Hey, remember that time I told you how to have the best shower of your life? Well, I lied. The actual way to have the best shower ever is to run the 2017 Rock ‘n Roll Marathon DC, then turn your shower on as hot as it can go and stay there for the rest of your life. You’re welcome.
The Rock ‘n Roll DC Marathon was cold. (“How cold was it?”) It was so cold I shivered starting 5 minutes after I stopped running and didn’t stop shivering until I got into that aforementioned shower.
But I digress. Let’s start from the beginning.
Things weren’t so bad when I got up at 4:30am. I put on my five layers plus pajama pants and an old MCM jacket (yes, that brings my total top layers to six), picked up an Uber, and got to the start a little over an hour ahead of the 7am start time. Temperatures were in the low 20s but without any wind it was quite tolerable under my million layers of shirts, gloves, and headgear. I can tell you, however, that my Swedish Fish FROZE. I sucked to pliability about two-thirds of the pack and then gave up.
I don’t know if things were more regimented for the half (which had an expected 22,000 participants according to the race announcers), but for us measly 4,000 marathoners the entire process was quite simple compared to runDisney or the Marine Corps Marathon. There was no bag search or anything, and I didn’t see anyone checking bibs as you entered the corrals. Indeed, when we started the race, we just kinda moved forward; there was no formal corral send-off. Honestly, we could’ve self-seeded.
The bands along the course all had tents and were spread out over, I don’t know, say every two miles? Some were quite impressive, some so-so, as you might imagine. Their presence did help me run the first 18 miles with no music, which was great for my battery life. Major kudos to them for, as far as I could tell, all showing up; I doubt the tents were heated.
I started out feeling… okay. Pat and I have been trading colds back and forth for the last couple weeks and annoyingly, I was starting to get the most recent one, but I took a throat-numbing lozenge and that kept true hell at bay. My first couple miles were reasonably strong, and about 45 minutes in I even stopped to take off my top layer.
Much is made of this race being the only marathon that keeps itself confined entirely within DC. Well, I found said course largely boring. It was a lot of backstreets and what have you. Spectator support was all right, given the circumstances; I’m sure a lot of people chose to skip in favor of not dying of exposure. Those that did come out were great, though – one group was giving out champagne, beer, AND whiskey (I regret not stopping for a shot of whiskey). My own personal hero was a man distributing tissues.
Before the race even started I overheard a veteran of the race talking about hills. Namely, there were three big ones to content with, at mile 6, 22(!), and 23(!!!). The mile 6 hill was steep but not too bad, being early enough in the race that I did not yet want to die, and was assisted by the lining of flag-bearing Wear Blue to Remember volunteers. 22 and 23, however, as you might imagine, were a nightmare.
But I’m getting ahead of myself again. Up until I want to say mile 15 things were pretty all right. That’s when the wind start kicking up. Gently enough at first that it didn’t cause overmuch trouble, but with increasing viciousness as the course progressed. And somehow it was NEVER a tailwind. Luckily I never got hit with a hard headwind either, but getting sideswiped on the regular wasn’t exactly thrilling.
I got hit around mile 17 with the beginnings of that pelvic twinge I sometimes experience. This was much earlier in the race than usual, so I did some panicked problem-solving and ultimately ended up figuring out a solution for the issue entirely! Turns out when I’m tired I tend to slump a bit, with a slight emphasis on my left side. By concentrating on pulling my core up and rolling my shoulders back, I was able to mostly eliminate the issue. Thank God.
I was tired, though. I think the beginnings of a head cold sapped my energy, plus of course the low temperatures and wind. Naturally that’s when the hills showed up. I wound up walking more of them than I would like, but I had reached the point in the race where I no longer cared about anything except not actively dying.
As much as the second half of the race frankly sucked, here’s the good thing: I DID manage to meet my goal of shaving some time off my PR! I came in at 4:58:03, a full 97 seconds faster than my fastest time. I might’ve been ever quicker if not getting confused about where the finish was; I stopped to walk too soon and turned off my GPS prematurely. But no matter. I did it!
Also good: given that circumstances were against me and I got hit with those two big hills at the end, this tells me I have more to give. There are more PRs in my future if I can just line it up.
As far as the Rock ‘n Roll Marathon DC is concerned – I was underwhelmed. The course was kinda boring (and who thinks big hills at mile 22 & 23 are okay?!), I didn’t like the on-course fuel, there were no snack boxes at the end (just scattered individual snacks), and March weather is just too capricious to put your trust in. I think this one is probably a one and done for me. I’m not sorry I did it but I don’t feel a particular pull to return. The Marine Corps Marathon is way better.
At least I can be proud of this: I showed up. Based on final totals, it looks like almost half those registered for the marathon didn’t!
I do want to thank all the amazing volunteers, band members, and spectators who stood out in the cold to cheer us on, hydrate us, and keep us from collapsing in a defeated heap. I can only imagine how close to frostbite you were without running to warm you up! Know it was very much appreciated.
Next race on the docket as of now: the Dark Side Half! Yay!!
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