2013 Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Half Marathon Recap

Or…that time I took 5 minutes off of my old half PR.


See those faces? Those are the faces of two very happy women who ran 1:50 half marathons on Saturday at the Rock ‘n’ Roll DC Half!

After my crappy run last Sunday, I was really nervous about this race. I ran again on Monday and had another crappy run and my confidence took a huge hit. Friday, when I got down to D.C., I did a little shakeout run in my old ‘hood.

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Hello Chinatown arch, good to see you again.

I have had asthma since I was a kid, but once I lost 50 pounds and took up running, it got much, much better. So I was really frustrated when after just two miles, I came back to the hotel a wheezy mess. WTF. If I was wheezing after 18 minutes, how was I going to run strong for one hour and fifty-four minutes the next day?

I grabbed dinner with Laura and hoped for the best the next morning. I’d bring my inhaler, I told myself, just in case I needed it. (Thank god I always pack it just in case.)

I woke up the next morning at 5:55 with plans to leave for the race at 6:30 with Laura and Emily. We were all nervous messes for different reasons: Laura’s Garmin hadn’t charged and this was Emily’s first half. Go read her recap. I teared up.


I’m so proud of her!

I knew Fiona and Anne would be in the corral in front of me, so I decided to sneak into their corral so that I could hopefully see a familiar face before i started.

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When I didn’t see either of them by 7:20, I started getting more nervous and took to occupying myself with taking photos to distract myself from my nervousness. The past bunch of long races I’d PR-ed had been with someone, and I started to become nervous about PRing running solo. I also did a few stretches and sucked back a few puffs of my inhaler.


[photo credit: Anne]

By some miracle, I spied Anne just a few minutes later and Fiona popped into our corral about a minute after that. I knew Anne was gunning for sub-1:49 and was planning on going out at an 8:19 pace. BYE! SEE YOU LATER! Fiona and I chatted for a second. She knew this was a goal race for me, and she said her training wasn’t where she wanted it to be. Jess‘s pace plan for me was to run the first 10 between an 8:32-8:52 pace and drop to an 8:30 at mile 10. I asked Fiona if she felt up to running an 8:40ish pace, and she said she did.


Just before the start, I set the Virtual Partner on my Garmin to an 8:42 pace, which would work out to a 1:55 finish. I truly did not have any other goals going into this race other than to PR, so I set my sights on 1:55. I can’t decide whether I love Fiona or the VP more right now.

We took off and I did my usual internal freaking out about why the hell I was running such a big race, and why I was shooting for what felt like such an ambitious goal. Maybe that 1:55:24 was a fluke. Maybe I wouldn’t be able to do it. Maybe my asthma would bother me. I was hot. (I had checked the weather for NYC on my phone, not D.C. Oops.)

We hit the first mile at 8:52, although I remember every time I looked at the lap pace during that mile it being lower than that. We ran the next mile at a speedy 8:07, and I started feeling cocky. Maybe I could keep that up for the next 11.1? We hit the 2-mile marker, and I said, “Wow, we’re at mile 2 already!” at the same exact second that Fiona deadpanned “only 11 miles to go.” We ran across the Memorial Bridge (just like in nearly every other D.C. race that I’ve run), and I remember seeing the cameras at this point and grinning like a fool. I felt great!

For the next 5 miles, we were still running well under the 8:32 – 8:52 range I was supposed to stay in. I knew that there was a huge hill coming up, and I was figured that these fast miles would give us some time in the bank for when we inevitably slowed down on that hill.


[photo credit: Anne]

Just before mile 6, I spotted Ericka by her bright striped pants and we ran with her for a bit. You could see this big hill coming (this photo does NOT do it justice), and I told both of the girls not to look to their left. (They, of course, looked immediately to their left.)

This hill fell just around the halfway point in the course, so I was a bit nervous to burn my legs out. I tried to run strong but not blaze up the hill, knowing that I’d had some time in the bank from the earlier miles. This mile ended up being the slowest, a 9:02. I’d started my Gu around mile 5.5, and I sucked the rest of it back going up this hill. I needed all the help I could get!

Fiona lagged a bit behind me on the hill, but I kept turning around looking for her. I needed my buddy!! Sure enough, she caught up at the top, and I had never been so happy to see anyone. (Sorry Mom, Dad and all ex-boyfriends.)

After this hill, Fiona suggested that we take the next few miles at a chill pace and pick it up around 9.5 or 10. Considering all the time we had in the bank, this was fine by me. 8:31 and 8:10 ended up being “at a chill pace.” Oops. As we ran through Columbia Heights and the Howard University area, the course began to look familiar again. (They changed the first 7 or so miles, and they’d changed the start from by RFK to on Constitution to alleviate the bottlenecking that had happened with runners all coming in on one Metro stop at Stadium Armory.) The new beginning ran through Rock Creek Park and on Calvert, and was much more neighborhood-y than it had been the previous two years I ran it. Even though I lived in D.C. for seven years and had seen all of the monument and touristy stuff a million times, I still missed the course covering that part of the city, and I’d imagine other out-of-town runners did too.

We got to mile 8 and cruised down a huge downhill (which Fiona totally killed, btw. That woman knows how to crush a downhill.) to run past the reservoir. I remembered this from years prior and how one year my stomach got really upset at that exact point and it started having sympathy pains. I pushed thoughts of my stomach out of my mind and told myself to just focus on the run. If I had to stop, I’d stop but there was no point in worrying. It was around this point I started checking the Virtual Partner and saw that I was between 2-3 minutes ahead of 1:55, and I started getting excited. I was still nervous I’d somehow burn out, but I was feeling good.

Around mile 10, without any more dicussion, we picked the pace up and clocked that one in at 8:09. As we went into Mile 11, Fiona was looking more closely at her watch than I was and knew that I was on track for a HUGE PR, but she wouldn’t tell me how big because she knew I might psyche myself out. And I hit that mile at 7:50. I think I did get a little psyched out at that 7:40 and hit mile 11 in 8:09, and I took another half a Gu here. Here’s where we started running down H Street, and I recognized lots of bars and restaurants and remembered how close we were to the finish. I hadn’t been complaining out loud, although I’d definitely started to feel uncomfortable, and Fiona turned and said to me, “This is supposed to be uncomfortable. We’re almost there, and we’ve been running hard.” It was exactly what I needed to hear right then, and I kept that in my mind for the rest of the race.

When we reached the end of H Street and turned, I gave it absolutely everything I had. I remember hitting mile 12 around 1:40 and thinking that, perhaps if I really pushed it, I could miraculously get under 1:50 and made this my goal for the rest of the race. I remembered the last .1 feeling interminable last year, and I visualized myself running strongly through that finish line. I hit 13 right around 1:48 or 1:49 and tried to do some more mental math to figure out if it was possible but I hit 1:50 before the finish line. FINE. Under 1:51 became my new goal…

AND I DID IT! Fiona and I had separated around mile 12 when I just started powering on. She’d told me early on that it was my race that I was trying to PR and to leave her if I was feeling stronger, and I told her to do the same, but as soon as I crossed that finish line, I turned around and looked for her and gave her a huge hug the second I saw her. I couldn’t have done it without her.

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When I started running, my times always put me in the bottom half of the pack, but in this race, I was definitely in the top 25%! (I think I like this age group.)

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Once Fiona had to leave, I started looking for Anne, and we stretched holding each other up. NBD. She also got an amazing PR!


[photo via Anne, who has mastered the arm-out selfie.]

We’d been tweeting with the Rock ‘n’ Roll people and Anne had some baggage issues, so we ended up in the VIP tent picking up her bag/drinking mimosas/basking in our PRs/hanging out with the Rock ‘n’ Roll PR people.


  • Fiona. Obviously.
  • Gu, for providing me with a free bib in exchange for me writing about my love of vanilla bean sugary goodness in foil packets.
  • Jess, for coaching me to this PR!
  • Uplift, for making my legs stronger
  • Laughing Lotus, for loosening my legs up


It seems like everyone who raced this weekend PR-ed, but here are just a few awesome recaps to read. If you raced this weekend and PR-ed (hell, even if you didn’t PR!), leave me a link to your recap in the comments!

Oh, and now I want to find a race SOON to do sub-1:50! Criteria: cheap, in NY or NJ. Go.
*Edited to add: My buddies at Uplift would like you to know that you can get 1/2 off a class if you bring your bib in this week!*

38 comments on “2013 Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Half Marathon Recap

  1. Anne

    Awesome recap! So proud of you – and so fun hanging this weekend. Also, that photo of us doing buddy stretching is a new fave. 🙂 xo

  2. Liv

    Amazing job!! Congratulations on the PR 🙂 I suggest the Atlantic City Half Marathon!! 4/6 – starts at Revel. This will be my first half!

  3. Mom

    All I can say is this one made me cry!!!! I felt everything you felt, every bump in the road and every breath you took, so very proud of you for accomplishing your goal and beyond and thanks to all your great friends for being there for you.


  4. Dori

    YESSS congrats!! I knew you had a PR in you. I can’t believe how fast you’ve gotten and how much you’ve improved – it is so impressive. You’re my role model!

  5. Jess

    Gah! I am SO PROUD OF YOU!!!!! Seriously, that’s a HUGE PR and an awesome race you ran…love, love, LOVE IT!!!! (and makes me KIND of itch to want to run another half…which I hadn’t planned on wanting to do this year, believe it or not. hmm.)

  6. Victoria

    Congrats again on the PR, and I’m excited to see you shoot for sub-1:50. Should be easy if you don’t have the Mile of Truth (the name we’ve given to mile 6 of that course for years because it humbles everybody).

    1. Theodora Post author

      @Victoria: It sure as hell was the Mile of Truth. I do think I need to find a sort of hilly half to try for sub-1:50 – I do pretty well with hills because I can cruise on the downhill.

  7. Cathryn

    Blinding run! Congratulations!!! You and I are (were?) about the same speed, my current half PR is 1.55.34 – now you’ve got me thinking I need to push harder!! Thanks for the butt-kicking for this weekend’s half-marathon!!! Well done on an amazing run.

  8. Cindy

    That is so awesome! I had a huge grin on my face reading this. You’ve really motivated me to try to get back out there and run. 🙂

    1. Theodora Post author

      You can do it! Just a year and a half ago, breaking 2 was so daunting to me…and then I ran a 1:50 this weekend! 🙂

  9. Suzanne

    Theodora, I read your bio and then read this whole blog! Great stuff, how many marathons are you planning?

    I found that once you get to a level where running is relatively easy i.e. you’re not keeling over after just one or two miles then running became quite fun. Keep going girl.

  10. Joy

    This weekend I got the priveledge of pacing a friend who was running her first 5k! She’s lost 79 pounds since September and her goal was just to finish and not only did she finish she did it with no walk breaks on a VERY hilly course!

  11. Meghan

    Congrats Theodora! I am so excited for you! I was tracking you on my computer Saturday morning and was amazed! You negative split the crap out of the sucker. I’m going to have to run my next race with all of these thoughts in mind. Nice going!! I’m impressed.

  12. Ashley

    Congrats on your PR! I’ve been reading so many amazing half marathon stories lately and I think that I’m finally almost ready to sign up for one… ah!

  13. Matthew

    Congrats on the PR! I came across your blog as I was looking for race recaps to see what people thought of the course and the race organization. I found the former to be pretty swell and the latter to be severely lacking vis-a-vis hydration stations. I also am not used to hills, so my time increased 16 minutes from my last race in Fort Lauderdale a month ago! Argh. Time to shake up my workouts, I guess.

  14. Liz H

    This is awesome. Makes me want to PR a half. I haven’t broke 2 hours in like 3 years. Sad face. And yes, I am creeping on all your posts this morning. Busy day in the office.


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