Last year, I ran a local half-marathon event which was relatively small (300+ runners). Angela, having work conflicts, didn’t run any formal event, but did run 13.1 miles with me on what was dubbed the First Annual Angela Dyer Birthday Half-Marathon, which actually took place last Labor Day (e.g. – not her birthday). This year, we thought we’d give a much larger race a try. In fact, this would be the largest event any of us had ever run in: The Virginia Beach Rock and Roll Half Marathon.
We weren’t going to be running this one alone, though. Stacie Johnson and Matt Thomas were running as well, and they’d be joined on the trip to Virginia by Stacie’s husband, Jason for both moral support and logistics. This race has around 20,000 participants, and so logistics were going to be very important, as it would turn out. We all met up at the hotel the evening before1, after going to pick up race packets (including bib numbers and time chips) at the nearly complete VA Beach Convention Center. After getting some recommendations from a local friend of mine, Scott, we all went out to dinner at a little mom & pop Italian restaurant for some proper pre-race dining. Since all of us take photos to at least some degree, that along with exercise, was the topic of discussion for most of the evening. After Matt had treated us all to our hearts content of pasta, Scott treated us to some ice cream at a local drive up joint. We did our best to turn in early and said our good-nights to Scott.
The next morning was a quick get-ready for the race, where Jason dumped us off just in time to make it to the start line. Just in time to stand around and wait, that is. Races this large start in waves, and ours were all back in the middle at best. Some 20 minutes after the first start gun fired, Matt and I were off. He wisely observed the crowds were way too dense on the course to have any hope of running the race together, so we each did our own thing, bobbing and weaving around the course for several miles (truth be told, all the way to the finish line).
The course, being all at sea level is about as flat as race courses get. The only
hill is the bridge over the marina, and that isn’t even exactly very steep or challenging; and this coming from a guy who trains in Richmond, VA. There is enough variation on the course to make it go by relatively quickly, at least, until the end. The last two miles (give or take) are along the
boardwalk. This is explained in the brochures as some sort of romantic selling point for the race. In truth, as Jason J. described it, the
boardwalk is much more accurately described by slab-walk as this was two miles over hard concrete under the baking sun. You’re about as East as East gets in VA, short of running along the wet sand, so to say the least: there’s no shade. Running through the many misters (pipes that spray water mist, not actually male humans) provides some relief, but the only real relief came in the form of ice cubes handed out at the end of the race, placed inside of the wet hand-towel also doled out there.
I had a time I could be fairly happy with (2:06) and wasn’t throwing up anything (probably because there was nothing in me…), so I felt pretty good. I found Matt not too long after the race. We got some more ice and got in line for our free beer. While it was an effective way to get some quick carbs, after two hours of strenuous exercise, it doesn’t take too much alcohol to push me over (though, as things turned out, I had some time before I would need to drive anywhere). Jason found us standing near the agreed meeting spot (the names-beginning-with‑X,Y,-or‑Z sign; it seemed like such a good idea the night before). Angela and the Stacie came along very shortly there-after. We began our walk to the bus pick-up to get a ride back to Jason’s car, which he had smartly parked within a block of one of the bus stops. After walking about 12 blocks and then waiting in a line that wrapped another block-and-a-half, we packed onto a bus. Too bad this bus was heading the wrong way: out to the VA Beach amphitheater. You may not know (we certainly didn’t): that’s no where near downtown VA Beach, where Jason had parked. Well after a long, but eventually restful bus ride back to our car (no thanks to a rude bus driver who only brought us back after being told to do so by her superior).
We managed to get back to the hotel and eek out some quick showers before finding a nice restaurant nearby to celebrate. We did so in style, with good food and some good microbrews (as well as a waitress who was really, really
friendlychatty). Afterwards, we grabbed some coffee for the drive to Richmond, where our two-car caravan headed for to enjoy a couple more evenings of rest and friends.
- Angela and I were held up in traffic on the way over to the Beach and ended up taking the long way there. [↩]