, give up, say never again – absolutely not – not once!
At mile 26 I finally saw my family as I came down off the last bridge, 200 yards or so from the finish – I hoped to see them a couple of times through the course but it turned out they had chased me all over DC and missed me at each point they planned to cheer for me – such a shame but I know they tried their best and it was just bad luck. As they screamed and cheered for me as I passed them, my emotions got the better of me and I had to try really hard to choke back the tears and I had to use the last ounce of power to carry me to the finish - I literally could hardly look at them for fear of blubbing and tripping over my own feet!
I turned the corner and saw the finish and as I ran towards it, I heard the loud speaker describe what I was wearing, and as I tuned in I heard my name being called and a cheer from the crowd as I saw my friend Deborah standing at the finish line waiting for me. Deborah, much like my family, has seen my whole marathon journey, from the crazy ambitious decision to make my first full winter training, marathon training all the way to the start line and all the highs and lows in between. So having her waiting there to greet me & hand me my medal was more special than I can describe – I think as I remember, my hug came as I was stood on the line so she had to drag me across it to make sure I actually finished – funny!
Phew! I was done!
I have to say – the post race food was the best I’ve had. There was EVERYTHING! PowerBar, chocolate milk, Pretzels (my favorite), chips (crisps as us Brits call them), bananas, satsuma’s and probably a load of other stuff I missed. There seemed to be plenty of staff to make sure you got what you needed, though I think I was in a bit of a daze & only ate something because Deborah was looking after me (I’m not good at post race nutrition and usually really struggle to eat) so she frog marched me to get something down my neck!!!
The after party band, the beer and the merchandise all looked great and I’m sure it was but I can’t say I tried or bought any of it to be honest – I was in a little world of my own and I knew there was some bubbly stuff at home and it had my name on it so we headed home instead. Maybe that’s a suggestion for next year?! If there’s BUBBLY to toast our achievement with at the finish line I'm ALL OVER IT!
People tell you your first marathon is a journey and it absolutely is – an AMAZING one! Will I do another – MOST definitely – sign me up!
Would I do the Rock and Roll USA marathon again? – Absolutely! I’m hoping to do it again next year – bring it on!
Who wants to join me?!