Wednesday, March 15, 2017

2017 Rock 'n' Roll DC Half Marathon Recap

I'm going to start this recap with how we got here. After Princess I knew I had more to give. I wanted to give a fast half marathon another shot. Lucky for me I have been registered for Rock 'n' Roll DC for months. Plus, I have ran this race twice before. I know the course and I love it. This could work!

2016 RnR DC finish line

Then the weather happened. It was going to be cold. Now, normally this wouldn't be *as bad* but since we had a relatively mild winter, I haven't ran in the cold in over a month. With marathon training just starting, and the race not too far away, I knew I couldn't risk getting hurt. Luckily, I was going to DC with Kelsey and I asked her if we could run together. Thankfully she said yes.

Saturday morning we woke up, layered up and headed to the expo. I had found a coat I was going to donate in my basement, so it made the trip. Kelsey had packed a blanket for our cheer section (Lauren and Joe) to have waiting for us, along with my winter coat. The sun was out, which was awesome, but the wind was cold. We were cold. I was so happy I made this decision.

Kelsey and I getting ready

The coolest start line ever.
I told Kelsey she could set the pace. I would maintain it. Above all, this was her race and I am here for support. Rock 'n' Roll did an awesome job with this years race. Because of the metro, the marathon started an hour and a half before us. It just didn't feel as crowded and they sent us off quickly. We started in corral 4 and I don't think we waited five minutes.


Almost instantly we saw our cheer squad. We didn't expect to see them until about mile 4-5ish. This is the first year I have done this race in the sun. It was nice to actually SEE what was around me. I love Washington DC.

The only course difference this year was not crossing one of the bridges in the first 5k. We were very happy with the winds that it was cut out. I had to take a potty stop right before mile three. Nothing crazy, just had to pee due to being cold (yay!). I also still can't feel my toes. I told Kelsey to run ahead and I would catch up. Well, as I was trying to catch up I got stuck in the 2:00 pace group. It was a MASSIVE group! I told Kelsey that after seeing that many people trying to break 2-hours makes me feel like I take running a sub-2 for granted. It is such a huge accomplishment, and I need to keep that in the back of my mind.

5k split: 34:45

So we are moving along. The sun feels super good but as soon as we get to an open area, we get hit with the wind and it is cold. We both took our gels at mile 5. Mine was frozen and Kelsey's did not go well. She took water from a volunteer who balanced the cup on his head. We were really just enjoying the views around us.

Since we have both run this race before, we know about mile six. It is not only an almost 200ft gain, but it is the Wear Blue To Remember mile. The first part is a bunch of signs with pictures of fallen solders. We saw someone next to one of the signs and it made me remember the first year I ran this race. (No one warned me about this mile and in a downpour I saw a woman next to one of the pictures taken a second. It was too much for me to handle.) I did good this year though and did not cry. Then, all of the volunteers are lining the entire hill with American Flags cheering us on. Kelsey was having a rough time with the hill, plus there were A LOT of people at this point. Kelsey walks faster than I do so I jogged. This is the first year I not only ran up the entire hill, but did not cry. WIN!

10k split: 1:10

Alright, 10k down and now the fun begins! I like to call this course "Business in the front and party in the back". The crowds start to build as soon as you get to the top of the hill and they don't stop. People cheering, tons of dogs and all the fun along the way! 

At one point Kelsey found people with champagne and whiskey. The bubbles felt amazing! We then found some beer. While it was really good beer, it was a lot of beer and we couldn't finish it. I felt bad. The course has a lot of rolling hills at this point and I'm trying to distract Kelsey. She is doing an awesome job but I'm sensing some sort of meltdown coming. 

10 mile split: 1:53

At the 10 mile mark I turned to Kelsey and I told her how awesome she was doing. She was having some hip discomfort and I tried everything to keep her moving forward. I had grabbed another beer at this point so I didn't have to take another frozen gel. We got to chatting about how the marathoners must feel. If they were cold or really happy they got to start early. We also started noticing more tents around. It was....interesting. 

I remembered Courtney saying she would be at mile 11.5 with the other Oiselle girls. Fun fact, this is the third year I have seen Courtney at this exact point, and we have never seen each other outside of it! Anyway, I saw all of those lovely ladies and gave Courtney a huge hug. We were almost done!!

I remember seeing a sign for RFK Stadium. Come on Kelsey, we are almost there! She has the intervals set, and I only looked at my watch at the 10k mark. I have no idea what time we are looking at. As we made the final uphill to the finish line I hear our cheer squad loud and clear. I see marathoners finishing and I'm incredibly moved. These are sub-4 marathoners, which is my last running goal I need to hit. One day I will be one of them. Plus they did it in this cold!

Once I could actually see the finish line I told Kelsey we had to go it was almost done. We moved and finished! 

Thank you Elle for catching this!!!

I looked at my watch and yelled, "2:29!!! Kelsey 2:29!" Which Kelsey proceeded to tell me this is the first time she broke 2:30 in almost four years.

So, was it the race I expected for my 22nd half marathon. Nope, but it was the race Kelsey needed and I am so glad I could help. Sometimes our purpose is to help others achieve their goals more than our own. I'll break 1:50 again someday, I'm sure of it. For now, I'm moving forward with marathon training and can't wait to get back and run DC again next year!


Disclaimer: I am on the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Rock 'n' Blog team but I did purchase registration for this race. All opinions are my own.


  1. I give you so many props for running the half marathon in those weather conditions. I ran a loval 5k race on Saturday and I was freezing so I can't even imagine running for 13.1 miles! It's awesome that you helped your friend reach a goal as well!

    1. I would have never made it if I raced. My toes did not warm up until about half way through.

  2. Way to go Steff and Kelsey! Wish that I could have been there running alongside both of you :( Maybe next year!

    1. YES! It is honestly my favorite course. So much fun!

  3. Way to go Steff and Kelsey! I ran two 5ks last year that had feel like temps below 20, and I can't imagine how hard it must be to do a half in temps that cold. Glad you had a great race despite the cold.

    1. Thanks so much! It was a fun adventure!

  4. I love that you help us "back of the pack" runners. It's tough being out there - my PR is 2:30 & someday I'd like to break that. Doesn't need to be by much, but I'd like to! Congrats to you & Kelsey!!!

    1. Maybe I can help you one day! I try to make it fun!

  5. Congratulations to your friend! I know she had to be so happy to have you by her side! Sorry I didn't see you during the race. I was way too scared to drink the beer and other drinks that people offered. This is such a fun race, too bad the weather was so rough this year!

    1. ALWAYS TAKE THE BEER! I look forward to the party miles after the hill lol

  6. Great race!!! I'm glad you got to see Courtney again! She's great. I hope your Pittsburgh training is going well!