Somewhere around mile 23 during the Rock ‘N Roll Marathon in D.C. last weekend, things got unexpectedly hilly.
I immediately wondered two things. First, who designs the course so that some of the hilliest stretches are in the final miles of a marathon? That’s just mean. And second, where were the crowds to cheer on us fatigued, battered marathoners?
The last couple miles of the full marathon wound through a more secluded area of our nation’s capital before the race ended at RFK Stadium. The crowds didn’t pick up again until about mile 26, when supportive friends and family lined the streets.
They were definitely a sight for sore eyes (and legs, and feet ….)
This was my second 26.2-mile race; the first was in Pittsburgh last May. I had a great first marathon and was eager to run another, despite the intensity and time commitment that training for such a race entails. And I’m very glad I ran this one—I actually beat my old marathon time by eight minutes, crossing the finish line in just over three hours and 48 minutes.
My sister Catherine, also an avid runner, traveled up from Georgia to run the half-marathon, so that was a lot of fun. We both ran the Rock ‘N Roll D.C. half last year during a downpour, so we were thankful for much better weather during this year’s race.
I really do like the first half of this course—both the half-marathon and marathon start off at 14th Street and Constitution Avenue, and you run the first 13 miles through neighborhoods including Capitol Hill and Adams Morgan. That part of the race brought out plenty of spectators, probably because the weather was good this year. I saw plenty of “You run better than the government!” signs, which made me chuckle. There was also a guy handing out whiskey, beer and margaritas around mile 9 (I did not partake, didn’t want to end up passed out in the street.)
There was a particularly large group of people around mile 6 through Rock Creek Park, the steepest hill of the race. This section is lined with American flags and pictures of soldiers who died in combat, which will definitely take your mind off the uphill battle.
The full marathon splits off from the half-marathon at mile 12, and that’s when the course took a turn for the, well, less scenic. Miles 15-17, in particular, went through an industrial area that was, honestly, a little stinky. But because the race is part of the Rock ‘N Roll series, there was a band every two miles or so, a nice perk.
Mile 18 took marathon runners over a bridge crossing the Anacostia River, which had a grated surface. This didn’t bother me too terribly much, but there was another runner who decided to race barefoot. I passed him on the bridge, and the look of pain on his face made me want to give him a hug. Ouch.
Marathoners always expect to hit “the wall”—that point in the race where you feel like you just want to stop running—around mile 20. I hit the wall around mile 22. That was right before the course changed from relatively flat to a series of rolling hills. So that was an added challenge. I made a point of stopping at every aid station for water and/or Gatorade, and I sucked down energy gels at miles 5, 10, 15 and 20, which I know helped me power through to the finish line.
Which of course, I was very happy to see after running for nearly four hours. And I got a really sweet finisher’s jacket and medal, and that made it all worth it.