Sunday, September 03, 2006

Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon Race Report

As late as a month ago, and as recently as a few days ago, I didn't think I'd get to run in the 2006 Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon at Virginia Beach. Between some recurring knee trouble that has kept me from running for much of the summer and Tropical Storm Ernesto's path up the East Coast this past week, I wasn't 100 percent sure until Thursday that I'd get to make the trip to Virginia Beach. But as the race commenced this morning, my body was ready and the weather was great.

When I initially signed up for the Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon in the spring, my goal was to break my personal best of 1 hour, 58 minutes. Given the aforementioned setback in training, my goal had to be adjusted, so I treated this morning's run as a training run as I build up for the Marine Corps Marathon in October. My new goal was to simply practice running a nice, steady pace throughout and not be so concerned with time. Based on the pace of my recent long runs that I've been doing to rebuild my base fitness levels, I figured I'd finish the half somewhere close to two-and-a-half hours. So I was quite pleased with my finishing time of 2 hours, 11 minutes and 15 seconds.

I normally don't run in sunglasses, but I'm glad I had them today. When the race commenced, we were running straight down 19th Street in downtown Virginia Beach toward the ocean and the orange sun rising over the horizon. Much of the early part of the course took us outside the downtown area, through some residential neighborhoods before bringing us back downtown for the finish.

The finished was easily the most scenic of any race I've done to date. The last 2.1 miles were run on the oceanfront boardwalk. Seeing the surf and the sun reflecting off the Atlantic Ocean as we turned the corner for the final stretch was truly an amazing sight to behold.

Overall, the Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon at Virginia Beach was the most fun and the best organized race I've participated in. From the easy packet pick-up at the expo on Saturday (I walked right up with no waiting in line) to the family reunion area on the beach, this race was great. The crowd support was great throughout, as were the teams of volunteers. Although I didn't get a chance to make a go at a PR this year, this half marathon course would be a good one to go for it on. The course was extremely flat. The only hills were one the bridge going out and eventually back in to the downtown area. I'll definitely consider doing this race again, and perhaps I can make a run at a PR next year.

With all the fun I had during the race, the most special part of the weekend for me was getting to share it with my mom. She tagged along with me this weekend for support, and I even got to see her twice along the course -- once around the 9.5 mile mark and again around mile 12. I looked for her around mile 1, but the crowds were so thick I couldn't spot her.

Another positive about the event was the relative ease for spectators to get around at certain spots. My mom was able to see me at three spots along the course (miles 1, 9 and 12) by walking just two short blocks from where she started. I was genuinely concerned about how much she'd be able to move around the course, but she did well. And she said she had a good time. I did too just having her around.