Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Half Marathon Recap!

I’m very excited to announce that I officially have a new half marathon PR (personal record): 1:48:01!! Thank you all for the good luck wishes – as always, knowing that you guys believed in me helped me to better believe in myself. And we all know running is just as much a mental game as it is a physical one!

rock n roll USA

The morning of the Rock ‘n’ Roll USA half marathon began bright and early. My friend Lauren and I met at the metro at 6:15 (the race started at 7:30 and we were a 10 to 15 minute metro ride from the starting line), questioning our own sanity at thinking that getting up so early and running a race with tens of thousands of other people was a good idea. When we arrived down on the metro platform, we realized we’d made a rookie mistake – not checking the metro times to see how often the trains were coming. Next train? 16 minutes. FAIL.

While we were waiting, I had Lauren get a picture of me so friends along the course would know what to look for in terms of an outfit. Funny story – I decided to wear a really bright mint green shirt, thinking that I’d be easy to spot. When we got to the race, I was like, “Why the heck is everyone else wearing green, too?!” D’oh. St. Patrick’s Day weekend. I’m an idiot. Lol.


15 minutes later, the metro finally arrived, and it was so crowded that we smushed on for one stop before deciding to get off to wait for the next one, which was thankfully only a minute behind and way less crowded.

A little while later, and we finally made it to the starting area! It was nearly 7 a.m. by this point but I was hoping we’d still have plenty of time.


I made a beeline over to the Brooks VIP porta potties, which I had access to as part of my Brooks Run Happy Ambassadorship. Others could gain access by purchasing $150 worth of Brooks or Moving Comfort (their sister company) gear at the expo. There was still a bit of a wait, but it was much faster than the other porta potties. Plus, they had running water! Having waiting in hour long porta potty lines at other races, I knew how lucky I was to have this option.


And check out the cute “appetizers” – how fun! GU chomps with toothpicks in them and mini Body Glide. So creative!


From there, I raced over to the bag drop – only to find there were HUGE lines. I was kicking myself for not getting to the race earlier. Big time fail! I ended up getting really lucky because I’d been going back and forth on Twitter with the PR team from Rock ‘n’ Roll since last week (they were at the PHA Summit but we missed each other), and we finally connected right before the race. A HUGE thank you to them for taking my bag! For my next race, I’m seriously arriving at like 4 a.m.

With my bag gone, I raced over to my corral. The race had already started, but I was in Corral 7, so we started a few minutes after the official start.


Just as I raced into the corral and starting frantically tying my shoe laces, I ran into Theodora!



And then, a minute later, we were off! Whew. Nick of time.


Love this picture – borrowed from the Rock ‘n’ Roll Instagram account!

I decided to wear my CamelBak for the race, and I put my cell phone in the CamelBak pocket so I’d have it to find friends after the race. I knew that the few seconds I might lose from carrying a little extra water weight would be made up for by not stopping at water stops. I like my water when I want it – and I suck at drinking from those little cups, anyway.

In my hands, I carried my camera (I’m used to carrying this when I run, so it doesn’t bother me), and a little baggie with some fuel (I had one Clif Shot Gel 15 minutes before the race, and then another during) and a little pace card I made with my goal splits and total times needed to finish in 1:49:00. I loved having this with me – I’ll definitely do this again in the future!


Right from the start of the race, I felt great. My legs were feeling good, I was relieved I’d been able to start on time with my coral, and I was ready to rock. Here’s the course map – we went winding all through the city. I love this race – such a cool tour of real DC that’s off the beaten tourist path.


The first few miles were a total blur. I was feeling great, enjoying the crowds and scenery, and aiming to stick with my goal paces (or a little below – but trying not to go out too fast out of excitement and burn out). Even though I was going a little faster than planned, I felt good and didn’t feel like I was overdoing it, so I went with it.

At mile 1 we ran by the Washington Monument:



A little while later we headed over Memorial Bridge:


And then hit mile 3 coming back over the bridge.

  • Mile 1: 8:15
  • Mile 2: 8:02
  • Mile 3: 8:07


Miles 4 through 6 I still felt great. I settled in and kept chugging along – still enjoying the scenery and crowds, although this part of the course had less crowd support than the rest.

Dear random girl: Sorry for taking a picture of the back of your shirt like a creeper, but I loved this phrase.


Here we are heading under the bridges towards Rock Creek area. Around here somewhere, I saw my friend Steve on the sidelines, out cheering for his girlfriend Lauren who I’d metro-ed in with. It’s always a nice boost of adrenaline to see a friend!


  • Mile 4: 8:00
  • Mile 5: 8:16
  • Mile 6: 8:15

When we finished mile 6, I knew from studying the course map and elevation that we had a big ole hill waiting for us on Calvert Street. You can see it coming in the photo below. I took a deep breath, shortened my stride, and focused on making the hill my bitch.


To be honest? I actually didn’t think this hill was so bad! Part of it was knowing that I had friends waiting at the top and that there were a few blog readers along the hill who cheered for me (thank you!), but mostly I am just very hill trained because most of my runs include massive hills! A special thank you to the Rosslyn to Courthouse hill that I run at least once a week. It’s just as steep and twice as long as the hill during this race, so I really wasn’t too fazed by it.

Just as I was reaching the top of the hill, I saw Heather, and then shortly after my running buddy Karen and her boyfriend Jeremy. They snapped a few photos of me coming up the final ledge – big smiles since I’d just seen them there cheering!

rock n roll USA

rock n roll USA 2Rock n Roll USA 7

With by far the biggest hill of the course behind me, and having just seen a bunch of friends, I continued on, adrenaline and runner’s high pumping like mad. Bring it on, DC. I’ve got this!

  • Mile 7: 8:59 – pretty good for the hill!

Next, the course took us into Adams Morgan, where I saw my college friend Sarah! She yelled at me that her dad was running literally 4 people in front of me, in bright yellow. You can actually spot him in the photo below on the far right! I went up and said hello to him before continuing on. :)


Next up was one of my favorite areas of this course – it was one of my favorites when I ran the National Half Marathon (that’s what the race was before it became Rock ‘n’ Roll last year) two years ago – the reservoir area just north of Howard University. There’s always great crowd support here – this time, we had a really cool drum band, some houses blasting great rap music, and someone playing the Rocky theme song. Loved it!


The miles continued to fly by. Faster than I was planning splits kept popping up on my watch, but I was still feeling really good. I just had to hang on!

  • Mile 8: 8:09
  • Mile 9: 8:03

The next part of the course had us running down North Capitol Street towards the Capitol. We had a slight downhill going so I was able to bang out a really good split. Sub-8 minute miles – woohoo! I was pretty pumped when I saw that pop up!

  • Mile 10: 7:54


Miles 11 and 12 were probably the hardest mentally for me – obviously by this point I was getting tired, and the crowd support was a lot more sparse here, too. I knew that I had a couple more friends to look for along the course, so that kept me going. Just as planned, my friend Kathleen was there cheering when we turned on 4th street! She snapped this picture of me as I ran by. :)

Rock n Roll USA 8

I also saw my former coworker Sarah and her husband on H street. It was awesome having so many friends out watching!

Mile 11 was my slowest mile of the race and when I saw that time pop up on my watch, I thought “NO! Yes, you are tired, but you aren’t that tired. Don’t throw away a PR in the last few miles of the race just because you let yourself get too comfortable – you’ve got this!” A pep talk was just what I needed to bust out a faster 12 mile split. I was still feeling really good all things considering, and at this point it was just a mental game.

  • Mile 11: 8:56
  • Mile 12: 8:15

At mile 12.3, we split off from the full marathoners. Major props to them! So impressive.


And then suddenly we were in the home stretch! I pretty much FLEW through the last mile. It’s amazing how much faster you can go when you know you won’t have to do it for too much longer, right? Again – it’s all mental!

  • Mile 13: 7:41 (!)

With only 0.1 miles left to go, I saw the finish line looming ahead. Last 0.1ish mile pace: 6:55 (!) – finishing strong!


I crossed the finish line elated. There’s really nothing quite like the feeling of crossing the finish line at a race with a new personal record. I had done it! Woohoo!!!



Overall pace: 8:15 minute miles.

  • Overall rank: 2,293 out of 19,945
  • Division rank (females aged 30 to 34): 149 out of 2,439
  • Gender rank: 693 out of 12,525

Check out these awesome medals!


I immediately grabbed water, chocolate milk, and a big raisin bagel (unpictured). Props to Rock ‘n’ Roll – there was a ton of great food at the finish line, and it was organized well, too.


And then I ran into my friend Sokphal, who’d also rocked the race! Celebratory finish line area picture:


Shortly after, I found Theodora, who had also crushed her PR. A great racing day for all! We ended up hanging out after the race for nearly 3 hours, enjoying the live band, waiting for other friends, watching the finishers come across, and then eventually hanging out in the “VIP” area with some of the Rock ‘n’ Roll PR team. There were mimosas! A big thank you to Rock ‘n’ Roll for having us over there. You made us feel way cooler than we actually are.


I’d also like to give a thank you to the weather for not raining as planned. :)

I’m so proud of myself for getting out there and staying strong. What I really love about running is that unless you’re insanely good and actually winning races, running is totally a personal battle. I’m not competing against anyone but myself, and I love watching my splits and my race times decrease over the years and to look back and see how far I’ve come. I know some of you might be reading this and thinking, “Geez – 1:48? That’s so fast. I could never do that.” Just like how I’m reading about friends that finish in 1:42 and thinking the exact same thing (congrats, girl!). But honestly? Never say never! Just get out there and run and do the best you can, and the speed (and longer distances) will come.

Nearly 3 years ago, I ran my first half marathon. It was terribly hard (and hot) and I literally almost passed out when I crossed the finish line at 2:04:03.

A year after that, I ran my second half marathon with the goal to break 2 hours and ended up crushing my old time, racing across the finish at 1:51:47, nearly 13 minutes faster than I’d been the year before.

A year after that, and I had broken 1:50, crossing the finish at the Tobacco Road Half Marathon in NC with a time of 1:49:37.

And now, another year later, I have a new PR.

1:48:01 – you’re mine. And I can’t wait to beat you. :)


Anyone else set a new PR this weekend? Please share!


  1. 1

    Congrats!!! Looks like you had a great race and a fun time :)

  2. 2

    Fantastic job! I love your homemade pace chart. And yes, there is nothing like the feeling of a new pr. :) Such consistent splits and a great finish, congrats!!

  3. 3

    Congratulations! This is a great recap and it was fun to see how far you’ve come to in terms of PRs. I also raced yesterday – I didn’t PR, but it was my second fastest half marathon ever, and considering I’m in grad school now and don’t have the time to train like I used to, I consider it a success!

  4. 5

    Congratulations on your new PR. So awesome!! It was a great race all around – loved running through DC – one of the best ways to experience a city :)

  5. 7

    Congrats on your PR! I was randomly checking out the finish line pictures on the marathonfoto site from the race and noticed you are to my right in all of mine (sorry, I’m sure that sounds super creepy) – we finished at the same time!

  6. 9

    Congrats Anne on the PR! I saw you FLY past me at around the 2.5 mile mark. Maybe I need you to pace me one day because I seriously can not break 1:55 (my training paces tell me “yes” but I always doubt myself come race day)

    Glad to know you had a much better experience than I did. Unfortunately I was not impressed with the race and have no plans of doing it again. There are other races in this area (that are much better organized) and I can not see myself paying to do this one again.

    P.S- The shirt is a Girls on the Run- DC SoleMates shirt! I have one too and ran as a SoleMate for this race!

    • 10

      You CAN break 1:55! It’s all mental, especially if your training paces are there. I’m sorry to hear you didn’t love the race – since it’s the same race I did 2 years ago and got such a great PR at, it’ll always have a special spot in my heart. And I really like that it’s not the normal monument/mall/Hains Point route like the other races in the area! Cool to hear that the shirt was a Girls on the Run shirt – love them!

  7. 11

    Great job!!!! You must be thrilled. PRs are the best!

  8. 12

    Awesome job!!! PR’s are the best feeling in the world!

  9. 13

    Nice job on the PR. So many people had such great races this weekend! I PRed by 4 minutes in a 5k last weekend and got 1st in my age group. That was pretty exciting. I have a half in about 3 weeks that I am hoping to get a big PR in as well. You are right, so much of it is mental.

  10. 15

    Congrats!!!! I am feeling the same way – I got a 17 minute PR in the race – beating my time from 2010 when I ran the course as my very first half marathon! Back then my goal was just to finish since I didn’t really train and hadn’t run more than 6 miles until the weekend before the race when I figured I should try 10 before heading out for 13.1.

  11. 17

    Congrats Anne! That is an amazing time… I’m super impressed you had the energy to raise your arms up and take a few photos! I’m thinking I might have to run this next year.

  12. 19

    Congrats on pushing for that new PR! You must be a very strong athlete to take the Calvert hill like that.

  13. 21

    Congrats on your new PR! Looks like a great race – props to you for being able to photograph the action while rocking your run! Not sure I could do that. All your pictures brought back great memories of cheering on a friend during the MCM last fall. DC is such a wonderful city!

  14. 23

    An awesome PR! Congrats! My goal is to break 1:50 this year :)

  15. 25

    Awesome race! Congrats! I’m so impressed that you can run AND photograph AND still PR! I ran as well, in a much slower pack, but had a great race myself. The poor volunteers were so overworked though – I hope RNR can get more volunteers for the next race. The water stops were just mobbed. I was so glad I carried my own water.

    • 26

      I’m so glad I carried my own water, too! I heard from a few others that the water stops didn’t have enough volunteers. Congrats on your great race, too!

  16. 27

    Congrats on the PR!

  17. 28

    I knew several other people who also PR’d the half and I’m impressed given what a terribly-run event it was…there’s a reason I’ve always said I wouldn’t do RnR events. Water stops were disasters, overcrowded course, finish line total chaos. I picked up a bib for cheap late on Friday so I could pace a friend but I’d have been really upset if I’d paid the full rate. They should reduce the number of runners for the half given how narrow the streets are on most of the course.

    • 29

      I can’t speak to the water stops because I had my CamelBak on and didn’t stop, but I didn’t think the course was overcrowded! I’m honestly used to MASSIVE races though, and this was no more crowded than any other big DC race (Army 10 Miler, Cherry Blossom 10 miler, etc.) that I’ve done. I didn’t think the finish line was chaos either, but that might have just depended on when you finished? I’m sorry you didn’t have a good experience!

    • 30

      I agree! Cherry Blossom and Marine Corps are MUCH better organized. Honestly Anne, I think you are immune from all of the problems with the race because you got the “VIP” treatment AND you didn’t have to pay for a bib. It took me about 10-15 minutes just to check my gear before the race, and after not being able to move where the food was for another 15 minutes (after they ran out of smoothies), I waited an additional 45 minutes in a line to pick up my gear. The water stops could not handle the capacity of the crowds, and nothing ever thinned out like I’ve experienced at Cherry Blossom or Army 10 Miler. It was my first RnR race, and I will never do another one again. It’s nice that you were able to bypass all of that mess!

      • 31

        I was definitely VERY lucky with the bag check and the VIP porta potty, don’t get me wrong! Sorry to hear about your problems with the food and water. When I came through the finish, everything was open and fully stocked, but had I run the full or started in a farther back corral I’m sure I would have run into problems too. Carrying my own water was a great call too. I’ve had a lot of problems at Cherry Blossom and Army 10 Miler in the past, though. At both races I waited in line for the porta potty so long that I missed my wave start and had to start way back. At Army 10 Miler we couldn’t even find our corral it was all so confusing! Although Army 10 Miler did have great bag check – perhaps the RnR peeps can talk to them next time about how to handle that better, because the bag check and pick up situation really was a hot mess!

  18. 32

    Awesome race Anne! You make running fun the way it should be. I ran cross-country all through high school where I was competing with everyone around me and just got back into the right running mentality. I’ll be running my first half on April 6th in Charlottesville, VA and couldn’t be more excited! Your race recap gives me great motivation, thank you!

  19. 34

    Wow, congrats! You should be extremely proud and you will get that next pr! I am looking for a DC race now, it just looks to gorgeous to not make the trip!

  20. 35

    Great recap of the race. Congrats on your PR Anne!

  21. 36

    Congrats on the PR, Anne! It looks like you had a great time!

  22. 37

    Great recap. Congrats! You just made me so homesick for the non-touristy DC. I moved away almost 10 years ago and still miss it every day. I always say it’s such a shame I wasn’t a runner when I lived in DC. So many missed chances for great runs! I still haven’t worked myself up mentally to run a half but this one would go on my short list. I think running somewhere I love so much but don’t see that often would (HOPEFULLY!) make the miles go by faster — something I desperately need.

    I didn’t have a PR this weekend but I had a memorable running first — I ran my first 5K with my 5-year-old daughter! She ran one with my husband a few weeks ago when I was out of town, and this weekend, the three of us ran a St. Patty’s Day one together. And she ROCKED IT, running nearly the whole thing! That accomplishment will always mean more to me than any personal one I can achieve.

    Congrats on your race!

    • 38

      Running somewhere you love definitely makes the miles go by faster! And that’s AMAZING about the 5k with your daughter – what a great way to instill a love for being active in her at a young age. Good for you and your husband (and your daughter, too)!

  23. 39

    No PR for me, but a decent race considering my days leading up to it! Congratulations on a kick-ass PR. Sub-2 is my major goal for the year and I can’t WAIT to beat it! You rock!

  24. 43

    Congratulations on a great race! I ran about a minute over my old PR at RNR USA. I think it just lit a fire under me to PR next month at the Ocean City Half Marathon. I was so close, but let myself give up a bit at the end!

  25. 45

    Wow, congratulations! That is awesome. You are inspiring me to dust off my running shoes.

  26. 46

    Congratulations, Anne! Your excitement shows through in your posts. I’ve read your blog for almost a year now and you’ve inspired me to try running. Starting slow, but that’s ok. Your posts are inspirational! Way to go with a personal best!!

  27. 48

    Congrats on your PR!! I ran the NYC Half this weekend and was proud of my time even though it was not a PR (nor did I properly train). Hopefully I will get a sub 2 hour one day!

  28. 50

    Congrats!!! I also got a PR this weekend, on the Tobacco Road half! 1:50:28 – I was psyched! (More than 6 mins under my last). Such a fun race! Thanks for all the running motivation, love your blog!

  29. 52

    CONGRATS! I so want to do this race one year. It looks like such a good one. And I’m with. Hills don’t really phase me since basically all of my runs have to include them with where I live. I hate them in training but always appreciate them come race days.

  30. 54

    Congrats! I think I’m going to run my first 1/2 marathon in October.

  31. 55

    Congratulations on your PR! I ran the same race this past weekend (started in corral 10). This was my first ever full marathon. I didn’t exactly do as well as I had hoped, but it’s still a new PR for me! The whole thing was an incredible experience and I’m glad I was able to accomplish it.

  32. 57

    Congrats on your PR!!!! I had a PR this weekend too! Only shed 20 seconds off my 10k personal best but still happy about it :)

  33. 59

    Congrats again! I had so much fun with you this weekend. Now you need to find an NYC race. Or do a marathon. xo

  34. 60

    Woohoo! Go anne! I love reading PR recaps. They get me excited and ready to run my best too!

  35. 61

    Epic! Looks like and sounds like you took it in your stride!!! Well done!

  36. 62

    Major congrats on your new PR and an awesome race! I ran too – it was my first half marathon :D – and phew, that hill was a killer!

  37. 63

    Congrats on your PR! My sister just signed up to run the Rock ‘n’ Roll Philly half in September. I’m thinking about it, too, but I haven’t decided yet!

  38. 64

    We must have been running beside one another for the majority of the race! I started in Corral 7 and finished in 1:48:35. This was my first half so I’m pleased, but my goal for the Nike half is to break 1:45! Hopefully no crazy hills like the Calvert hill! Ugh, that really took it out of me and I even ran hills during my training!

  39. 68

    Congrats and great race recap!! That’s what I love about running too, it’s all about watching your own personal progress and challenging yourself to do better. It’s amazing to see how much you’ve improved in such a short time! I’m one of those readers thinking “holy crap I could never run a half that fast” haha

  40. 70

    Wow! Awesome and congratulations!!! I just want to say as a reader who has never run a race that you really brought us along with you, I was so excited reading this, I could wait to see what happened at the end! :D

  41. 72

    Congrats! Love your race recap, everyone should look as happy as you when they are running! What is your favorite race fuel?

  42. 74


  43. 75

    Congrats on the PR! It looks like such a fun race. You are one talented runner/photographer to be able to take pictures and run at the same time! ;-)

  44. 76

    Congrats on a great race! Your recap was great. I’m taking notes as I prepare to run my first half (NWM DC next month!). I did set a PR in my 5K this weekend ~ I shaved off 1:24 and got below an 8 minute mile! I never thought I could do that. My half training is sure working!

  45. 78

    That’s awesome congrats on the time!

  46. 79

    That is so awesome, congrats! I am running my first half this summer and I can’t wait!

  47. 80
    T.G.I.F!!! (the goal is fitness) says

    Awesome recap, and fannetastic PR!
    Terrific job! You ROCK!!!!

  48. 81

    I set a PR in the Charlottesville 10 miler! I ran the RnR marathon last year but was so bummed when they both fell on the same weekend!

    Congrats on the PR, you rocked it!

  49. 83

    Well done, Anne! Glad the weather and your mental conditioning worked for you…

  50. 84

    Way to go Anne! Your recap was so much fun to read and made me mentally relive each mile of the race. I also have to give you major kudos for taking photos during the run. Last time I tried to run at take a photo at the same time I went flying into the mud. Fail! The race flew by for me too – I think the course is one of the best in the city (sorry Marine Corps Marathon!). And the Gu Chomps appetizers are a total riot – so fancy! You’ve got that 1:48 in the bag for next time. Perhaps a training run in the future? Congrats again on the speedy finish – well deserved!

  51. 86

    Great job, Anne! You’re an inspiration to a fellow runner.

  52. 87

    Congrats! You are speedy! No PR for me but nothing beats simply finishing 26.2 so I’m not complaining! I wish I could have snapped as many pictures as you did. Mine drastically decreased after mile 15.

  53. 89


  54. 90

    YAYAY!!!!! Awesome job on the race!!! You’re making me want to run another half, myself! :D

  55. 91


  56. 92

    So many amazing PRs! Congrats :D

  57. 93

    congrats Anne on your PR! And i love what you wrote at the end of the post – running is all about doing your personal best and giving your best effort on that day. awesome!

  58. 94

    Wow congratulations!! I cannot wait to run my first half in June and look back saying “I cannot believe I just did that!” I know that I will be so nervous beforehand that I will get to the starting point like 4 hours ahead of time!

  59. 95

    So fun seeing you at the end of the race–out of 20,000 people! PR city this weekend! It’s fun to see how much time we’ve shaved-off since the running craze! If you love it and put hard work into it, it will show.

  60. 97
    Healthy Eater says

    Awesome race, Anne! Awesome blog, too.

  61. 98

    Congrats Anne! Your race recap is making me excited (and slightly nervous) for Cherry Blossom 10 miler I am running in a couple of weeks (first ten miler for me!). I know the Rosslyn/Courthouse hill you are talking about. Ran up it for the first time a couple of weeks ago and it was killer! I have a question–What kind of warm up do you do prior to running long runs? I need tips. Or did you do a blog entry on warming up/stretches before a run? Thanks!

  62. 99

    Congratulations! I’m curious, do you have a post that talks about your camelbak? I’m thinking about getting one, but not quite ready to take the plunge!

  63. 102

    Congrats! My sister and I ran the Wrightsville Beach 1/2 marathon with our dad this past weekend. We also got a PR of 1:48:08! What a great feeling to get a new record! :)

  64. 104

    Congratulations!!! Loved your recap! :)

  65. 105

    Excellent recap. I’m Owen, I am the owner and creator of Taz Running. Thanks for providing links in previous posts. Lots of your readers are clicking over to Taz Running and taking advantage of what we have to offer.

    Congratulations on your PR, well done! I also ran DC this weekend. I always love reading other runners recaps of races that I also ran. My recap is available here:

  66. 107

    I’m running this marathon (first ever!) in Portland in May so it is great to see some photos in action! Congrats on a new PR – how exciting!!




  1. […] motivating and inspiring. Check out these great race recaps from the last week: Ashley, Meghann, Anne, & […]

  2. […] a new half marathon PR at the Rock ‘n’ Roll USA last […]

  3. […] finish line together at 1:43:44 for an average pace of 7:54 minute/miles, smashing my PR from the Rock ‘n’ Roll USA half marathon last month by nearly 5 minutes! I’m so […]

  4. […] and bands along the way. This will be my third year doing the race (last year’s recap: 2013 Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Half Marathon, and the recap from 2011 when it was still the National Half: National Half […]

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