Nation's Tri blog

Heather RnR USA_small

The Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Marathon was my first marathon in just over a decade. I signed up as part of my training for Ironman Chattanooga because I needed to know that I could cover those miles. If I had known this winter was going to be as cold and snowy as it turned out to be, I might have rearranged things a bit. Still, as miserable as training in single digit with wind-chill weather was, the race turned out to be a good experience!

I went to the expo at the DC Armory during the Thursday afternoon hours with a friend who was also running the race. I was ridiculously impressed with how well they flowed participants through the various queues to pick up our bibs, t-shirts and other items. Of course I had to stop by browse the gear, and ended up purchases a few items I thought I might need during the race like a wind-breaker and matching hot pink ear cover.

Race morning came and I had my hubby drop me off near the mall while he went to park in the lot by the race. I like to get to races early so I have the option to wait in porta-pottie lines multiple times if I need to, so the sun wasn’t up. However, there were runners and volunteers everywhere so I felt in good company. I ended up spending enough money at the expo to get the VIP bathroom experience. I have to say, it was a positive experience, if for nothing else to have lights in the bathrooms at the early hours!

I eventually met up with some friends who were doing the race and got into our start corral. The race start was so efficient, with each corral going at timed intervals, that you never got that long slogging feeling trying to cross the start line.

I started the race a little faster then I’d planned so eased back knowing that the worst hills of the course were in the early parts of the race. Sure enough, right around mile 6 was the Calvert Hill pushing us closer to Adams Morgan. I was pleased to be able to run up the entire hill, even if I did it slowly. The next few miles had the best crowd support of the entire race. There were spectators cheering and residents tail-gating. Some residents even dressed up in costume—my favorite was the gingerbread man slowly dancing on his front porch.

Sometime around this point I heard some booming footsteps behind me. I turned to look only to see another runner dribbling two basket balls as he ran! What a feat! Such a feat I was glad to have him pass me and get out of my view because I didn’t need a reminder as to how slow a runner I actually am. Don’t get me wrong, I love it when people have fun at these races, but I was tired from the hills and not in the mood at this point.

Luckily, the hills lessened and my pace increased. Before I knew it the half-marathon participants had split off and the running field diminished as just us 26.2 runners were on the course. We winded back from near RFK Stadium and back into DC going along the mall. Heading south in the 9th Street expressway tunnel I heard the sounds of Lady Gaga Blaring. A spectator in a Mr. Incredibles costume had ridden a bike equipped with a sound system into the tunnel to cheer on spectators. Now that’s a super hero.

Somewhere around mile 15 my feet started to hurt. I took an Advil and hoped for the best. Around mile 16 I decided I didn’t want to do the race anymore. My feet hurt too much and 10 more miles just seemed impossible. I walked for a good 10 minutes after the next water station trying to get my head back in the game. I knew if I got to the 18 mile marker I would be fine. Something about only having 8 miles left seemed so much better than 10. The Advil kicked in at that point and I found myself running again. Aside from drinking water at the water stations, that would be my only walking during the entire race.

Around mile 20 the band was playing Billy Joel and I started to dance and sing while I ran. A good sign, for sure! I saw a friend of mine along the course and then the sun came out. Things were looking up!! I was slowing down my pace greatly, but I was still running. The hills that peppered the end of the course were actually a great change from the flat of Anacostia. I ran (jogged) up them all, still not walking.

As I came to mile 25 I could see RFK stadium approaching. The end was near and I was ready! I passed a friend, my husband, my coach, and countless strangers who were cheering. The finisher’s chute never felt so long, but I knew I had made it. I finished in 5:09:52. It was my slowest marathon yet, but I finished. I know now I can do the distance, and it was a great experience. The volunteers were wonderful, the course was well mapped, the weather cooperated, and the bands kept things fun. I would definitely do this race again, though maybe after a milder winter for training.

Heather Butler

Heather is starting her 5th year engaging in triathlons. She has completed over 20 multi-sport events, including two half-ironman events. Her love of triathlons makes up for her lack of speed, and she subscribes to the philosophy of keeping it fun.