National Half Marathon Race Recap

Ok, so I already warned you that I didn’t like this race…  But, the joke is on me, because I went in knowing the course sucks (but who can say no to a free bib?).  I also admitted I was running it for the medal, because I didn’t run it last year and the medal was pretty cool, see?

Are you even entitled to bitch about a race that you ran expecting the worse?  The disclaimer?  A lot of my bad feeling about this race came from me feeling like total crap, which had nothing to do with the actual race itself.  BUT, if it had been a good race, I bet it could have lifted my spirits (see my Marine Corps Marathon race recap, where my feet were in pain, but meanwhile I loved the whole race).

Why was I feeling craptastic?  Because I had maybe 7 hours of sleep TOTAL for the two nights before the race. (Between Lily throwing up all night on Thursday and my idiot neighbors being loud in the hallway at 2am on Friday night).  Also, I forgot to hydrate pre-race, because I was just stupid.   AND…  I was coming down with a cold.  But who can say no to a DC medal when you’re 3 weeks from leaving DC??  Obviously not me!

Soooo…  If you want an upbeat report of this race, you can go to Heather and Anne’s race recap.  If you want to read a recap I totally agree with, in terms of course, etc, check out what Tonia (who got a PR, so she’s not bitter like me) has to say.

And without further ado…  (Because I seem to be on a babbling mood)

The expo was only open on Friday, and there was no race-day packet pick up.  I waited on a looong line at the expo twice, to pick up both mine and Jen’s bib.  The tech t-shirt was a major disappointment…  Isn’t it ugly?  Guess who got a new shirt to workout in? (Hint:  I married him)  Good to have a boy around who isn’t too picky!

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I met up with Jen super early for the race.  At 5:20am she picked me up and by 5:35 we were at the RFK Stadium.  Yep, we had to wait 1.5 hours until the race started, but it was our best decision ever.  We heard that by 6am, traffic was at a standstill, some people were forced to park more than a mile away (imagine if you’re running the full marathon?), and after the race started (late!) we saw a bunch of people, running wrong way towards the start.  I felt horrible for them, imagine having to sprint to the start because traffic kept you from making it?  Imagine if that was THE race you were training for?

This was the first FAIL of the race:  the metro opened at 6am.  For EVERY major DC race, the metro usually opens at 5am.  Even when the race starts at 8am, like this week’s Cherry Blossom 10 Miler.  For this race, the metro opened an hour before the race started.  There’s no way most people can make it on time, specially if you have to transfer lines, or need to bag check and hit the porta-potties pre-race (which is much more likely if you are metroing instead of driving).  Soooo, lots of people who would metro otherwise (like me), decided to drive to be on the safe side.  So then there was a lot more traffic than there should be.  When we left, there were people illegally parked all over the place on the RFK lot – on the roads, on the grass…

Also?  It was FREEZING in the morning!  I was going to run with my group          t-shirt, but ended up sporting my MCM jacket on top of that.  This was one win of this race:  they provided throwaway gloves (which later became my tissue so I could blow my nose – gross!).  At least the Armory was open, so we stayed warm pre-race.

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When it was getting close to the start time, we hit the porta-potties, and lined up on one of the corrals.  Can you see from our red noses how cold we were?

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Finally the race started, and off we went.  The first mile was actually quite scenic, running towards the Capitol.

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We passed the Capitol…

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We then hit Constitution Avenue and we were running by some of the Smithsonian museums. 

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And finally, a very familiar sight – home to many of my Saturday runs!  (I’m just not used to approaching the Washington Monument from this direction!)

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All the half-marathoners had to wear a “Half” on their backs.  Does this half makes my butt look smaller?  (From this angle, I look a tad flat, don’t I?)

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I was still doing great at this time during the race – I think it was still the first couple of miles.  Oh yeah, there were NO MILE MARKERS on this race.  It cost $95 to sign up for the half marathon (more for the full), and they couldn’t spare the couple of bucks it costs to put a sign up with a number?  Really?

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At this point, I really had to pee, but I didn’t want to wait in line for the port-a-potties.  There were some lines that even went straight into the course (seriously, people blocking the course to wait in line?  Have you heard of lining up on a sidewalk?  Geez!)

Then we went up 18th street, which is the exact route I took when I rode my bike to work.  I saw a construction site, that has been there for quite a while, and told Jen “I’m totally using their port-a-potties!  Turns out, the guard there was actually allowing people to use them, and had propped open the fence!  That was the nicest thing ever:  5 port-a-potties with no lines!!!

Right after, I passed my previous office building (the infamous International Monetary Fund), and of course, only thought of taking a picture when the building was behind a tree (FAIL!).  But hey, that glass building you can barely see?  That’s where I spent the last 3.5 years in!

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We went under the tunnel in Dupont Circle (I had never been on this tunnel before).

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Then kept going up Dupont through one of my old office hangouts as well.

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Before I worked at the IMF, I worked for the Brazilian government a couple of blocks down on 22nd street pictured below:

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We kept running up to Adams Morgan, or in my case, I walked up, because I was starting to feel like poop.

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I still had enough energy to fake-smile to the camera, of course.

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Then we got to Adams Morgan, around mile 7 or 8, maybe?  This was the first part where we had any crowd support.  Adams Morgan was actually fun to run through because of it.

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Going by Howard University (not pictured), was also the only other place with any crowd support.  (And some people were even offering up the building’s bathroom!  I didn’t need it then, but though that was super nice!)

Soon, I could see the Capitol again and had hopes the torture was almost over.  By now, both my legs were in an awful state.  They hurt badly, my feet were sore and hurt with every step, my calves were cramping up, my hamstring were tight, my bad hip hurt, I just wasn’t doing good at all.  I was walking any uphill, and even then it was SLOWLY walking up.  My running was more like a trot.  I was miserable.  I kept having to blow my nose on my throwaway gloves (now stashed in my jacket’s pocket).

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We did run through some pretty neighborhoods, but most of the course after the first couple of miles was boring.  (Poor marathoners had to run through Anacostia, ugh.)

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At this point I was stopping to take pictures.  Any excuse for a quick rest…

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When we ran through H Street, I mentioned to Jen “Oh, Margaret lives around here” – a couple of minutes later I hear a familiar voice saying “Go Carla!” 

Seeing Margaret was the highlight of my day (no, really, it was!)  I gave her a hug, she ran a block with us (she wasn’t wearing running clothes) and said our goodbyes.

At this point, I was past the 10 mile mark, well above 2 hours, knowing already that it would be my worst race yet.  Heck, I’m slow, but had never ran 10 miles this slow.

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Finally we turned on the same street we had started at, and you could see the marathoners (few and far between) coming in the opposite direction…

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Knowing I had a mile left to go, I kicked the pace a bit, and kept that last mile around 11 min/miles, and the last half mile below that.  I even cheered a girl walking, and made her run along with us (I love doing that, though in Chicago I got a RUDE reply when I tried cheering someone up with less than a mile to go).  She was super nice though!

Of course, there was yet another hill to the end, and though I didn’t walk it (it was just around the corner from the finish line), my pace slowed down considerably.  Jen, meanwhile, kept strong (her knee was bugging her, but she wasn’t feeling nearly as bad as I did, and would have gone much faster if I was up for it).

I finally see the finish line, see Jen about 100 feet in front of me, and thought “hell no!” and sprinted to the end.  I knew that as soon as she saw me sprinting past her she was going to try to catch up, and yep, we raced each other those last few feet to the finish line (I won, ha!).

The finish line was not too bad – lots of food: banana, apples, bagels, pretzels (yum!), granola bars, protein bars, bottles of water, fruit cups, Greek yogurt…  Seriously, I ran out of hands!

The medal, was not as nice as last year (didn’t you see this coming?).  It was a picture of the Supreme Court, really??  It looks like any government building anywhere else in the country.  We have so many pretty memorials, surely they could have used one of those, no?

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Jen also agreed it was a bit boring…  We said a quick hello to Patrick, one of our running buddies, who wasn’t running today and instead was working at the Big Cheese truck (he owns it).

We took another picture with our medals…

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And we went back home.

Overall, would I do this race again?  Maybe…  I do want a nicer DC medal, so I could see myself doing it for that. It was not worth the $95 sign up fee that’s for sure (again, I had a free bib, but I almost signed up for this race many times).  The course is a killer with lots of hills and really boring for the most part.  I was disappointed that there were no mile markers, and had many runners ask me what mile we were in (since I had my Garmin on). 

I got home and had stomach issues the rest of the day, and ended up also being in bed all day feeling sick.  I never recovered that badly from any race, not even my marathons, maybe only the Veterans Day 10k, but I had a fever then, so it was expected.

A nicer course and better crowd support would have made it a much more pleasant experience, for sure, but most of the issues I had was with my own body not cooperating with me.

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12 Comments

Filed under Half Marathon, Pictures, Race, Race Report

12 responses to “National Half Marathon Race Recap

  1. I can’t decide from your race report if I desperately wish I’d been there to run with you two, or if I’m very glad I wasn’t there! Still, it’s another medal for you.

    • Cherry Blossom (though it’s crowded it’s much more scenic) and the Army Ten Miler (one of my favorites) is what I definitely recommend for you out of towners! The ATM sells out in a day, and it opens on May 15th — keep an eye out and register for it (even if you can’t run it later, you can sell yours on Craigslist, they allow transfers). The course feels downhill most of the time (even though it’s really not), and even the horrible last 2 miles on the bridge doesn’t ruin it!

  2. Wow it sounds like this race really went downhill from when I ran it three years ago. I remember there being mile markers for sure and the metro opened plenty early that year. The medal wasnt’ awesome but it wasn’t boring either. I also remember not having to wait super long in the porta-potty line.

    There weren’t corrals everyone just started at once so I guess the race has grown a lot in the last several years and it doesn’t sound like they have done well adjusting to the new, much larger size.

    • I think I heard somewhere something about 16,000 people? There were 10 corrals! The lack of mile markers is what bugged me the most though. At a couple of places they would even put the timer out, but no mile marker on it. I know I had my Garmin, but also know it tends to be off (and it was), so I like to know what the real miles are!

  3. I ran the half this year and I couldn’t agree more that it was totally HORRIBLE! “I Ran Through History” my ass….please. The theme should have been “I ran through DC, and around all the cool stuff without getting any where close to it”

    The Metro opening at 6 was a JOKE. For the Cherry Blossom it opened at 5 and that race started nearly an hour later!! grrrr…..
    Will you be gracing us with a run report for the GW Parkway Classic?

    • Hahaha, your comment about the “running around cool stuff” is SPOT ON. You run through a lot more stuff during the Army Ten Miler, even though that has 3 miles less, 2 of the miles is on 14 st bridge, and it starts and ends in VA!

      I’ll be posting a Cherry Blossom recap soon, but I missed out on the GW Parkway Classic. I have yet to run that one! When I finally decided to do it in 2009 and 2010, it had sold out (I waited almost last minute for it though), and this year I’m in Brazil during the race, I come back the day after.

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