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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.