Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh half marathon – Raleigh, NC (2015)

Going into my second Rock ‘n’ Roll race, I had heard all about the hills. They were certainly consistent – lots of ups and downs on this course, but none like the one we had in DC which forced us into a walk to reach the top. 

But, let’s back it up a little bit and talk about the expo. I haven’t been to downtown Raleigh since the NHL All-Star Game in 2011, but I recognized a lot of the buildings as we were making our way to the Convention Center for the expo. Unfortunately  this time, there were no hockey player ads in the business’ windows, but Sir Walter Raleigh was dressed in a race bib, knee brace and guitar!

The expo was a little smaller than DC and there were a lot of similar vendors, but we had fun checking out all of the booths. We didn’t arrive at the expo until about an hour before they were closing and, again, it wasn’t very crowded. This race had about half of the runners of DC, so we were able to start in corral 13 this time, even with the same expected finish time.

There were three of us that took the trek to Raleigh and we were lucky enough to be able to stay with a friend instead of having to rent a hotel room, but this meant we would need to make sure we got into the city before the roads started closing. Our instructions told us we needed to be parked by 5:30 since the roads would start closing at 6:00 for the 7:00 start time. Last year, there were a lot of issues with the parking in Raleigh, so some changes were made (including not paying until you exited the garage instead of on the way in) and we had no trouble getting into the first garage we went to and were able to park on the second level. Given the cooler morning temperature, we decided to stay in our car until we had to leave to drop off our stuff at gear check. 

Around 6:20, we gathered our stuff and headed out to find our way to gear check… and promptly got lost. We were in the right general vicinity of where we needed to be, but the signs weren’t as plentiful this time and we weren’t exactly sure where we were headed, so we took an extra block out of our way before heading the right direction. The gear check ended up being in its own parking lot (with its own set of porta-potties), very close to the finish line festival. Once we got everything dropped off, we headed back to the start and realized that we were going to be cutting it close to the start time, so we just walked against the crowd so that as the corrals were released, we wouldn’t miss ours. We easily found our corral, got someone to take our picture and then got ready to run!

  • Mile 1 – 10:01
  • Mile 2 – 10:35
  • Mile 3 – 10:31
  • Mile 4 – 10:53
  • Mile 5 – 10:43
  • Mile 6 – 11:04
  • Mile 7 – 11:20
  • Mile 8 – 11:51
  • Mile 9 – 11:18
  • Mile 10 – 11:09
  • Mile 11 – 11:58
  • Mile 12 – 11:55
  • Mile 13 – 11:23
  • Last .2 – 9:02
Average pace: 11:05
Official time: 2:27:30

After we finished, we gathered back together at the gear check area and eventually wandered toward the finish line festival where Smashmouth was the headliner. One of my friends was running the marathon, so I only heard the beginning of one of their songs before I headed back out to the course to cheer on the runners, but not before taking an obligatory post-race medal picture.

By the time I made my way to the street, we were approaching the 4-hour mark from the start of the race and the crowd had definitely thinned out a bit from the time I had finished. The good part about that was that the announcers were able to do a more personal “welcome” for all the runners who were coming to the finish line and at one point, I heard them say, “I hope those are tears of joy because you are officially a marathoner!” It was really inspiring to see all of the people coming in – the official “caboose” ladies who were walking with balloons bringing in the last of the half marathoners and the marathoners who were sometimes coming in groups of 3-5, but mostly coming in alone. (Keep in mind, all of these people were running at least 1.5-2 minutes faster per mile than I’m planning for my second marathon.) There was a woman in her 60’s who was kicking it at the end and definitely brought lots of loud cheers from the crowd as well as a woman who had clearly fallen at some point during the race because her knees and elbows were bleeding. At races like this, you’ll see all levels of people. When we were coming into the last mile or so of the half marathon, we got passed by the two lead male marathoners – the first place guy finished his marathon just 13 minutes slower than I finished the half marathon! I wasn’t sure which corral my friend started in, and I didn’t really know when he would be finishing, but he came in at the 4:22 mark, averaging a 10:01 pace which is a great accomplishment on a course as tough as this one – the hills may not have been super steep, but they were unrelenting. We were able to catch up a bit before going our separate ways and talk about all of the crazy races we have coming up (Nashville for me and an ultra relay for him).

Overall, I liked this race, but I could see it being a really tough course if it was any warmer (like it was last year) because there are sections that don’t have much, if any, shade. There was fairly good crowd support throughout the race, and while there still weren’t many bands (less than DC, but a few more boom boxes on the side of the road), I think it’s a good race. We’ll see if there are any more bands in the Nashville race, but as a whole, I think Pittsburgh had more bands than either of the Rock ‘n’ Roll races I’ve done so far. I think they’re a nice-to-have on the course, but I can see why some people get upset considering these races appear to be built upon the presence of music on the course. I’ve also heard a couple of complaints about the t-shirt design (it’s a squirrel holding a banjo, in case you can’t tell from the picture) – Raleigh is the “City of Oaks” so it does make some sense and I think it’s pretty funny, but clearly not everyone feels the same.

Have you done the Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh race?

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