26 Glorious 26.2’s

For those of you who have been keeping track (and this probably includes only me), the Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh Marathon on April 10th was my 26th full marathon.  I’ve considered myself a bit OCD when it comes to numbers, so this one was a big deal!  Don’t you have a favorite number?  A lucky number?  Numbers that y don’t care for or feel odd about?  Back several years ago my phone number included my birth date, my age and my sons age.  Of course that only lasted a year or so, but funny stuff with numbers is kinda cool to me.  They call an affection for numbers like this arithmomania.  I definitely have that when it comes to my most recent marathon!

Twenty-six twenty-six point twos.  Yep, most runners will never hit that mark.  I mean, if you consider that less than 1% of the worlds population has ever completed one marathon, what must the percentage be for someone running 26 of them?  A numerologist would have all sorts of fun figuring the statistics on people who run say more than 1, or more than 5.  More than 10, more than 25, or even higher.  It’s a crazy number that I hope will only continue upward for me.  Let’s hope the body continues to hold up!

So yeah, my “double weekend”, including the Rock ‘n’ Roll 5k, which was my last blog post almost three weeks ago, was followed up by the marathon the next day.  This was another race that I’m proud to have been running with my son.  He ran the Half, to a blistering new PR, and although the course was extremely difficult, I managed a sub 4 finish.

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Weather was pure perfection that day.  Unusually cold at the start, followed by tons and tons of sunshine and a gradual warm up.  A course that winds its way all over Raleigh up and down hills past historic cemeteries, buildings and monuments.  Past several colleges, and local landmarks, this race is really a feast for your eyes.  My first half was really good considering the hills.  I went out at a pace just over 8:00 minutes per mile, and maintained a sub 8:35 pace until a tough spot at mile 10.

Considering the fact that I had just run a marathon a week prior, I was feeling pretty good.  As the marathon and half courses split, that section through Meredith College was a big challenge.  Not for the faint of heart.  Or legs for that matter.  It’s a true test, but also rewarded with a downhill as runners head back toward NC State.  Even though my son is a student at State, there were parts of the course on the campus that I had never seen, and it was truly beautiful.  Centennial campus was just a really great part of the course!

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Now, what follows on Avent Ferry Road was another true test of grit!  I believe for me, this was the beginning of the end for my speed.  I eeked it out, but man was it tough.  I didn’t have a ton of expectations for a finish time that day, I pretty much just wanted to finish in one piece.  My legs were already tired from a disastrous marathon seven days prior at All American.  You remember, my worst marathon finish ever.  I really only wanted to go sub 4 in Raleigh.

My pace and legs were wrecked by the time I hit Lake Johnson in Raleigh, but the views and quiet of running around the lake for the first time gave me some positive enregy for the final six miles of the race.  Just look at this picture I took.  Pure running serenity!

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Time to head back northwest to the city, the course was pretty unforgiving.  With the exception of mile 22, where I had a burst of energy, and managed an 8:51 pace, each of my last six miles were over 10 minutes per mile.  I was beat!  I was looking forward to seeing my family at the finish.  Once I finally crested the ridiculous Boylan Avenue hill, I turned east and on into the city for the finish.  My younger son was waiting for me about 3/10 of a mile before the finish.  He surprised me, and I asked he join me and run me in to the finish.  He gladly accepted, although he wasn’t dressed for it at all. 🙂

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Thanks to that final bit of energy he gave me, I gave it all I had and crossed the line in 3:59:05.  Two marathons in seven days, I’ve barely run since.  I was rewarded however with a nice marathon medal, and finish jacket.  I also received the “Remix” medal for completing both races during the weekend of events.  Although this marathon course will never be listed or described as flat, or easy, it’s always a joy to run the streets of Raleigh, my states Capitol.

I finished 30th in my AG, and 246th overall out of nearly a thousand finishers.  Top 25 percent, I’ll take it.  I hope to return to this race next year and give it another go.  I surely recommend it!

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Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh Half Marathon 2015- Race Recap

The most beautiful of Spring days ushered in and welcomed thousands of runners to Raleigh for the second annual Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon and Half yesterday.  A bit of a chill and breeze in the air as I easily found a parking spot downtown.  The day had much promise!

I had made the decision to run the Half this time around, and I really was happy with my choice.  I arrived downtown about a hour and fifteen minutes before the race was to begin at 7am.  Stretching and hydrating, I felt pretty good.  I hadn’t gotten much sleep, but surprisingly felt some good energy.  I knew I wanted to take some photos of the starting area, so I made my way over to the start just before 6:30.

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The crew was furiously setting up the finisher village as I passed by the finish line.  Like a well oiled machine, the volunteers and folks with Rock n Roll had it under control.  Corrals, main stage, signs everywhere.  It was pretty impressive.  I didn’t use bag drop, but that was going in full swing.  Runners starting to gather in big crowds, they started filing into the corrals.  I was in Corral 1, so had a great view of the main stage where they were making announcements.  The National Anthem was sung by a guy who was there running something like his 65th marathon.  He did a fine job!

As the countdown clock was nearing zero, I snapped a few photos.

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Unlike my last race three weeks ago, I didn’t trip and fall prior to this run.  I wasn’t battered and bruised at the start, although my leg still isn’t fully healed.  All I really had to do was down my GU fifteen minutes prior, and tighten my shoe laces one last time.  I had decided to wear my RnR Las Vegas marathon shirt for this race, and snapped a picture right before the start.

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Promptly at 7am, the race began.  Unlike most races, this time I used both my Garmin and Runkeeper on my phone to track my run.  I wanted to track my splits at this race because of the unending hills.  Because this event is not homegrown, and draws in folks from all around the country, the course incorporates many of the iconic sights around the city.  Due to the nature of trying to include all of these sights, runners get the best of Raleigh’s hills right alone with it.  Local races typically try not to include every difficult hill in the city, as a course will draw more runners the flatter it is.  So, with that said, if you are looking for a flat Half or Full marathon, Raleigh is not the city to scout out for races.  It’s a perfect place though if you like to train on hills!  And I do!

The course this year was more well supported with aid stations than last year.  I never felt the least bit dehydrated, as water/Gatorade stops were aplenty.  I cruised along through the first few miles downtown.  I felt pretty good.  The first five miles, full of ups and downs, I maintained a pace under 8:00 per mile.  It wasn’t until mile 6 when my pace hit 8:20 that I knew the hills were taking a bit of a toll on me.  I felt good though, and really enjoyed all of the music and entertainment along the course.  I really think that there were a lot more spectators all along the course route this year.  The constant cheers were so appreciated, especially along some of the tougher uphill stretches.

Traversing Peace St. toward Cameron Village is certainly one of the toughest parts of this course.  I ran mile 7 in 8:26, and mile 8 in 8:57.  Yes, the hills played a big roll in those times.  My overall pace was now over 8:00 per mile, and that was my goal for this race.  I was shooting for a 1:45:00 finish, so if I wanted to achieve that, I would have to now make up some time.  Mile 9 brought us to the Bell Tower at N.C. State.  I had sort of pre-arranged seeing my older son here at the Bell Tower.  He wasn’t sure if he would be on campus that night since a couple of his buddies were in town for the weekend, and sure enough he wasn’t there.  Bummer!  We made the turn onto campus and down Pullen Rd.  I had found a bit more of a boost in energy here, but knew my miles running sub 8 were gone.  I was just trying to keep focused on running smoothly.  After that nearly 9 minute mile 8, mile 9 was 8:21, followed by an 8:06 mile 10.

The beauty of Spring in North Carolina was everywhere.  Azaleas are in bloom, dogwood trees full of whispy white and pink flowers.  Spring brings pollen, but the weather this year wasn’t as warm during the race, so it didn’t feel as bad this year.  Temperatures were probably about 55 to 58 degrees, and felt a bit warmer in the sunshine.  Heading toward the stretch on Dorthea Dix campus, I knew that the “Wear Blue to Remember” dedication was upcoming.  I looked forward to seeing it, and being inspired.  Right as I approached the flags, photos and inspiring folks on the side of the road, my race nearly ended.  It has never happened to me before, but my right knee completely gave out.  Out of nowhere!  It completely buckled and I almost fell.  I staggered over to the side of the road completely bewildered.  What was going on?  I didn’t know what to do, but to try to run again.  So, I did.  A few steps later it buckled again.  Almost fell again.  I tried to massage it, stretch it.  It wasn’t muscular though.  How do I fix this, I thought to myself.  All I could do was keep trying and see if it would stop.  Finally, after a few attempts, and some encouragement from the spectators I slowly began running again, careful, not wanting to fall.  I guess it worked, because it didn’t happen again.  Thinking back on it today, my only guess as to what the hell that was all about is that maybe it had something to do with my fall on that knee and leg a few weeks ago.

Anyway, I was finally running again.  Pretty confident that my knee wasn’t going to buckle again, I tried to pick up the pace.  My knee issue wrecked my pace though on mile 11 and 12.  9:02 and 9:21, despite the starts and stops.  I was determined to finish strong.  Boylan Ave. was approaching, a tough uphill run before dipping back down into the center of the city for the finish.  I managed a good showing on Boylan.  Ran it strong.  I really just tried to enjoy the last mile.  Clapping for spectators, saying thank you.  Winding my way to the finish mile 13 was completed in 8:32.  With the finish line in view, I gave it one final push.  I practically sprinted to the finish, not knowing if my knee would give out and send me flying through the finish line.

I managed to stay on my feet, passing about 8 runners in the final few hundred feet.  With a medal around my neck, my 26th Half marathon was over.  I came close to my goal, even with my knee hampering the later part of my race.  Finish time 1:47:46.  Overall pace 8:14.  Pretty happy with that!

Water, Gatorade, bananas, pretzels, chocolate milk, I took my time walking though the finisher chute.  Stopping now and then to rest in sunny spots.  A guy from Jersey Mike’s handed me a mini turkey sub sandwich that really hit the spot.  As I sat on the curb, I turned to snap a picture of the finish area looking back at the finish line.

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I decided to return to my car and grab a jacket before heading over to the Red Hat Amphitheater for the post race concert.  It was a good time.  It was nice to relax and take in some music before heading home.  “Hey now, you’re a Rock Star!”  Smash Mouth was the post race headliner.

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Results were posted last night.  5,599 finished the Half, and 952 finished the Full.

My results-  502/5599 overall, 378/2213 gender, and 62/359 on my last day in the 40-44 Age Group.

Pretty happy with my results!  Now that today is my birthday, and I am officially 45, let’s see what kind of impact I can have in my new AG.  Thanks again, Rock ‘n’ Roll, the Raleigh event is amazing!  Such a challenge, but so much fun!  Great swag, too!  Love the Cree Shimmer Wall on the medal.

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The Half it is…

I headed to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh expo this afternoon.  The expo was pretty much as expected, although it did seem like there were less vendors there this second go around.   A couple of things became abundantly clear while I was at the expo.

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Sporting a shirt I bought at the expo last year, I picked up my bib.

From there I decided to check out the “Solutions” table, and at least see how much it would cost me to switch from the Half to the Full.  I had kinda figured it out in my head how much more it would be, but I wanted to see if I would really feel the urge to transfer to the Full once at the desk.  Yeah, after being told it would cost me an extra $70 to make the change (just a wee bit less than what I had already paid to run the Half) I wholeheartedly decided to stick with what I had already paid for.  No extra $$ out of pocket.  At least not yet.

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With my guardian Sir Walter Raleigh at the front entrance, Rock ‘n’ Roll does know how to put on a good show, I proceeded around the expo center in search of any good samples, etc..  Pretty much the same from big expo to big expo, I didn’t drop any money until I made a donation at the Jimmy V booth.  From there I popped over to the Rock ‘n’ Roll info area where you can register for races, etc…  You know, check out and get enticed into signing up for more races.  I didn’t sign up for anything last year, but the deal they were running today was hard to pass up on.  Signing up on the spot, you could pay just $50 to run next years Half or Full.  Done deal!  I filled out my registration, and now for only $50, have my first marathon of 2016 secured and paid for.

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So yes, I could have paid $70 to switch from the Half to the Full for tomorrow’s race, but instead decided to pay twenty dollars less than that to run next years Full.  I am super stoked about my decision.  Tomorrow I run the Half, and even if I am running in a cloud of pollen from all of the azaleas in bloom, I will only be running for half the time.  I will survive!  I’ll take my inhaler just in case.

Elvis is in the Building (and running)

If you are one of the lucky one’s, you are gearing up for an amazing running weekend in Las Vegas.  Just a few short days away, all of the glitz, glamour and compression socks await you!  Maybe even a medal, or two, or three.

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So, get ready!  Get your bags packed, and don’t forget your gambling money!  Las Vegas is one of my favorite places.  I’ve been countless times over the years, twice this year.  This weekend though, I will not be there.  I really have had an issue with jealousy these past few weeks leading up to this years event.  It is so much fun, I really hate the fact that I cannot participate this year.  Well, for one reason or another (namely trips to Salt Lake City and Chicago) the wallet couldn’t afford another trip.  Believe me, I thought about how I could make it work.  Best be frugal enough to race a few cool locations next year and save up.

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With Elvis in the building, or at least the spirit of Elvis, and about 200-300 look a likes running the Strip this weekend, you better just absorb all of it.  Do it for me!  I first ran this Rock ‘n’ Roll event back in 2011.  It was just my third Half Marathon, and being sick with bronchitis, my overall finish in 1,306th place was a triumph.  My finish time of 1:43:23 put me well ahead of the pack of 33,253 finishers.  That is a top 4% finish.  Interesting to note, the winner on the women’s side of that event was Amy Hastings.  My finish time allowed me to just eek out the post race carnage and bottle necking that made that race so noteworthy.  It’s the reason why the course was changed, the finisher village changed, and a lower cap instituted for runner safety.

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I skipped the event in 2012, but made an amazing return to Las Vegas in 2013 to run the Full Marathon.  I used that year (2012) to fine tune my distance running, and became a marathoner.  With six marathons under my belt, Las Vegas became my lucky #7 last year.  Everything about the race was epic.  From start to finish I loved it!  I finished in 315th place out of 2,927.  Top 10% this time and still awesome.  My time of 3:41:41, puts that finish as my fourth best marathon out of 16.  I guess the flat course, and excitement of Vegas helped.

So, as I sit here a bit dejected that I am missing the race this year, I have to make a plan to be there again.  Maybe in 2015.  I think that is the only thing that will help my jealousy issues right now.

To all of you heading to Las Vegas to run, let me live vicariously through you this weekend.  Have an incredible time, and just enjoy every neon-filled moment!

Marathon Countdown – 2 weeks to go

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Fan or not of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series by Competitor Group, the inaugural event in Raleigh, NC is just two short weeks away.  Sold out with 12,000 runners, the event is sure to bring some big money into the city of Raleigh and surrounding Triangle area.  Hotel bookings, restaurants anxiously awaiting the arrival of participants.  What could be so wrong with that?  Many folks have scoffed at the idea of the marathon series coming to town.  I say, let’s just wait and see.  Let local businesses decide if runners come to town with money and boost the local economy.  I’m sure the economic impact will be reviewed and scrutinized ad nausium.

For me, I am glad that the event will soon be here.  Yeah, Rock ‘n’ Roll events are typically more expensive than the average half or full marathon, but you gotta try it, right?  At least once.  I’m excited.  Should be a great day.  I love running in Raleigh, and I am hoping for cooperative weather on race day.

So, two weeks until we take to the line downtown.  Let’s see just how well this inaugural event is run.  There will be a lot of critical eyes watching this event, so I hope it turns out to be epic.   I know my 26.2 mile journey on my birthday will be epic for me, but I also hope it’s epic for the local economy.

Birthday Marathon – Rock ‘n’ Roll style

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2014 is shaping up. It’s shaping up quickly, too!  I guess that now that my 2013 racing season has been over for nearly a month, I just have more time on my hands to plan.  The runs are fewer since completing my last marathon, leaving me with more time to plan out next year.

A marathon a month?  Do I dare?  2014 is still a fairly open palate, but it’s filling up quickly with a lot of fun and new races.  I posted recently about registering for the Charleston Marathon next month.  That race is just over a month away.  I have to keep reminding myself to get busy, and lace up.  That race won’t be successful without training miles.  Ok, ok, I will head out on a four to five miler as soon as this post is complete.

So, January is wrapped up, hotel and race paid for.  Next up is February, and The Hilton Head Marathon.  Since my Mother lives there, she is contributing to my registration for the marathon as a Christmas gift.  I still have a few weeks to sign up before the next price increase.

Let’s skip over March for now, as I took advantage of a deal last night.

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I registered for my local Rock n Roll marathon, debuting here in Raleigh in April.  On My Birthday!  I took advantage of the best discount I have seen for this event.  Yesterday, on December 12, there was a $20 discount for registering for any Rock n Roll race, and they even opened up registration for one day only, for those wanting to register and run the Vegas event next year.  I may regret not registering for that, too.  I paid $165 to run the Vegas Marathon this year.  Yesterday, it was on sale for $99.  That is a steal!

So, I am locked in for the Raleigh race on my 44th birthday.  Could there be a better way to celebrate a birthday than running a marathon?  Most people would probably choose to sleep in, and have breakfast in bed prepared by a loving family.  Not me.  I will have a very early wake up call, head into the city, and join hundreds of other runners.  Little do they all know, but they will be helping me to celebrate my birthday.  Who knows at this point, but I may have family members running, too.  One thing is for sure though.  We will all be able to celebrate together at the finish.

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Maybe I will even be able to get ahold of a special commemorative shirt like the one above.  I am not an ambassador for this event, but I should have been.  This race will truly be unique for me, and definitely one to remember.

Have you ever run a race on your birthday?  I, for one, cannot wait until my birthday in 2014.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon -Race Recap Part 1

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A few days have passed since my epic race day in Las Vegas.  What a great trip, a great race, and a fantastic way to finish out my 2013 racing year.  I’m going to try to capture the memories here, so let’s begin.

I flew to Vegas on November 14th, early in the morning.  On about three and a half hours of sleep, I was tired.  That morning was incredibly cold for this time of year.  It was like 28 degrees, so our plane had to be de-iced prior to leaving.  I think because of the delay, and my short layover time in Atlanta, the stress of making my connection kept me from catching a few winks on that flight.  With a little luck, we made it just in time to board.  Las Vegas bound, tucked into my aisle seat for the four and a half hour flight.

Upon arrival in Las Vegas, the local time was before 10:00am.  Adjusting to the time change is always a challenge, especially when in a city that does not live by the clock that I am used to.  Off to jump into the rental car, and make our way to the Wynn Hotel and Casino.

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The Wynn is a beautiful hotel, and highly rated.  I’ve stayed there once before, and chose this hotel as it was one of the race partner hotels, and offered a few extra nice amenities for runners.  We got a beautiful, and comfortable room, with an amazing view.  Some shots of the view….

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After an amazing lunch at the Wynn Buffet, we settled into some gaming.  I find Vegas very relaxing.  I do not party, or drink, too old for that.  So due to the time change, and travel exhaustion, I was ready for bed about 8pm, which was really 11pm on my internal clock.  I tried to stay up later, but just couldn’t.  Staying up would have helped with adjusting to the time change better, but it just didn’t happen.  Woke up at 6am on Thursday, full of vigor, and ready for a day of fun, and of course, the race expo.

The Expo was held at the Las Vegas Convention Center, an easy walk from the Wynn.  This saved us from having to pay a $10 parking fee.  The Expo was huge, as expected.  Because we attended on the first day, and early in the day, the crowds were certainly manageable.

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The expo had a ton of vendors.  It really was fun to get race weekend going.  Lots of interesting products, giveaways, etc.  I won the Brooks shirt pictured above, and sampled some newer fuel and hydration products, along with just enjoying “runner watching”, as this race had entrants from all 50 States, and 52 countries.  Just amazing.  A truly international event.

After another amazingly relaxing day on Saturday, with visits to downtown casinos like the Golden Nugget, Binion’s and my all time favorite downtown hotel and casino, The El Cortez.

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The evening consisted of visits on The Strip to the Cosmopolitan, the Bellagio, among others.  One of my favorite things to do in Las Vegas is to catch at least a few fountain shows in front of the Bellagio Hotel.

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Race day Sunday has arrived.  There is always a challenge to running an evening event.  I think it’s even more difficult when you don’t have the comforts of home.  When and where to fuel, what to fuel with.  I hydrated with water all day, and decided that just a light breakfast would be best.  About two hours before the race I fueled up with a banana Power Bar.  The Wynn, being one of the host hotels, had a free shuttle to the race start.  This was an absolute breeze.  It took a little longer than I expected to get to the start, but we made it there about an hour before the start of the race.  The staging area was immense, but with over 20,000 people, there were just not enough port-o-potties.  Luckily I only had to use the bathroom once and made it through a line in about ten minutes.  The pre-race concert featured the band The All American Rejects.

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I was in Corral 5, so once it was time to start filing into the corrals, it was a smooth transition out of the holding area and make my way.  One last potty break behind a restaurant with about a hundred other runners.  Girls and guys alike.  Who wants to have to start a marathon needing to use the bathroom?  Not me!

In my corral, I loosened up, stretched, and ate a Clif Bar, and took my usual first GU, with 10 minutes to go.  I snapped the following photos as the countdown began.  Such a huge crowd!  Over 30,000 runners registered for all three events.  The Full, Half and Half of the Half participants lined up in over 30 corrals.  It looked like this.

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It was an amazing sight.  It would take over a half hour to release all of these corrals onto the course.  The National Anthem was sung, while we were photographed, and helicopters hovered overhead.  It was go time!  About seven minutes after the gun, my corral was at the line and ready to run.  Stay tuned for my next post on the race itself.  The running of 26.2 miles in one of my favorite places…. Las Vegas.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon

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Triumphant return?  Well, I haven’t registered yet, but things are shaping up for a trip to my favorite place to take part in one of my favorite things.  Running the Strip at Night is amazing, and this time I would be running the Full Marathon.

I took part in the infamous race of 2011..  The one talked about for months based on negative experiences by thousands of runners.  Over crowding, under equipped aid stations, lack of barriers between full and half marathon runners, running out of water at the finish, green bananas, the list goes on and on.  Let me be clear, I had a great time.  It was my third half marathon, I had no issues.

I remember thinking that if I were to go back again, I would run the marathon.  Well, that will probably happen.  Running this marathon would mean three marathons this Fall.  It would also mean two marathons in 14 days.  Maniac material?  I can do it, I believe in myself, and think it would be an utterly fantastic time to run a full 26.2 in one of my favorite destinations in the world.  LAS VEGAS!!!

This is a picture of me after the 2011 Half.

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Who wouldn’t want to run…..especially when there are showgirls around!

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Now, to book a flight, hotel, car, and register!

Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh

RunRaleigh Racing is local, and also a favorite.  The race director, Paula, puts on great events.  The highlight is this Half Marathon which has been run the last two years in mid April.  It is a great event, supported locally by over 1,000 runners.  Due to Competitor Group, bringing a brand new Rock n Roll event to Raleigh in 2014, this race is being displaced until Fall because the City of Raleigh granted this non-local event first dibs on the same date for the next five years.  I feel this is quite a dilemma, and it has caused quite a stir in the local running community.  I will be running the Rock n Roll Marathon next April, as it lands exactly on my birthday, and figure how can I pass up the chance to run a marathon on my big day.  Others are trying to find a common ground, make decisions on if they can or should support the Rock n Roll event.  I will also continue to support the local Half in the Fall, on its new date.  

What do you think?  I don’t think boycotting Rock n Roll is in order, but maybe you have a different perspective?  Please share your thoughts on local versus big name events.

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