Rock ‘n’ Roll Washington DC Half Marathon for the third time. This was definitely my favorite time running it (third time’s a charm, as they say). This is a great course through DC, and the Rock n’ Roll Marathon Series races are always big and lots of fun. Rock ‘n’ Roll has made some great updates to the events this year including new mile markers and aid station signs, as well as some spectator-friendly changes to the Finish Line like big screens showing participants finishing the race.

When I arrived at the Health & Fitness Expo Friday afternoon the packet pickup area was buzzing with people coming in and out, but it wasn’t overcrowded inside the spacious DC Armory. I loved checking out the various booths and grabbed some Sabra hummus snack packs, browsed the Brooks Running gear, and chatted with Bart Yasso at the Philadelphia Marathon booth. Thanks to being a #RocknBlogger, I was able to pick up my complimentary VIP wristband. I also took some fun photos and entered a an airfare giveaway contest by title sponsor United Airlines.

My marathon training plan called for 18 miles, so I ran to the VIP Lounge at the Hard Rock Cafe in downtown DC (a couple blocks from the Start Line) to get in some extra miles before the race. It was a great warm-up and I did not have to get up too early in comparison to other races. The Half Marathon started at 8:30 a.m., so I didn’t have to wake up too early in comparison to other races. The weather was 32 degrees at the start, but luckily the sun was shining so it did not feel too cold. I had debated wearing shorts with knee-high compression socks and definitely could have, but opted to wear my running tights instead.

It was nice to get some food and water in at the Start Line VIP Lounge at the Hard Rock Cafe. The spread included all varieties of carbs and runner food including toast, bagels, fruit, and oatmeal. There was also a special VIP gear check which made things easy. I loved how there was a basket of runner items including Vaseline, bandages, and aspirin for the VIP runners to use. I grabbed hand warmers on my way out the door just to keep my hands toasty at the start of the race.

I was in Corral #2, but lined up 10 minutes before the start so it was pretty full by that time. I ended up starting at the back of Corral #3, but with waves starting every 2-3 minutes it didn’t really make a difference. Because I was using the race as a marathon training run, I didn’t have any race goals besides having fun. I actually ended up feeling better than expected and stayed just over an 8 minute per mile pace for the whole race.

Within the first couple of miles, there seemed to be more music than the past few races I’ve run with Rock ‘n’ Roll, which was great. The race started in downtown Washington DC so the first few miles were full of some monumental sights along the National Mall. We headed out towards Arlington National Cemetery and then back by the Kennedy Center. I knew there was a steep hill around Mile 6 from my past experience with this race, so I was prepared to tackle it and run strong. Having lots of spectators cheering along the hill and at the top helped a ton!

Despite it being a bit chilly, a ton of spectators still came out to enjoy the sun. There were a lot more people than when I ran it in the rain two years ago, which made for a energetic atmosphere. Another bright spot was getting high-fives and cheers at the November Project DC cheer station around Mile 7. I grabbed a couple donut holes from a spectator and then grabbed a small cup of beer from a spectator at Mile 9 (which is what you do when you’re running and having fun, right?). Having friends in DC, it’s always more fun each time I run this race, since I am getting to know the city better and better. I tried to keep smiling (it helps!) through North Capitol and H Street around Mile 9 and Mile 10, which are always tough spots mentally in a race. I loved the new aid stations and was happy to see water and Gatorade every two miles or so along with a station with SiS gels later on in the race.

I was so happy to see the Finish Line approaching and loved the finish chute with all of the spectators and announcers. The Secure Zone on the other side of the Finish Line was short; I quickly received my medal, water, and some snacks. I did not hang out at the Finish Line Festival long, but headed over to the VIP Lounge. It was awesome to get a quick massage and then use the changing tents and private port-a-potties to clean up and change into warm clothes. I could hear the Toyota Rock ‘n’ Roll Concert Series Headliner Vintage Trouble from the tent and they sounded great.

I enjoyed the complimentary mimosas and Michelob Ultras along with the yummy spread of food including a vegan pumpkin soup, sandwiches, and of course a few cups of warm coffee! The phone charging station was a big hit with some of the other runners in the VIP Lounge, which I also used to charge my phone before taking the metro back to my friend’s apartment.

I thoroughly enjoyed running the race and hanging out in the sunshine at VIP afterwards. I continue to recommend the Rock ‘n’ Roll Washington D.C. race which is a fun course through the city and is extra great when there’s awesome weather. I was impressed with the organization of the race as well as some of the new changes.