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Disclosure: I was a member of the 2016, 2017, and 2018 Rock ‘n’ Blog teams. As a member of the team, I received complimentary entries to Rock ‘n’ Roll races, including Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle (and other perks). This post is not sponsored, edited, or written (in any way) by the Rock ‘n’ Roll series or Competitor Group (or its new owner, Ironman, or Ironman’s  former owner, Wanda Sports Company, or current owner Advance Publications, Inc.). All opinions are my own.

two runners running
I found Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame-rs and 100-time Rock ‘n’ Roll runners Ron and Kamika on course!

I started this post in 2018, long long long before COVID-19 decimated the 2020 racing season. No joke. I was unable to bring myself to finish it since I found the race pretty disappointing (based on what was promised v. what was delivered) and I felt guilty posting another not-so-glowing review of a series I was supposed to be representing. I tried to pick it up again after Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle 2019, but felt like a Negative Nellie. There’s nothing wrong with the race, it’s just…I’m feeling kinda meh about the whole thing. So I poked and prodded this review for quite some time, which is why you’re now reading a fall review of a spring race. Apologies in advance, but you know I’ve gotta keep it real.

Which Year Is It?

I’ve run the Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle Half Marathon since 2015. (Check out my 2015 review!) That was the year I first met Mat Miles Medals (at Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona) and I had only recently met (at Rock ‘n’ Roll San Francisco) SmartWatermelon. I stayed at the nearby Hotel Pineapple, rented a car, and had dinner with the Seattle office of the firm I was working for at the time.

In 2016, after two nights of no sleep, I was wide awake and ready to take on Seattle! No, no, I was not. (I already reviewed that race!) Or was that 2017? 2018? This year? Every year. 2017 was the last year I flew from California to Washington for the race; it’s less expensive to take a Bolt Bus (2018) or drive (2019) from Portland (which makes it easier to pack every single thing you might want instead of obsessing about the weather). I was a little groggy and worried about whether I had packed the right clothes for the weather, which is a perpetual concern with spring races in the Pacific Northwest; I actually debated whether to try to use some of my post-race clothing as race clothing. After spending some time cursing races for starting so freakishly early on weekends, I pried myself out of bed and put on some clothes. (I saved the post-race clothes.) In 2018 I bought a last-minute stretchy zip-up hoodie at Ross, which I wore for the entire race and post-race.

Each of these years, per usual, I missed the pre-race groupie photos of various run clubs. Most of my running groups that want to snap pictures meet early, by which I mean EARLY, before the first corral starts, because there are actually fast runners who want to be in the pictures. That’s awesome, but at a race like Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle where there are a billion runners and I’m in corral 250, it’s already going to be an hour before I get to start. (I didn’t keep track this year, but my first year running Seattle I really did wait an entire hour before my corral started. I literally sat down in the parking lot and stretched and drank coffee. In 2018 I walked from my hotel to the start line, saw how long the line was to the start, and found a gas station where I could acquire coffee and a donut.) Maybe I will start a tradition of the “I slept in” photo…

runners at the expo
Take a look at those Pro Compression socks! (Yeah, expo groupies are the only ones I tend to make.)

A Most Mysterious Race

Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle is a bit of an enigma. I really want to like it, especially since it’s pretty clear Rock ‘n’ Roll isn’t welcome in Portland. (RIP Rock ‘n’ Roll Portland. I will miss the airport carpeting finish line.) And actually maybe running downtown isn’t welcome in Portland, if we’re being honest. It’s a destination event for many runners (some of whom spend the day before the race doing the typical tourist things like the bubblegum wall, aquarium, and Pike Place Market), and just another run weekend for those trying to hit the 15-race-mark for Rock ‘n’ Roll’s “Hall of Fame.” (That has become more elusive as the number of races in the United States has dwindled. No idea what they will do about 2020.) The only thing that seems to stay the same each year is the location of the Expo–and even that has gotten disappointingly smaller.

About That 5k

I haven’t run the 5k for the Remix medal since Rock ‘n’ Roll discontinued the shuttle bus service. The 5k is staged at the Museum of Flight, which is right at the southern end of Seattle, out by the old Boeing Field. It’s waaaaay too far to walk from the central downtown area, which is why there was originally a shuttle bus. (The shuttle cost extra–it wasn’t included in the price of the race, even though entry was already at a premium and priced well above the locally produced 5k events, of which there are many.) While I haven’t personally looked into it, friends tell me that navigating the otherwise excellent Seattle bus system to get down to the Museum of Flight in time for the start is difficult. On the other hand, taking a cab, Uber, or Lyft is expensive. So unless you’re committed or have a car, it’s a little inaccessible. The 5k is a fun shake-out, basically an out-and-back loop around the area, which has some decent shade and some historic planes outside. The Museum was open pre-race, which meant access to snacks, decent coffee, and–perhaps most important–toilets that flush.

The Magical Shrinking Expo

Every year the race’s expo is at Centurylink Field, in the exhibitor area. This is convenient in that it’s easy to get there by transit and has plenty of parking. Each year, the expo appears to be shrinking. In 2015 the expo had a robust representation of local races, including the Blooms to Brews (which the city of Woodland, WA stupidly refused to grant a permit for 2020). There were also numerous smaller businesses exhibiting race-related or theoretically race-applicable items. (I distinctly remember a booth with costume jewelry and hair clips from 2015 or 2016.) In 2019, only a few of the largest Seattle races had a booth, and the expo was less than half the size it was in 2015. I arrived about two hours before the end of the expo on Saturday, and some of the booths were already closed. That’s fine for me, but I feel bad for those who are running their first Big Race since I see a vibrant expo as part of the experience. Registration was still open–the race did not sell out–though I’m not sure who would pay $189 for a marathon given local race prices. In 2019 the Rock ‘n’ Roll/Brooks shop’s credit card machines were down (they were very apologetic and said it was an internet problem with the building, which I thought was ironic in a place bearing the name Centurylink, but then I managed to buy from Pro Compression and Tailwind using a credit card without any problems, so…).

The Ever-Changing Course

Seattle must be a difficult place to stage a race. The past few years have seen massive construction, including replacement and (still only partial!) removal of the viaduct, which the past years’ courses ran atop. I know that Portland is impossibly stingy with what and where they will allow running events, so I can only assume Seattle is the same, and that this explains why Rock ‘n’ Roll has changed the course substantially every year I have run it. The race has started or ended at the University of Washington and beneath the Space Needle; as a point-to-point course it also ended at the Centurylink Field parking lot twice during the years I have participated. While I personally thought it was clever to stage multiple miles of the 2019 race on the HOV freeway lanes (closed during the early Sunday morning hours), other runners I talked to HATED it.

I don’t have many complaints, other than where the eff were all the port potties this year?!?  The lines at the first ones I passed had at least 40 people (yes, I counted), and the demand was so great that the individual port-potties set out for the bands to use also had a line of 30+. I get that it’s inconvenient to put porta-potties on the HOV lane of the freeway…but if they can do it for the bands–and set up stages besides–why not for the runners?? I waited until I could wait no longer, by which time I was off the freeway and into a neighborhood, and still ended up in a line of 20+ people and only 4-5 porta-potties. Even more annoying, there was NO SIGN or other indication that there were another 8-10 porta-potties just at the end of the block. Having stood still-ish for quite a long time (you know how sometimes nature calls and you can’t just send her to voice mail?) I was PISSED when I saw that line of porta-potties, with ZERO people waiting in line. I easily could have saved 10 minutes there. COME ON, for the love of all that is holy, surely an organization that puts on races knows better?!?

Flat Bain
Flat Bain (always take your Road ID!)

The 2019 course featured a gigantic climb up Queen Anne Hill towards the end. I did not appreciate this. (The climb was less challenging than the very steep uphill trudge of 2018, but still!) The views were lovely, but I’d much rather have had the super steep downhill at the very end as an uphill at the very beginning. One of the downsides of a constantly changing course is that the neighborhoods don’t develop any traditions. At the old Portland Marathon, for example, neighbors would picnic outside, with kids dressed up and banging drums or waving pompoms; at Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego, several neighbors have “unofficial aid stations” with adult beverages and puppies. There were two girls with donuts along part of the course this year, but it’s not the same energy as I’ve experienced on courses that have been consistent for long enough for traditions to develop. While there were a few entertaining locals outside of the “Grey’s Anatomy” house, the race course will probably change again next year.

On-Course Amenities Delivered, Mostly

In 2018, Rock ‘n’ Roll promised music every mile, and more aid stations on the course. The “music every mile” never delivered, and even some of the mile-marker speakers (independently streaming music from I don’t know where) malfunctioned, alternating between music, static, and silence. Similarly, I could have used more music in 2019. At least the aid stations were well-stocked and had supplies when I passed them, but since I’ve determined that I prefer fuel other than the series’ sponsor’s gels and hydration (I was packing Tailwind) it didn’t affect my race. Since it IS an improvement over past years–especially for the “back of the packers” that Rock ‘n’ Roll claims to support, I’ll call it a win.

Let’s Talk VIP and Finish Line

The year Kamika made Seattle his 100th Rock ‘n’ Roll race, I had access to VIP. (If you saw a bunch of people with smiley-face pineapples pinned to them, that’s what that was about–Kamika is from Hawai’i.) That year, the course started at UW and ended at CenturyLink. Pre-race VIP was rather miserably cold, with a cold wind blowing off the field and through the entrance to the VIP brunch area (the concourse between the upper and lower decks, inside the stadium). While there were a dozen strategically placed gas tower heaters–the kind you see outdoors at restaurants and bars–NONE of them were in use. Instead, a few measly electric heaters were irregularly spaced around the area, heating only the ankles of those in the immediate (like 2 feet) area. Apparently the good folks at Ironman had not bothered to clear the gas powered heaters with the UW stadium management, who put the kibosh on their use in the stadium. (Perhaps Iroman shouldn’t have axed most of the Competitor Group’s VIP staff? Maybe it’s just me?) I was also very annoyed that the lines for the women’s bathroom at the VIP area pre-race were crazy long, while the men’s line only had 1-2 people in it at any time. At the beginning of the day, women were told they could ONLY use the ONE bathroom, but eventually we mutinied–there’s no logically reason why we were banned from the bathroom that was literally right across the hall, especially when the UW stadium was built in the era where bathrooms were built one-to-one. (In modern architecture for places of mass accommodation, there are more women’s bathrooms–or more stalls within them–than men’s rooms.) Both lines got bad enough that the women eventually took over the men’s room as well.

Bain drinks chocolate milk
Chocolate milk at the finish line!

Post-race, at the same race, VIP at the Centurylink field was just okay. It had a good view of the band, but was (again) cold. I, pale runner who avoids the sun, was jockeying space to get some sunlight. The year I did not have VIP access (and the race ended at Centurylink field) was also really cold, and I remember seeing an ice cream booth and thinking it would be lovely and I’d buy some on any other day. (Turns out they only accepted cash anyway. Seriously.) That year, sponsor Alaska Airlines had a tweet-for-a-treat machine that was really fun–I still have the model plane with my race medals, and one of my friends who really needed it won a free round-trip airfare.

That said, I’m glad the finish line moved back to the Space Needle and surrounding park areas in 2018 and 2019. Overall, it is a much better area for bands, and it’s got much more welcoming room for dogs and families. Also critical, access to indoor potties pre-race! I did take the VIP route my very first year at Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle–which had a start and end at the Space Needle area–and pre-race it was pretty great: a separate VIP gear truck, and a decent brunch spread in advance. (I have no idea what the post-race food looked like, as it was all gone when I finished that year.)

Sad Swag (whomp whomp)

Like other races in the series, race swag has declined. Last year, Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle had one of the almost-generic guitar-pick medals. This year the design showed the Seattle skyline and a plane, but it was so generic as to inspire a “isn’t this the same medal as last year?” from a friend of mine for whom Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle was her first (and now third) half marathon. Literally she’d only done three races, and thought the medal was a clone. Like Rock ‘n’ Roll San Francisco, the shirts are made of a cheap fabric that isn’t breathable; the actual graphic is decent, but the placement on the women’s shirts is awkward, and the graphic large enough to make the shirt stiff. I’m a bit surprised that series sponsor Brooks–a company that makes very nice, breathable athletic wear with quality fabrics–is okay with having their logo on the shirt. Like I said, the design is nice and I might use it in a shirt quilt or something, but there’s a zero chance I will wear it.

The Verdict?

Overall, I’d say Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle is worth your while in a number of discrete circumstances:

  1. You are aiming for Hall of Fame and therefore need to hit every US race. (Buy the TourPass Unlimited.)
  2. You live nearby and won’t pay a ton of travel expenses, and have purchased the race during the pre-sale, the December sale, or the Running Day Sale.
  3. You know a bunch of your friends will be there, and you’re in for social events and shenanigans in addition to the race. (That’s why I run.)

If you’re going to run it don’t pay full price. (If you don’t have a TourPass, buy early, or at one of the sales. This is NOT a $189 race.) If you’re just looking for a race in Washington state, you’ve got plenty of other options–there’s a reason the Marathon Maniacs and Half Fanatics were founded here. If you want a race in Seattle, the Mercer Island Half is nice, and I’ve heard good things about the Seattle Marathon and races in nearby Tacoma.

Since I live in Portland, have a close friend who did Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle as her first race (and remembers to make massage appointments at The Dream Clinic post-race), and have free crash space, I’ll likely be back in 2020. True confession: I was going to buy at the pre-sale in December…and then I was going to buy a three-pack…and then the virus started to shut down races…and so I still haven’t registered.

Have you ever run Rock ‘n ‘ Roll Seattle? What did you think?

Disclosure: I returned to the Blue Ridge Marathon races in 2019 as one of the official race ambassador-bloggers. Race ambassadors receive free entry, swag, and the VIP experience in exchange for assistance in promoting this race. Speaking of the race, you can register for 2020 RIGHT HERE.  See you then?

Funny story, I distinctly remember getting to mile 19, but all of my notes from 2017 say I stopped at mile 17… If you missed Part 1, I recommend you start there.

Avenging a DNF Begins With…

Molly Bullington gives the 2017 course preview lecture

When registration opened for 2018, I signed up to run. In the interim I changed jobs and moved back to Oregon, so the 2018 race didn’t happen for me. In 2019, I signed up again. I also applied to join the ambassador team again, to help spread the word about how much I love this race. I also signed up for the training program again. I also did not finish the training program again….yeah, so life happens sometimes, and you have to put o your grownup-pants and decide what to do. Undertrained, a little fatter, but basically eager to return to Roanoke and give it another try anyway, I decided to go for it. Jackie also planned to return and run the double, but unfortunately she injured herself and had to drop out. I ended up rooming with Jessica, which was perfect (though I’m bummed Jessica and Jackie didn’t get to meet, as I’m sure they’d get along famously!). This year I flew into Raleigh, met friends for dinner, and spent the night before the drive up to Roanoke. The drive is pretty and green, and not very stressful even though it took me about three hours; Google maps sent me up largely on state highways that I would not have guessed were highways, and I saw lots of both North Carolina and Virginia. (At one point I pulled off the road to make sure I was still getting directions!)

Expo 2019 at the Patrick Henry

The Finish Line That Eluded Me in 2017!

In 2017 the Expo was in a different location, so it was a bit like going to a new race. On the way into the hotel, representatives from Foot Levelers greeted each runner with a cinch-backpack and stickers for the appropriate distance. Packet pickup was upstairs, and the traffic flow was pretty much perfect to get your packet, walk past some tables for local races, and then head back down the stairs. One thing I love about this expo is that the race-specific merchandise is all high-quality, with a smaller (but awesome!) selection. Since I have sweet ambassador swag to rock, this year I bought one of the Deneen pottery 10th anniversary ceramic mugs. There is always a tasting for the hydration on course (Skratch fluid, as well as the gummies) and the local Fleet Feet had a selection of race-day essentials on hand. I snagged a Squirrel Nut Butter (that stuff is the best!). This year, Get 2 Know Noke sponsored a happy hour lounge, with one free beer or flavored non-alcoholic seltzer for everyone who signed up for their mailing list. The Roanoke area is right next to the Blue Ridge Parkway (you know, the race goes there?) which is managed by the National Park Service, and the hiking, biking, and running are all high-quality. Jessica introduced me to some of the other BibRave Pros running the event, and we took a break before heading over to dinner.

They don’t build hotels like the Patrick Henry anymore.

Pasta Dinner & Galloway Running School

I love these chairs at the Roanoke Library–functional but also art

I knew from the 2017 event that I wanted a ticket for the pasta dinner. Not only was it the easiest pre-race dinner, it also meant seating for the Friday night concert, and shelter from the rain (it rained a little bit, but it wasn’t a big deal—no more than sprinkles). This year, Jeff Galloway came to run the Blue Ridge Marathon for the first time and as part of his appearances he was offering “Jeff Galloway’s Running School.” I signed up because I wasn’t sure when I’d have the opportunity to attend again, and as a certified run coach I figured it would be neat to hear from an Olympian.

 

 

 

 

When you run up the mountains, you ought to enjoy the views.

Running School was not what I expected. First, there were no handouts or outlines. I took plenty of notes though, so here are the highlights (at least as I saw them). Jeff is very big on some material I’m not familiar with yet, a book called Spark that is supposed to recap research showing running promotes brain health, and another book called The Story of the Human Body that emphasizes that running was a short distance activity for most of human history. That led to an explanation of how and why to use “walk breaks,” which are key to what has come to be called the Galloway method. He explained how he lays out his training plans, as well as his observations—most of which are based on his experience coaching, as opposed to data from weekend-warrior types runners—which include using a long run that is longer than the distance of the goal race. (On the theory that people tend to hit the wall within a mile of the long run they did in the three weeks prior to the race.) This is the opposite theory of the Hanson’s Method, which also seems to be producing fine runners.

Jeff Galloway is now in his 70s, and has run six days per week, every week, since he was 16 years old. This turned out to be both an advantage and a disadvantage, as some of his advice on injuries and performance nutrition haven’t kept pace with the most current research. For example, he doesn’t recommend ANY type of warm-up prior to running, and instead uses the first mile as his warm-up. This might be great for someone who has run six days a week for several decades, but it doesn’t seem like great advice for those of us who drive a desk five days a week and don’t run as often. (He’s right that pre-run static stretching is a terrible idea though—the research tends to show stretching before stressing the muscle decreases performance and increases the risk of injuries). He’s also still a fan of ice, which I agree has its place but shouldn’t be used on joints or after every run—inflammation is a result of the healing process, and is necessary for muscles to repair themselves. I disagree with some of his very broad-brushstroke nutrition advice, including what to eat the morning of the race (he says nothing, unless you need it for “gastric motility;” I’d pass out if I ran without eating some carbs and a wee bit of protein an hour or 90 minutes before the race) and salt (he says avoid salty food on the grounds that it takes plasma from the blood and makes it harder for the body to replace lost fluids; I notice that I need salty foods to replace the electrolytes I lose through sweat—I could be a DIY salt facial after a race). He’s down on cross-training (which makes sense if you’ve been running all your life) and only does weight training for postural muscles (useful trick, even if I disagree with his conclusion on the grounds that it doesn’t work on my body).

Pre-race kiss to #HeiferBelle for good luck

After running school, I met up with Jessica and we went back to the hotel. I had a glass of wine while we set up our flat runners. Neither of us slept much that night, because Jessica had to be at the starting line for the Double Marathon at some ungodly hour like 3 a.m., and because I always have a hard time sleeping the night before a race—this one more than any other, because I wasn’t sure what was going to happen the next day: Just like 2017, I arrived at the starting line in 2019 underprepared. I hadn’t stuck to the training plan (for all new reasons, sigh). I had gained some extra weight. In the interim I had learned I have exercise-induced asthma.

If Only The Days Started Later…

The alarm went off after what seemed like ten minutes of sleep, and I dragged myself out of bed to suit up and drive over to the start. There was plenty of nearby parking, so I arrived with plenty of time to head to the VIP breakfast in the library and on the patio. While there was a fantastic spread with plenty of coffee, I chose my snacks conservatively and packed a “to go” waffle (the Honey Stinger kind). One last use of the indoor plumbing, and it was down to the starting line.

The starting line area was well organized with highly visible information mavens!

As in 2017, the corrals were self-sorting. Friendly runners were mingling, taking selfies, and shaking out the pre-race jitters. I found Jessica, who looked fresh after having run the whole marathon, and was ready for her second loop. She was hanging out with the 6:30 pacer, and I decided to join them. It wasn’t long before we were off. Our pacers chose a “steady effort” method, which makes sense on a super hilly course. The idea is that instead of aiming for a specific time per mile, the time per mile would vary (uphill and very steep downhill are both difficult; flat and gentle downhill are easier) but the amount of effort would stay as even as possible.

I stuck with the pacers up to the first mile? Maybe second mile? I can’t remember. It was fun running with a group for a bit, but as we started to take a relatively easy jog up the first gentle climb, I couldn’t catch enough air to keep running and busted out the inhaler. I passed the turnaround for the half, and ran into the national forest section. I remembered the rolling hills, and then crossing the highway to the first serious climb, up Mt. Roanoke. In my head it was a hard climb in 2017, but this year it was even harder in my body. Abut 1/3 from the top of the climb, I had to start taking breaks to catch my breath that included stopping completely. Step, step, step, step, stop. Over and over. I felt very wimpy. I must have looked equally awful because at several points as I was climbing up, runners passing me on the way back down asked if I was okay instead of cheering for me.

Always follow the directional signs…

I have never had my lungs act up so obnoxiously as they did going up Roanoke Mountain. After my 2017 DNF I learned I have exercise-induced asthma. I had my inhaler with me. (I have never had any serious complications, and I had both my phone with extra battery and my RoadID with me. I promise that even if I am crazy, I take health and safety VERY seriously.) After that, I couldn’t run at all—my legs were willing, but my lungs not so much. But since I took a DNF the last time I tried this, I was determined to finish. Even if it didn’t happen until Monday.

At the very top I took just a moment to pause and admire the hard-earned view. Then it was time to head back down, down, down Mt. Roanoke. I tried to make some runs, as I’m usually pretty good at downhill, but my lungs couldn’t suck in enough air to make it happen. At that point I began to suspect there was no way I was going to make the race’s 7-hour cut-off. You know how runners talk about distance being a mental game? This was that, exactly. There were a few others in front of me, and I think one or two behind, so it was pretty quiet as I continued on my way back towards Roanoke and Mill Mountain.

Suddenly, It Was Just Me.

Amazing views reward those who keep climbing,

As I approached the aid station at the turn to Mill Mountain, all of the volunteers cheered and offered me water, Skratch, and snacks. The aid station is right at the split, after you descend Roanoke but before you go up Mill, a very nice race official/volunteer said, “You know you missed the cut-off, right?” Inside, I cried and thought, “damn, I hope that is not a problem…” Outside, I said, “Well, I do now…” Mr. Race Official asked if I needed anything, or if they could do anything for me. I should have said “please save me a medal, because I WILL finish.” Instead, I said, “no, thank you, I have plenty of fuel and fluid.” Mr. Race Official did not tell me that I had to stop. (I’m also not a jerk. If a race official tells me I must do something, 99 times out of 100 I will do it. I will always seriously evaluate a black flag on the course, an EMT or similar who is looking at me like I might die.) So I kept going, up to the top of Mill Mountain. Another race person stopped as they drove past and asked if I was okay, and when I explained that all I wanted to do was finish, I ugly cried a little bit but promised I’d be okay.

Photographic proof

Atop Mill Mountain I took the world’s lamest selfie with the Star. The aid station was all packed up neatly. For a minute I thought seriously about taking a bag of pretzels, but they were big bags and I wasn’t sure how I’d carry one once I opened it. Besides, I did have plenty of snacks. So it was down Mill Mountain, where I saw a really sweet looking dog who I assumed belonged to the moo-mosa house, but didn’t (I asked when I went by). The moo-mosas were gone by the time I got there, which I expected. It looked like a good time was had by all!

Every volunteer I saw asked if I needed anything (I had packed nutrition and hydration, but did take some water and chips). One woman, who appeared to be the head of a stop on the way up Peakwood, apologized that the aid station was closed! I assured here it was supposed to be closed, and she had nothing to apologize for, since I knew I was late and expected the aid stations to be closed. she still offered me one of everything in her car, and when I accidentally left my tube of Tailwind in her van, one of the younger kids (teenager) ran to catch me to deliver it!

Sure, I missed out on the moo-mosas (I had one in 2017, so that’s okay) and the champagne on Peakwood (I had some later, so that’s okay too). But I kept rolling. Every time a volunteer drove by, they waved and cheered. The guys taking down the course cones and signs all asked if I was sure I was okay. (Clearly I’m a head case, but yeah, I was fine.) When I hit the point where the cones had been picked up and traffic was back to normal, I side-walked myself. I wanted a DNS–Did Not Stop.

Nothing like a moo-mosa to speed that next mile along!

The app was great for the map, though I took a minor re-route on (Jefferson?) as there was a bridge/flyover with no apparent sidewalk. Unfortunately I got off course after the loop in south Roanoke and when I realized it, I was 2 miles away from the finish line (but my watch already said 25.xx). I ended up taking the shortest route back from wherever i was, which still had me over 26.2. I saw some yellow birds with a pretty song that I’ve never seen before. I saw a billion cardinals, and some dogs, and the easter bunny.

At several points I thought I might be going crazy, because only a crazy lady decides to finish a marathon on her own, right? But again, phone with extra battery (I was prepared to call a Lyft at the first sign of lightning) and plenty of fuel and fluid. Two different cars stopped on my way down Peakwood, asking if I needed a ride. (Roanoke-ians are so nice!) The one thought I was nuts to be walking in the rain, I’m sure. Then I passed a cooler that still had extra water pods and one bottle of cold beer inside. The crews dismantling the course’s directional signs, cones, and road barriers were all surprised I was still out there–asked if I needed anything (including a ride back to the start) and wished me good luck.

Here’s The Theme: Persevere

Obligatory watch shot here. Thrilled with the battery and performance of my Coros!

At almost 9 hours, and over 27 miles, I trudged into Elmwood Park. One of the guys dismantling the rest of the chute recognized me and said, “Hey! You finished!” Hell yes, I DID! But…not within the official posted time limits. When I crossed where the finish line used to be, I cried. (Wouldn’t you?) As I was climbing up Roanoke Mountain and my lungs were screaming, I thought, “I’m glad I’m here this year, I can’t do this again.” But…now I feel like I have to go and finish within the time limits.

I posted my story and asked the race officials if they would send me a medal. I know not everyone would agree with me receiving a medal–I finished, but not within the time–but I’m not posting it on social media or sharing photos. At least not until I make it a special little “Finisher & DNF” sash.

Seriously, if you’re looking for a challenge you should try one of the Blue Ridge Marathon Races. If you’re not up for a full marathon get a team together for the relay, or run the half or the 10k. For a fairly chill race-cation, volunteer at the race and join the runners for the Slow K on Sunday.

As you may have guessed from my lack of blog reviews on the 2018 Rock ‘n’ Roll Series,  I had a less than amazing experience for much of the year. Combine the lacking and lackluster race experience with the most frustrating ambassador experience I have ever had, and I just decided my blog didn’t need it. Out of an abundance of caution–I knew I could not return to the ambassador team (RIP Rock ‘n’ Blog) if I didn’t see some serious changes–I bought a bib to Rock ‘n’ Roll San Francisco 2019 at the expo, so I wouldn’t lose my legacy status.

View of the bay, and the brdge
While I missed running to the Hopper Hands, I am always up for a cheeseball tourist photo stop along the Bay!

Pro tip: If you are an Active Advantage member–that’s the membership you pay for, not free usage–do NOT buy pre-sale bibs at the race expo. You WILL be charged the Active fees (which you get for free as an Advantage member) and the free tee shirt probably isn’t worth it.

If only the bibs were actually this size, people might follow these instructions!

Pre-Race Expo. San Francisco is an easy town for public transit, and the Uber/Lyft/app-cabs are plentiful. I flew into SFO and took BART to Embarcadero, then walked from the BART station to the Expo out at Pier 35. The weather was lovely, so I didn’t mind a walk, especially after a flight. My expectations were low for this expo; frankly, the expo has sucked since it left the Moscone Center. (Originally I assume the expo moved because Moscone was under construction; no clue what the story is now.)

Bib Pickup: Status Same-Old. Once again, the race did not sell out in advance (as it did the first three years at least) so you could register at the expo. I’m guessing the City of San Francisco granted a permit for 8000. There were only 7000 numbers, and one of my friends who registered at the expo was given number 7575, a little underwhelming. The bibs are the same gigantic papers they have used for years; their enormity has led many to fold them or pin them somewhere other than “completely covering my entire torso,” though at least they now have integrated timing chips AND a station at the expo to test and make sure they work. The race waiver is now two separate waivers, and though they send out like ten pre-race emails about them (“remember to sign your waivers!”) almost no one does–like who even owns a printer? Bib pickup also included an LED light wristband (more on that later).

Rock n Roll trucker hats
Some of the new trucker designs

Race Shirts…Better Design, Cheaper Quality. I really wanted to like this year’s race shirt, especially after the horribly generic shirts that Ironman offered to Rock ‘n’ Roll participants in early 2018. While the design is much better, everything else is worse. First, the shirts came individually wrapped in plastic. This is unnecessary on the consumer end, but may indicate that the shirts have changed country of origin. (Federal law requires fabric goods from some countries be shipped individually wrapped in plastic. When I worked at Macy’s we literally filled a dumpster with plastic bags each time we unloaded a truck.) Second, the shirt quality is cheap. The fabric isn’t pleasant to the touch, and it is rather sheer. Third, there are tags sewn into the collar of the shirt, and they are not the easy-tear-away tags found in most athletic clothing. Fourth, the shirts are sized even smaller than previous years. I always order a women’s XL so that the shirt isn’t too short and isn’t too tight. This year, the women’s XL is both. When I took it out of the bag and flattened it, it wasn’t even shaped–it was a rectangle/box like a man’s shirt. Finally, the design placement is weird and unflattering on every body I saw with a shirt on it. Verdict: unwearable. They could cut costs by offering a tee-shirt-quilt panel instead of a shirt.

Race Bags: Still Plastic, Still Awful. When I first started running Rock ‘n’ Roll races, the bags were durable drawstring bags made of gym bag type fabric. Themed races–Los Angeles/Halloween, Vegas/Strip at Night–had themed bags. The series later changed to cheaper fabric bags that were not as durable–the hard edge of a box might cause a tear–black for every race, no themed bags. Eventually the series switched to plastic bags that tear if you look at them funny (though they are durable enough for a few uses as a post-race laundry bag). Allegedly these are for security, but they are frosted and not sheer, so I don’t believe that’s the real reason. They must have ordered a billion of them. When I have time to plan ahead, I bring an empty one so I don’t have to take yet another plastic bag. The contents are as tired as the bags: sample of shave oil that claims to be the best invention since shaving, sample of Calmoseptine (which I find uncomfortable and stinging, but my friend Andrew uses it so he takes all my samples), discount card for a boxed meal service, discount card for produce delivery. The better way to do this would be to put these items out at a “help yourself” station (where I would take ALL of the Hemp Hearts samples!). Or at least have a space at the expo to dump the stuff we won’t use. It’s such a waste.

Merch: HUGE UPGRADE. Last year the race merch was sparse and poorly designed, and included a rack of what I guess you would call “stuff we found in a warehouse somewhere and ought to try to sell.” The only potentially interesting race-specific merch were the Ironman-style shirts with all of the participants names on them. (Personally, I do not see the appeal, but that’s because the last shirt I had like that was a 1980s elementary school fundraiser.) This year there were several options I liked, and many more that even I can see are a HUGE upgrade: a wall of trucker hats, racks of beanies, shorts, tights, quarter zips, tanks, long-sleeve, short-sleeve, and more. There is also a line of tie-dye themed stuff (socks, knock-off Flip Belt, etc.) to match the Brooks Rock ‘n’ Roll shoes released last year (and the shoes are back). The people working at Brooks weren’t that helpful though, as there was a bra sale and a friend of mine wanted to try a bra on but couldn’t get anyone to help her–at the end of the day, when the expo wasn’t busy.

Expo, Sponsors: Sparse. So other than Brooks and United Airlines (which has its own special medal this year for those doing a race in 2 of the 5 United hub markets), I’m not sure who is left. Toyota is gone, and there is no car company replacement. Geico wasn’t there (though I’ve heard a rumor that Team Geico no longer gets post-race massages anyway). Oh, I guess Michelob Ultra still sponsors the beer, but honestly most runners would rather have a local beer sponsor. United did have a cool photo op with a backdrop, and a pilot and flight attendant (or people dressed like a pilot and flight attendant).

Lombard Street, San Francisco
There are even more stairs up Lombard Street than you can see from the bottom!

Expo, Exhibitors: Improved. Last year, the expo was at least 1/4 and probably more like 1/3 empty tables/booths. I bought nothing (or at least remember nothing beyond how weird it is to have an expo with so many empty spaces). This year I was really thrilled to see a booth by Potatoes USA! In addition to freshly cooked multi-colored creamers to eat, they had a recipe book, stickers, and lip balm. I took advantage of the Pro Compression expo special to buy some of the new spring designs, and tasted the Honey Stinger offerings (though I didn’t buy, since I just stocked up at the Shamrock Run expo). I was glad to see Run Club SF and Marathon Matt, the race pacers. There were also a number of footwear, running gear, and race booths. Verdict: still a small, unimpressive race expo, but MUCH better than last year.

We Run Social Shakeout Run! This year, We Run Social and lululemon Cow Hollow co-sponsored a 5kish shakeout run. We started near the expo, took the obligatory groupies, I handed out RunGum, and the piled up our gear to be Ubered to lululemon. The rest of us took off on a quick run over part of the race course, up Lombard Street–which inexplicably appeared on the 2018 medal, even though no Rock ‘n’ Roll course has ever gone there (but it should!) and then headed over to lululemon. Once there, we had a mini-party! Hostess-with-the-mostess Ashley, founder of Every Runner Counts, greeted us with hint water (which I love!) and snacks, as well as a discount on certain items. I shared RunGum with the other staff working the store to thank them for putting up with us, and there were raffle prizes including We Run Social multi-function headwraps and Pro Compression socks! Afterwards a bunch of us headed to Amici’s to carb up.

Exhaustion sets in! At that point it was maybe 8:30, but I was Done With Saturday. The disadvantage of a fly-in, fly-out race weekend, I suppose. Since the first corral started at 6:15 a.m. I knew the morning would come all too quickly. I slept well.

Rock n Roll corral wristbands were a bummer
Does this look painful to you? Because it is. Hello, I need that blood flow!

About Those Corrals: Do Better. The theory behind the new corral system was very sound (that’s a pun, wait for it…): the City wouldn’t allow amplification (for music, for pre-race announcements, etc.) and, I’m told, didn’t want “crowd noise” outside for an extended period before the race started. The “well, they meant well” solution was to move the pre-corral hanging out portion to inside Pier 35, and use an LED light bracelet system to alert people when it was their turn to line up  outside. Let’s talk about the logistics first. Pier 35 is north of The Embarcadero and has two doors: one to the west, and one to the east. ALL of the readily available parking, and nearly all of the hotels, are to the west of Pier 35. Rather than think that through–or maybe no one on the logistics team was local to San Francisco–the race set up the WEST door as the exit to the corrals. As a result, the massive wave of people I was walking with were stopped before the west door to let the first corral out of Pier 35. Not only could we not reach the entrance (the east door) until the entire corral had passed, but shorter people were elbowing their way up from behind me–hey, it’s not like we were standing around chatting, there were hundreds of people ALL FACING THE SAME DIRECTION who ALL STOPPED AT THE SAME TIME–and pushing people forward even though we could not, in fact, move forward. Hot mess, and uncomfortable, too. Once inside (after the corral left and the crowd got to the east door) the logistics crew bombed again. The tiny “stage” with the pre-race DJ and announcer was WAY in the back and poorly lit. It made total sense to put it in the back, since they wanted to keep everyone from cramming up near the corral exit, but since it was not well lit and tiny, it was difficult to find. It would have made much more sense to build a bigger stage, place it on the west wall (the east wall has a sort of separate room, and the restrooms, so that’s not an option) and throw some real lighting on it. Instead, people heard the sound system up front and stayed up near the corral exit door, creating a traffic jam. Also the pre-race bananas and water were BEHIND the stage–like yards behind it–so most people don’t know they were there. I only knew because someone in my group chat posted that they were all the way at the back.

Brooks inflatable out on the course
The Brooks Dude got a makeover this year. I think he is a gorilla!

Corral Bracelets: FAIL. This year, the race implemented a new corral system copied right from a K-Pop concert: LED light bracelets that can respond to a transmitter and pulse colors with the music. These should have been an excellent crowd management plan, but they were not. Let us count the reasons why:

  1. Runners are stupid. Despite the signs on the wall at registration and the pre-race email that was only about the corrals (okay, maybe people ignored that since Rock ‘n’ Roll sent like 27 other emails about signing waivers), most people had no clue how the system was supposed to work. Thus when it malfunctioned, no one knew how to respond. (Add to this that like many electronic things with batteries, there was a plastic tab you had to remove to contact the battery and make the bracelet active, and many runners did not do that.)
  2. Like I need something else on my arm for the race? If you’re a runner, you probably don’t need to do this, but if you’re not, take a look at Instagram and the runners there. One of the most popular post-run shots is a picture of your running watch (showing the run’s stats). Take a look at enough of them, and you’ll see that many runners have quite the arm-party going on: race watch (mine’s a Coros), Road ID, Momentum wrap(s), regular jewelry, charity rubber band(s), and maybe those temporary paper bracelets (Rock ‘n’ Roll uses them for the Remix weekends, and for pre-race ID to enter the beer garden in states where that’s allowed.) A big fat piece of plastic? Really?
  3. OUCH. The bracelets are NOT adjustable (unlike their K Pop predecessors.) Now I don’t think I have particularly well-developed forearm muscles, but I definitely do not have dainty lady-arms. The bracelets were like the silicone charity bracelets you’ve probably seen (thing Livestrong) but about 40% was attached to the light/battery part, which was hard, inflexible plastic. I put the thing on my wrist and it pinched my skin. Since there was no way to adjust it, and that thing would not stretch, I ended up clipping my Orange Mud pack strap through it. Other runners just ditched theirs (as I saw many runners without them on race day).
  4. SO. MUCH. PLASTIC. WASTE. Since the bracelets have tiny little screws, you can clearly replace the battery. This means they are reusable. I had hoped, pre-expo, that there would be collection bins at the finish line, to re-use or recycle the bracelets. NOPE. Unfortunately, it is cheaper to throw them away than it is to change the batteries. So every runner now has a useless plastic gadget with a battery to dispose of, and you can bet that 0% of runners disassembled the thing to remove the battery for proper disposal. They can’t be recycled in your recycling bin. Between the plastic bags on the shirts, the plastic race bags, and the uninteresting stuff inside the plastic race bags, I just don’t understand why Rock ‘n’ Roll hates the environment so much. HEY ROCK ‘N’ ROLL! DO BETTER!
  5. Ridiculously overcomplicated. Pre-race, the bracelets were supposed to change colors and pulse with the music. (Mine didn’t do that more than twice.) There were 9 corrals, and each corral was assigned a different color. So when the first corral was supposed to head out, their bracelets were supposed to turn red. Only a bunch of them turned blue instead, and blue was assigned to the second corral. So the folks at the exit were trying to turn people back, because the had the wrong bracelet color, but they in fact had corral 1 bibs. I’m still puzzled as to why they didn’t go with the obvious solution. Since the bracelets could be programmed to only respond to some signals–the corral 9 bracelets, for example, did not turn red or  blue or any other solid color when it was time for corral 1 to go–the obvious would have been “when your bracelet lights up solid green, go to your corral.” No need to remember what color your corral was assigned. We all know that green means go. They could have even removed green from the pre-race program, so that no one saw green until it was time to go.
  6. Many dud bracelets. As I was getting pressed uncomfortably forward into the exiting corral 1, waiting to enter Pier 35, my bracelet did nothing. Not one light. The pattern around me seemed random, with some bracelets flashing colors, other with solid colors, still others like mine with no lights at all. Mine didn’t light up at all until I’d been inside for 20 minutes. Then it did a color change maybe twice.
  7. The extras were meh. One of the on course activations–oh right, smart races don’t use that term because only crazy social media people and those in the industry know what an “activation” is–was for the bracelet to turn blue during the Wear Blue: Run to Remember mile that honors those who have died in service to our country. This could have been cool, but by the time we got to that mile it was broad daylight (cloudy, but daylight) so it was barely noticeable. It might have been cool at a night race, like the David Moo-nlight Race or Rock ‘n’ Roll Vegas, but during the day it was meh.

Verdict: epic fail. Look, I get that this was a test-drive, and there are bumps and hiccups the first time. I can excuse some of those (at least for the bracelets–I’m sorry, but reversing the Pier 35 openings to west is entrance and east is exist is a total no-brainer), but there was no need to make it so complicated.

Rock n Roll San Francisco bridge shot
Since Karl The Fog was out in full force, I did not need my sunnies–and I did not get sunburned!

Race course: Decent as Usual. People are allegedly drawn to this race to get to run over the Golden Gate Bridge. My understanding is that the City, or bridge authority, or whatever, will no longer issue the race a permit to close down one lane of the bridge; personally, I hate running on the sidewalk and really miss the days when one lane of traffic was closed for runners to go north, and the southbound return was via the sidewalk. At least that way I got to see many more runners I knew, plus it avoided the descent and ascent necessary to pass under the bridge to return south on the west sidewalk. (The current course goes north on the east sidewalk, and south on the west sidewalk, which requires passing under the bridge on the Marin side.) The course is, otherwise, largely an out-and-back; this is an effective way to keep the permitting and costs down, as you have to close (and police/staff) fewer roads. It’s also nice to see Chrissy Field from two perspectives. It would be nice to change up the on-course photo ops–they have used the same few for the past several years–but if the data show that this is largely a “one and done” race (as opposed to one with repeat participants from year to year), then perhaps the expense doesn’t justify it.

Race Course Aid Stations: Well Done. For the first time in my Rock ‘n’ Roll experience, every aid station had what it promised to have. When I got to the gel aid station, there was plenty of gel, and even a selection of flavors. There was plenty of water and gatorade, and the volunteers were actively handing it out. (Some races, the volunteers get bored, and next thing you know you’re hitting an aid station with a bunch of kids on instagram.)

SF hippies
An annual fixture, the “flower children” hand out real flowers, some of which end up gracing the signs at the Wear Blue mile.

Finish Line Experience: Improved, but… This year the finish line had the usual finisher chute and odd little beer garden (part of the street, blocked off to traffic, and fenced in to keep the alcohol police happy) there were two new experiences. One was a stretch zone with yoga mats and straps, sponsored by Smile Direct. They also had wipes to detox the mats after the runners got off of them (because sitting in someone else’s sweat is gross). Inside the beer garden area there was also a recovery zone with those inflatable pressure boots, the thera-gun, vibrating rollers, and more. I didn’t spend much time there, but Briana did, so you can ask her about it. The beer garden also had a “pay to charge your phone” station. It was a nice touch, but the majority of people I know carry a power pack these days. Now, the finish line itself…I finished late in the game, for reasons of my choosing (one, helping someone, two, I really needed that Philz Truck coffee). The course has a 4-hour limit, and like my friend Ashley, I strongly believe that Every Runner Counts. I don’t care if you walked every inch, if you finished, you should be celebrated just like every other finisher. (Several years ago I kicked my butt, hard, to finish Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia, only to find zero food, zero water, zero hydration, zero anything in the finisher chute, despite seeing faster runners walking around with literal boxes of post-race food.) Super mad props to the volunteers handing out medals, the whole flock was still there and ready with medals. I was also happy to see plenty of bottled water (well, not happy it was bottled, but races have limitations) and Gatorade. MAD PROPS to Team Chocolate Milk for still having enough chocolate milk for us slowpokes! I also thought the snacks were good–bananas, Cheez-Its, and Ghirardelli squares with caramel–until I caught up with my faster friends at the beer garden. Some of them had multiple full-sized chocolate bars, not just one, as well as instant hash-browns (which I assume came from Potatoes USA, and they might still be learning). Also, there’s never a good way to carry your post-race snacks and you can’t re-enter the chute to get more once you’ve left. I need to remember to stuff a bag in my race pack.

Overall…I am biased. I started running Rock ‘n’ Roll San Francisco the very first year, when they had purchased race permits from another company. The original expo was huge, fun, and better than most other races. I’ve seen two good shirts, a few good medals, and lots of runners. Since I’ve run it every year, I’ll keep running it. It’s fun to head back to the Bay Area now that I don’t live there, and since I know so many runners who show up to this race it’s always worth the trip.

Soooo…. If you ran Rock ‘n’ Roll San Francisco, what did you think of 2019? If you’ve run in the past, but didn’t run this weekend, why not?

Disclosure: I am a member of the Rock ‘n’ Blog Team. Science in Sport provided members of the team with a sampler box of gels, but I had already placed an order–and accidentally ordered two boxes!–so I have two boxes to give away. Neither this post nor the giveaway are sponsored. All opinions are my own.

The biggest sale of the 2019 Rock ‘n’ Roll season is on NOW!

It ends at midnight, PST, December 13. Not only are these the best prices you will see all year, TourPass now comes in three options (3 pack, 10 pack, and unlimited), has tiered pricing (the sooner you buy, the less you will pay), and has a payment plan option. Plus there are new perks for TourPass holders. In addition, the first six of the designs for the new Heavy Medals have been announced. If you’re planning to run any Rock ‘n’ Roll races in 2019, NOW is the time to sign up.

Group photo at San Diego
The crew at Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego 2018

As you know (and have likely heard unless you don’t know any other runners), 2018 was a rough year for the Rock ‘n’ Roll series. Following acquisition by IronMan (which in turn is owned by a Chinese holding company), the San Diego area Rock ‘n’ Roll office was essentially eliminated, some staff roles were combined, and some personnel relocated to the Ironman offices in Tampa. Since Ironman has been putting on quality triathlons—much more complicated as there is a cycling and swim component in addition to a road race—I was initially optimistic about 2018. Ironman promised to bring Rock ‘n’ Roll back to its roots and focus on “the on-course experience,” touting improvements to courses, entertainment, and more. Unfortunately the organization’s hype inflated everyone’s expectations, and frequently failed to deliver the goods. (A laundry list of the problems would take multiple blog posts.) As a member of the Rock ‘n’ Blog team, most of the year I had no idea what was going on, or only received information when it was too late to do anything with it, a symptom of the larger problem of poor internal communication and rampant disorganization. Worse, Ironman irritated the most dedicated group of natural series ambassadors, those who run enough marathons and half marathons to qualify for the Hall of Fame (15 races) by eliminating the unlimited TourPass  option, cancelling the marathon finisher jackets, and pumping out generic event shirts.

Photo stop at Rock n Roll Seattle
Clowning around at a photo station at Rock n Roll Seattle 2018

Mid-way through the season, Ironman made some attempts at course-correction, including improved, location-specific finisher medals and event shirts cute enough to actually wear again. After what I assume were some internal personnel shuffles and new hires, Ironman started to reach out to Rock ‘n’ Roll’s legacy runners, and get to work addressing other areas of runner feedback.

While Dallas, Raleigh, Carlsbad, and Los Angeles are no longer Rock ‘n’ Roll Tour Stops (and I still personally mourn the cancellation of Portland and Vancouver), it’s likely the series will continue to expand into the international market. Predictably, the series added a number of races in China in 2018, but also added races in Mexico and South America. I don’t have any inside scoop on this but I’m betting there will be new races added in 2019. If you’re interested in hopping a flight to China, the TourPass Unlimited may be your best option.

Yesterday’s announcement of the new TourPass options is a great indicator that the Ironman team is “getting it.” The return of the TourPass unlimited means more runners will Remix the weekends, running a 5k or 10k in addition to the full or half marathon. The difference between a 10-pack and the Unlimited is $300, so a runner planning to hit 10 Tour Stops is essentially getting each of the 5k/10k races at $30 each, a significant savings over individual event pricing.

Next year, I’m running San Francisco, San Diego, and Seattle. (I just announced I’m training for the Chicago Marathon, in addition ton conquering the Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon, so I’m kinda booked for 2019. Look for me holding a TourPass Unlimited in 2020!)

Important Tips for Planning your 2019 Tour!

The BEST price on all TourPasses is ONLY available on December 13, 2018. If you wait until December 14, you will pay an additional $50 for the 10-pack and the Unlimited. Wait until January and the price will rise again–and this year, the TourPass has a deadline to purchase. Get in early, or miss out.

The BEST price on all of the races is available on December 13, 2018. The Rock ‘n’ Roll series uses a tiered pricing model, where the price goes up the closer it gets to the race. Typically the very best price is offered at the expo for the race (e.g. I signed up for San Francisco 2019 at the expo earlier this year), and then registration is closed for a short time, after which the prices go up. Many of these races have already gone to higher-tiered pricing, and if you wait until after the sale you will have to pay the higher price.

Missed the sale? Register NOW to save yourself from the next price increases.

Got questions about the races? Fire away! I’ve run Seattle, San Francisco, San Jose, San Diego, Arizona, Philadelphia, Chicago, Virginia Beach, Las Vegas, San Antonio, and more. If I don’t know the answer, I can help you find it.

Bain drinks chocolate milk
Pro Tip: finish your race with chocolate milk!

Registration for the Heavy Medals Program—bonus bling you earn for running more than one Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon or half marathon during the year—is FREE but is NOT AUTOMATIC. You MUST register separately for the Heavy Medals Program, even if you buy a TourPass.

Train with what’s on the course! Race day is not the time to find out your tummy doesn’t like the gels or electrolytes on course. To that end, why not enter to win a sampler box of Science in Sport, the official gel of the Rock ‘n’ Roll series?

Giveaway!

Prizes: I have two sampler boxes to give away, and each winner will also score some stocking-stuffer treats.

Rules: Open only to U.S. mailing addresses. (This is because postage is expensive, and because some countries have picky rules about what kind of food and nutritional supplements you are allowed to send in by mail.) Entries will be verified, so please follow the directions. Winners will be notified by email and be required to respond and provide a mailing address to receive their prizes. Failure to respond in the specified time will forfeit the prize.

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

MARK your calendar NOW! October 3-6, 2019!

Have you run an inaugural race? Many runners I know have a fear of inaugural races, and that fear is not an unfounded one: I’ve heard horror stories about pretty much every aspect of a race that was accidentally neglected the first year. I’ve been lucky so far, with the inaugural Rock ‘n’ Roll San Francisco, Revel Mt. Charleston, Livermore Half Marathon, and several others under my belt, all of which ran smoothly. The Race? It didn’t just run smoothly, it exceeded all of my expectations as a race—and as an added bonus, I got to pace the 3:30 half marathon!

I Ran The Race! 

One of the Mile Markers

If you missed my pre-race post about The Race, I jumped on board the Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign early. (It wasn’t exactly blind faith, as my friend Jessica knew the race director and key staff and confidently told me they were rock stars who would completely nail it.) Once she offered to let me crash at her pad, I sealed the deal and signed up for VIP. Unfortunately I missed the VIP weekend kick-off party—I do have a “day job” that actually wants me to show up—but from what I saw Thursday night was a lot of fun!

I flew into Atlanta on Friday and landed with enough time to check out the expo, figure out what time it was, eat dinner, and crash. As we walked into the expo, the area where a long line would have waited (if there had been a long line) featured the mile markers: individually painted works of art!

The Expo

Aren’t these cute? How amazing is it that I didn’t buy any?

Packet pickup was fast and easy. There was no line, and it would have taken two minutes to pick up my packet and shirt but Jessica seems to know everyone in the Atlanta running community, so packet pickup was just the first in a series of welcomes and meeting new friends. We also had a good laugh about how Atlanta-area runners had the “Who’s On First?” experience the prior week. (“Are you running this weekend?” “Yes! I’m running The Race!” “Which race?” “The Race!” “Yes, I know you’re racing, but which race?”) VIP included a wristband for the race-day festivities as well as a sweet inaugural backer patch that I sewed onto my jacket. Yes, I know, I “need” another running jacket like I “need” a PhD in astrophysics, but my spidey senses told me I wanted to snag one while the full range of sizes was still available and besides they were so cute. Several weeks later, I’m glad I did—not only did The Race rock, the jacket is perfect for fall weather in Portland. (No surprise, since Leslie Jordan, the jacket manufacturer, is based in Portland.)

Inaugural gear for The Race 2018

The expo was better than most of the race expos I have been to this year. I wasn’t there for the whole thing since I flew in Friday afternoon and I’m still certain it was one of the top expos I’ve been to in the past five years (during which I have run dozens of races). The stage had a series of panels featuring runners and running, with DJ sets in between. The lighting and music permeated the expo and gave it a dance party feel. As promised, the expo featured primarily local, Black-owned businesses–24 of them, to be exact. There were soaps and gorgeously scented bath products by Livy & Sophie, and fabric and fashions by Cam Swank, for example.

Local vendors at the inaugural expo:
Run Social Atlanta
Westview Corner Grocery
Chef Levy
D Café & catering
iwi fresh
Angie O’Neal Designs
Charm City Noir
RocketSports-1
WJR club
Buy From a Black Woman
Wyatt Family Dental
Urb’n Charm Jewelry
The Village Market
Vital Life Chiropractic
Run Host
Natural Fit Designs
Livy & Sofie’s Natural Body Elements
Reggae Runnerz
South Fulton Running Partner
Eco Sneakers
Cam Swank
Yelani
WhitePaws RunMitts
P.S. Beads

There was also a selection of limited edition, inaugural race merch. While I love my boco hats and am a sucker for socks, I successfully managed to purchase only The Race jacket. Gotta leave something for next year, right?

Did I mention I signed up to pace?

The Race Legacy Pace Team for 3:30

A few weeks before The Race, the organizers put out a call for pacers. Since I’m something of a slowpoke, I was really excited to see a 3:30 pacer slot (the course had a 4 hour limit). Of course I volunteered, figuring that I could do a 3:30 without any difficulty. Without consulting the actual race course itself. My co-pacer and I spent the remaining weeks wondering whether the Atlanta hills were as bad as our friends who previewed the course said they were, and whether she would be okay pacing just a week after the Chicago marathon. We talked about using intervals, which we both agreed would be key to managing a slower pace while still eating hills for breakfast. I stopped by the pacer booth at the expo to make sure I understood the race day details and got some insight into the course and its many hills from the locals. I left with a red legacy pacer singlet, and renewed worries that I might just be in over my head, but remained committed to kick as much ass as I could.

Carb-fest and Pre-Race

We grabbed dinner at a local pizza and pasta place called Little Azio, where I carbed it up with some pasta, and then topped it off with ice cream from Morelli’s Gourmet Ice Cream (salted caramel and dark chocolate chili). I’m no stranger to good quality ice cream—Portland is home to Salt & Straw—but oh boy was that tasty. We turned in early and I crashed like a rock, exhausted from travel and nervously anticipating The Race.

Jessica and I got up early in order to make it to the parking lot and get settled. (I’m glad we did, as a sufficiently large number of people did not, and the last-minute traffic was heavy.) As VIPs, we had access to the warmer inside, as well as the coveted flush toilets. Since we were parked in the lot nearby, we didn’t make use of the gear check, but there was plenty of gear check room: Tate the Great MMoving provided a truck for general gear check, while the VIP area had its own area. Then we headed down to the astroturf area in front of the stage for a warm-up with ___. It was a great way to get moving, and the women from ___ did not blink an eye when the power went out temporarily, cutting their mics—the only “problem” I saw all weekend. Without missing a beat they hopped down onto the grass and finished the workout with us with as much enthusiasm as they’d had when backed by a DJ.

Who Ran The Race?

As a so-white-I-put-on-sunblock-before-the-sun-came-up runner, I was thrilled to be in the minority at The Race. The vision of The Race was awesome and I really, really wanted it to happen exactly like that, not so much for me, or even for the organizers and Atlanta, but for the running community as a whole. (The 1,411 participants were 86% African American, according to The Race’s instagram.) I believe it is important for the running community to not just include anyone who wants to run—regardless of skin tone, regardless of the choice to wear a hijab or a yarmulke—but to create a space where runners are actively welcome, not just the tokens or the Kenyans or the future Black Olympians. (As a side note, I also personally believe it is very important for those who are perceived to be in the American “majority”—which I’ll broad-brushstroke as white, cis-gendered, heterosexual, probably Christian—to have real experience of what it is like to be the minority. There’s just no substitute for experience.)

After hopping by the pacer tent to pick up the 3:30 stick and snap some photos, it was time for the runners to head into the corrals. I was starting to get worried as I hadn’t seen Felicia yet. Runners were divided into three waves: red, green, and black, the colors of the flag of African unity. VIP runners had the option to start in any corral. A full-on drum line marched us into the corrals and they were spectacular! (I took pictures, but the sun wasn’t up yet and the pictures are blurry.) They continued to perform, lining the lead corral on both sides, until it was time for the final pre-race moments.

As the 3:30 pacer, I headed to the back, crossing my fingers and hoping Felicia, who was caught in the later traffic from the host hotel, would make it on time. Immediately I had a bunch of people start asking questions about pacing strategy, and I am quite glad I’d thought this one through. In order to cross in 3:30, we needed to average 16:00/mile. I knew I could do that easily on flattish land running intervals of 2:1 (walk:run) but also knew there were significant hills in two locations, one early in the course, and a few after mile 10, followed by a whopper at mile 12. My plan was to take as many of the early miles as possible at 15:00 in order to bank time for the killer hill at mile 12.  ___ arrived just before the start, and suddenly we were off and running with participants from 34 states.

My First Pace Gig…HILLS FOR BREAKFAST!

Bain Discovers “Rummy Bears”

I’ve been the completely unprepared runner in the back completely relying on the pacer to pull my butt over the finish line. (Thank you, Rock ‘n’ Roll Los Angeles 2013 pace team, with extra mad props to the 3:00 pacer.) As a result, I took my pacing responsibilities VERY seriously. While I wanted to keep as many runners as possible for as long as possible, I also absolutely had to cross the finish line at or before our assigned time—even if no one was with me—because that is what I promised to do. There weren’t a lot of selfies for me at this race, as I alternated between looking around (I’d never been to Atlanta, and it is unlikely I’d stroll through these parts of town as a tourist), looking at my watch, and calling out words of encouragement in between RUN! WALK! and count-downs to switch from one to the other.

Early in the game, Team 3:30 resorted to my first rule of running (“Bain does not run UP hills”) and it’s corollary (“Running downhill with control is an excellent way to find ‘extra’ time”). This kept us almost perfectly on pace at 15:00/mile until almost mile 10. Not knowing exactly how bad the “bad hill” at mile 12 was kept me nervous, but I still had to take care of the people who were relying on us, so I continued to joke around and shout encouragement to the group that had clustered around us. By mile 5 I’m pretty sure I had annoyed the snot out of one group of runners (seriously, I’ve never been that perky that early in the morning!) and was pleasantly surprised that a few had passed us. “Fake it ‘til you make it” is still my best running strategy, followed closely by “if you feel like you’re going to die, find someone who needs your help and focus on getting them to the finish.” By mile 8 I imagine we were the mid-point of the group that had started with us, but we were still nailing 15:00/mile. The aid stations had plenty of staff, serving up water and RED Gatorade. (I have no idea why every race uses yellow, it’s nasty.) I had a bottle of Tailwind in my Orange Mud vest, but gladly accepted some Gatorade at a few points when I knew I needed it.

The hills towards the end were hilly, but not *that* bad…until mile 12. While it wasn’t one of the hills at the Tiburon Half—hills so steep that I literally stopped and laughed when I arrived at the first one!—it was a steep, serious hill. I’m not going to lie, I trudged that one. Felicia and I had made a pact that I’d keep the pace, no matter what, and when we hit that hill her legs—remember she had JUST run the Chicago Marathon not a full week before—started giving her some serious sass. As I trudged I kept my eye on my watch, listening to my own legs squawk and doing bad runner-brain math, convinced I’d blown it until I hit the top of the hill and the last .1 when I realized if I could pull just a little bit more out of my legs I could probably make that 3:30. By that point I was solo, our entire group having already finished or fallen further behind. I sucked it up and attempted a sprint—which looked much more like a jog!—across the finish line.

The Race Legacy Pace Team 3:30 nails it

3:30:5x. BOOM. (Though I didn’t hit “stop” on my watch fast enough, and spent the post-race period thinking I missed it by 0:01:00.)

A Fantastic Finish!

I accepted my medal and then ran back across the finish line to run-in ___, barely a minute or two behind me. The momentary pause in the action gave me the opportunity to meet the race director for The Race, who I’d previously only “met” via the Facebook group for The Race ambassadors.

The sun was shining, the weather was gorgeous, and there was a full-on party! The DJ held court from the stage, with runners sunning themselves and stretching on the faux-grass. Several of the vendors from the expo were in attendance, and there were food trucks and the usual post-race snackage occurring.

The VIP area was delightful and worth every penny. In addition to access to interior seating (and the flushing toilets), VIP had its own food truck! I can’t remember what all of the choices were, but even as a vegetarian I thought the food smelled spectacular. (I enjoyed two vegan tacos so good I licked all the bits that fell off out of the cardboard food boat. If you need a caterer in Atlanta, you seriously should look into ___.) There were also big washtubs of beverages, both beer (I don’t remember what kind—sorry, I don’t drink beer) and La Croix (which I jokingly said was selected to make us white suburbanites feel comfortable). In addition to tables with plenty of seating, the VIP area also had a massage station (first-come, first-served) and plenty of socializing. Even though I’m not from Atlanta, and even though my only Atlanta-friend there was Jessica, I felt really welcome and included. Everyone I met was friendly and kind, which was just icing on the cake after loving The Race itself.

Charitable Impact

While I was exhausted and slept a fairly unreasonable amount both Saturday and Sunday, part of the goal of The Race was to make a positive impact on the historically black areas of Atlanta and the black running community. Money from every registration went to charitable donations, for more than $9,200 donated! The Race supported more than a dozen charities, including:

✓Carrie Steele-Pitts Home
✓ L.I.F.T Organization
✓ Westside Future Fund
✓ A Better Way Ministries
✓ Sylvan Hills Neighborhood
✓ Adair Park Neighborhood
✓ Girls on The Run Atlanta
✓ Metro Atlanta Cycling Club
✓ HBCU Scholarship Fund
✓ Kilometer Kids
✓ Grady High School
✓ Boy Scouts of Atlanta
✓ Stone Mountain High School
✓ TechBridge

Sunday, there were 16 different community impact projects, with runners and others donating more than 600 hours of volunteer service. (The Race itself had 275 volunteers in addition to the runners.)

What About Next Year?

Did I mention there were FREE race photos? And that they were available online the evening of The Race? Yup, it was THAT good.

It’s pretty rare that I don’t have at least a few suggestions to make about any race, and The Race is no different. The only suggestions I have, however, are pretty minor. One, I would love to see shuttles from the host hotel to the start/finish since so many out-of-towners stayed there. This would alleviate the pressure on traffic and parking, in addition to being easier for those unfamiliar with the area. Two, the race course could have used some porta-potties. I never needed one, so I was never looking for one, though I did see a few runners dashing out of gas stations (where I assume they made use of the facilities). Third, the mile markers could use a slightly more sophisticated set-up. (They were taped to sticks that stood up in traffic cones.) That’s it. Those are my only “complaints.” I loved everything else, from the course (even the hills), to the graphic design on the shirts and gear, to the atmosphere, to the free race photos (yup, free!).

The Race weekend continued on Sunday with community service projects and a post-race block party. Despite the compression socks, my legs just would not get me out of bed that morning so our day had a slow start and I missed the service projects. The remainder of my time in Atlanta was spent celebrating Pride with brunch and a killer view of the parade, before jaunting off to the airport. I understand the block party was a blast, though my legs were glad to be sitting most of Sunday.

In short, The Race rocked. If the inaugural was this good, I can’t wait to see what the Second Annual looks like!

Registration Opens on Black Friday! Stay tuned to www.theraceuc.com for more information, or follow The Race on instagram.

Another Mile Marker from The Race: Sign Up for 2019 on Black Friday!

 

Disclosure: I am one of the volunteer ambassadors for The Race. By backing The Race on Kickstarter, I joined The Unity Collective, nearly 600 individuals and groups strong. It’s not too late to register! Join me in Atlanta on October 13, 2018. Here’s the link to register: The Race. Want to learn more? Here’s the event website: The Race.

The Race is a collaboration of running community leaders, vendors, and supporters united to host a road race that supports black owned businesses, runs through historically black neighborhoods, makes a positive impact with charity and service, and garners massive national support from the African-American running community and beyond. –The Unity Collective

Look who else supports The Race! Come join us! All the cool kids will be there.

After I started running races, I looked around and realized that the runners around me did not reflect the population at large in any area where I lived or ran. Despite all the joking among slower runners that “in my dreams, I’m Kenyan,” overwhelmingly, the runners looked a lot like me (average white girl from the ‘burbs). Running is supposed to be a relatively simple sport with low barriers to entry (really, you just need running shoes and some clothes–and they don’t have to be expensive), so…what’s up? As co-host of The Runner of a Certain Age podcast, I invited all kinds of runners as guests. Aside from being friendly to everyone I meet at an event, and encouraging everyone who wants to try it to come out and run, I was a little stumped at what I could do.

At the same time, I observed that it wasn’t just the runners that were overwhelmingly white. The race directors, businesses at race expos, and even the places where the races took place…but what can I do beyond offer a friendly smile or word of encouragement to the runners in front of me?

Enter: The Race

Before I get to my story and the story of The Race, what are you doing on September 29th? The Race has FULL course preview events that day, and since I can’t be there (West Coast here), YOU should go and tell me all about it. RSVP on the event page on Facebook. Oh and while you’re at it, why not make friends with The Race over on Instagram?

My friend Jessica, who I met as a BibRave Pro, lives in Atlanta and she turned me on to this new event. If you’ve ever been a race director or an event director, you know that start-up costs can kill an event before it even starts. The Race had a really successful campaign on Kickstarter, to ensure the initial costs like printing PR stuff and paying for permit fees could be paid even before companies and organizations stepped in to sponsor.

TMo and Erica repping The Race, courtesy of The Race

The Race is a brand new event under the direction of experienced race directors Tes Sobomehin Marshall and Da’Rel Patterson. (Check out their interview on YouTube!) While Atlanta has a lot of road races, this one is focused on running historically black neighborhoods. This means that lots of people who don’t usually see a race going past their home or business are going to see runners–and seeing runners in your world, many of whom look like you, might just inspire you to give it a try. Sylvan Hills was originally deeded as a white-only neighborhood; Adair Park dates back to the 1870s and has a rich railway history; Castleberry Park is a national historic arts district; Atlanta’s Student Movement Boulevard played an important role in the Civil Rights movement; Joseph E. Lowery Blvd. is named for one of the icons of Atlanta’s Civil Rights movement as are Dean Rusk Park and the Dean Rusk YMCA. Check out the full half marathon course map!

There is a 5k option and in addition to the half marathon, just in case you’re not quite up for a half marthon yet (maybe 2o19?). The half marathon has pacers all the way down to 3:30!

There are only 2500 entries total available this year, and 600 VIP experiences. I’d love to see The Race sell out, but I can only run it once–so you should go register to join me!

Why join The Race?

For starters, it’s an inaugural race. Yup, LEGACY BRAGGING RIGHTS–you can say you were there first! (How cool will that sound in 2028?!?) Beyond that, the mission statement above is awesome. This is a race that runs through a a part of historically black Atlanta that is ignored by other running events, and is designed to include runners who may feel alone or unwelcome at other events. The whole weekend will be a celebration of inclusion and the black history and present of Atlanta. Finally, The Race is on Saturday, with a community service project on Sunday. This is an opportunity for every runner to give their time to improve the world around this event.

If you are a black runner, this is an opportunity to see many more runners that look like you than you’ll find at, say, any given running event in Portland, Oregon or Alameda County, California (the places I have run most). If you’re a person-of-super-white color like me, this is an opportunity to be an ally and help a black community event be successful and thrive. Look, I do as much foot-in-mouth-hey-I’m-TRYING as the next white girl who grew up in the suburbs. Here’s a chance to listen, learn, and help create a legacy race for black Atlanta.

Oh, and The Race’s friends at Lululemon made a video about the why!

What’s going on during The Race weekend?

Join Ndegwa from DC, and runners from across the country at The Race in Atlanta. Photo courtesy of The Race.

The Race weekend starts on Thursday with a Welcome Night and VIP Event. Some VIPs backed the vent on Kickstarter, while others paid a little extra for a VIP experience over the event weekend.

On Friday, October 12th, The Race’s Expo, Packet Pick-Up, and Meet & Greet takes place at Impact Event Center (2323 Sylvan Road East Point, GA 30344), 11:00am to 7:00pm. Every Expo needs volunteers, so if you’re free please volunteer via the event website. Even if you can’t volunteer, stop by the Expo after work to check out what’s building in the black running community in Atlanta and beyond!

The Race, the main event, is on Saturday, October 13th: The Race Half Marathon 2018 Legacy & 5K. The race will start at Impact Event Center (2323 Sylvan Road East Point, GA 30344), with the half marathon kicking off at 7:00am, and the 5K beginning at 7:15am. The official pace team covers every pace from 1:45 (hello, speed demons!) to 3:30 (finish with pride and strength!). I can only assume that the finish line of The Race will include massive celebration of a successful inaugural event. See you there?

The Race doesn’t end with a road race but continues on Sunday, October 14th when runners and supporters join the Community Impact Service Project, time(s) and location(s) TBD. Finally, the weekend concludes with the Celebrate Atlanta Block Party on Sunday night!

Mad Props To…

…The Unity Collective and all of the generous sponsors of The Race. (I’ll give them instagram-love all race weekend, of course!)

See You There?

Register today–there really are a limited number of spots. Fast, slow, or in between, there’s a spot in The Race for YOU.

Not ready to run? Seriously, come volunteer! Check out the open positions on Active.com’s event page.

Disclosure: I am a proud ambassador for Represent Running, the series that brought you the Inaugural Silicon Valley Half Marathon. Race ambassadors get some sweet gear and free race entries in exchange for promoting the races. (Of course I was so excited when I first heard about the race that I immediately signed up–seriously, did you see the swag?)  OH HEY, you can already register for next year. Don’t wait CLICK AND REGISTER!

After the heat of the San Jose Food Truck 5k, I was really glad the weather cooled off a bit–especially because the race didn’t start at o’dark-thirty. I also really liked that part. There’s nothing better than a good night’s sleep in a big fluffy bed, and then NOT getting up before the sun to go run the race. (Well, maybe I should have run before the sun got up…SPF 30+ is no match for my vampire-like skin’s reaction to the sun.) At any rate, I strolled from the Fairmont to the starting line, glad to have opted for the downtown San Jose experience. (Also for the CREAM sandwich I ate the night before: birthday cake ice cream on two sugar cookies. NOMNOM.)

The Starting Line

All of the medals from the Food Truck 5k and Silicon Valley Half, including the bonus bling
A full weekend of bling! Food Truck 5k, inaugural SV half, Run 2.0, and the Valley Challenge

First I realized that my bib only had one dot–but it was supposed to have two. See, this weekend was chock full o’ bonus bling: a challenge medal for running both the San Jose 408k and one of the weekend events, and another challenge medal for running both days (the Food Truck 5k on Saturday and either the SV Half Marathon or the 10k on Sunday). One of the other Represent Running ambassadors pointed me to the problem fixer-upper tent, and a minor crisis was averted. (Do NOT get between me and my bling!)

After a bunch of clowning around at the starting line, I started to pay attention to the pre-race speakers. It may be kinda nerdy of me, but I enjoyed learning a little more about the work of the Silicon Valley Education Foundation, the official charity of the race and its mission to prepare every student for college and careers, with a focus on STEM. If you don’t live in the area, you probably think of Silicon Valley as full of rich white guys–and it is, but there is also a sharp contrast between that impression and reality, which is that plenty of kids need help. It’s an expensive place to live, and there is food insecurity even among people who work “good” full time jobs. You can learn more about SVEF (and throw in some bucks!) here: https://svefoundation.org/donate/  There was also plenty of local love for bringing a big run back to downtown San Jose.

Out On the Course of the Silicon Valley Half

Mile 3 mile marker sign, with technology-themed icons
Innovation-themed sign at Mile 3

Speaking of a big run, San Jose has many running events throughout the year, but the Silicon Valley Half Marathon course was NOT a copy-cat course. Sure, it had some of the same streets, but the course itself as a whole was brand new. I particularly enjoyed the areas in the neighborhoods and near parks and schools. as it was quite warm and I needed shade! Every one of the water stops was fully staffed by great volunteers–this was not the kind of race where half of the water stop spots are filled by teens glued to their iPhones.

One of the fun things about an inaugural race is that you get to create all of the race stuff from scratch. Ordinarily, I don’t care about mile markers. (Frankly at most races they all look the same and are generic.) But there are lots of runners who selfie it up at every mile. So why not make the most of those selfies (since you know they’re going on Instagram)? The Silicon Valley Half Marathon made great mile markers, themed to various aspects of life in and around San Jose. Unless it’s a Disney race–where each mile marker is themed and plays music–I don’t take mile marker pictures…yet I have almost a complete set from this race.

Mile 10 mile marker featuring art, music, photography, sculpture
Art of all kinds celebrated at Mile 10

Given that it was hot, and I was feeling tired even after luxuriating in my fluffy bed at the Fairmount, I knew I was not gunning for a PR. I started with the intent to run about half, and walk the rest. For the first few miles, I was leap-frogging with the 3:00 pace group. Around mile 4, I decided to tag along. Mad props to Too Legit Fitness for providing amazing pacers. (Seriously, go follow Too Legit Fitness on Instagram.) While I ultimately decided to slow my roll at mile 7 or so, the pace team kept me going on the 3:00 pace up to that point. I’ve only ever run with one other pacer I loved so much, but this race had a team! Like not just one runner with a sign looking at his watch. I don’t have any official scoop here, but there were two women passing off the timing stick, and their gigantic fan club/run group. It was super motivating! Also, there were a few additional people from the pack who checked in with everyone else who was running, handing off a little snack here or a sip of water there to make sure that everyone was still moving forward.

Setting The Pace: Too Legit

Too Legit Fitness team, the pacers for the half marathon
Too Legit Fitness pacers brought their A game to the race.

The pacers were so awesome that after each pace team finished, the pacers went back out onto the course to cheer in more runners. This might not matter at all to you if you’re a sub-2:00 runner, but for those of us in the “back of the pack” (you know, the ones most races ignore and forget to feed, or let the sponsors pack up and go home before we finish?) it was a really great perk. Starting about a half mile from the finish line, there were pace team members cheering and jumping around. Some took the time to walk or run for a block or more with incoming runners. It was really cool to see the pace team out there, after running a half marathon, still out there encouraging everyone.

Mad props to the entire pace team (and apologies for anyone I missed): Nando Gonzales, Fernando Loera, Randy Pangelina, Melissa Yamashita, Jill Ahearn, Eric D. Sullivan, Earl Hooks II, Jackie Silva Torres, Sylvia Loera, and Jimmy Quilenderino. You can find them all on instagram.

Post-Race Festivities

After the race, at the Silicon Valley Half Marathon
Post-race music, food trucks, vendors, and more.

After the race, runners were treated to a post-race beer (actually I used mine to get sparkling wine–even better!) and live music. Lululemon provided little totes for each runner, which made it much easier to juggle the bling, banana, snacks, and bottled water at the finish line. The park was ideal for picnicking, and there were food trucks (and not the same trucks from the 5k but an entirely different set!). Plenty of runners brought their family and friends out to enjoy the music and food and beautiful day.

1

Elizabeth and Richard at he finish line party
Me and Richard hanging out at the post-race festival. Nice sunnies, no?

Other runner perks included a long-sleeve quarter zip (instead of a race t-shirt) that I just love (it’s a teal colored Leslie Jordan brand, super soft–you can see it on some of the folks in the starting line picture above), a sweet duffel bag, and FREE race photos, courtesy of race sponsor Amazon (who also had a photo booth on site, along with free sweat towels).

The park also had booths from all of the sponsors, and from local vendors selling both running-related items and items of general interest. Sparkling wine sponsor Barefoot had a booth tasting their new canned sparklers, in addition to beer and wine for sale at the beer tent. It made for a fun and relaxing afternoon.

On the plane home I started to think about the Silicon Valley Half Marathon 2019. Since the inaugural event had zero noticeable flaws, I’m sure word will get out and there will be many more runners in 2019. You should be one of them! Come join me–I’m going to register ASAP. (Note: you can actually register right now!)

Disclosure: while this is not a sponsored post, and contains no sponsored content, my ticket to BlogFest—just like everyone else’s—was generously paid for by the BlogFest sponsors. I’m thankful for that. As is my editorial policy, all of the opinions and words below are my own. The giveaway prize is sponsored by me–I ate all the yummy snacks in the swag bag, but decided to share some of the ones I picked up during BlogFest–though it includes some of the non-edible cute swag given to bloggers at BlogFest.

For the Love of Snacks!

Let’s talk about snacks. I love snacks. I would happily trade breakfast and lunch for snacks all day. Sadly, my go-to snacks are not always the healthiest options, or the optimal building blocks for my body and fuel for my workouts. In world of Snickers bars and Twix ads—not to mention a wide selection of junky choices always at arm’s reach—what’s a girl to do?

Enter BlogFest. #SnacksForDays should be the official hashtag of BlogFest, because we get fed well! This year, like all others, we had a number of great sponsors in the snacking business to keep us going.

Be Better

four different flavors of Be Better protein crunch bars, one of the BlofgFest snacks
Photo Courtesy of Shenie Bento

Even though bars—snack bars, granola bars, protein bars, candy bars—is a pretty crowded food category these days, I like to stay on top of what is available. Let’s face it, most of us don’t cook all of our meals every day, and some of us frequently find ourselves in situations where a satisfying snack is not easily at hand. To avoid office vending machines, my solution has been to keep a drawer stocked with lunch-able items (canned soup, Tasty Bite meals, etc.) at my desk. Bars are a key component of this, and no matter how much I love one type of bar, I also get bored easily…and if I’m bored, whatever junk is in the vending machine looks much more appealing than what is in the drawer.

But back to Be Better.  Be Better is a brand new line (which explains why I’d never heard of it). There are two Be Better products: a flaky protein wafer bar, and protein squares (two per pack). During BlogFest, the Be Better table in our conference room kept a full stock of all of the flavors, and we were able to try them at our leisure. I naturally gravitated towards the coconut flavors, Coconut Trail Mix protein squares, and coconut crunch protein wafer bars. I found the protein bars to be a little bit messier to eat than I had anticipated; due to the flaky layers that give the bars their light and satisfyingly crispy texture, it is possible to eat the bar and wear the bar at the same time. (As someone with zero natural grace, this is how I ate the first bar.) By the time I ate the second bar, I had learned to be a little more delicate in my chomping, which greatly cut down on the resulting mess. By the time I hit the third one, there were just a few crumbs. The protein squares surprised me for two reasons. First, they have chocolate in them and remind me very much of a gourmet type of candy bar. Second, despite my first observation and their delicious flavors, I found that I prefer to eat them one at a time (as opposed to eating both of the squares in the pack).

Be Better follows the current bar trend of being higher in both protein and calories than many older snack bars (think of anything from the very misguided 1980’s low-fat era), and I found one bar was the perfect size for a snack that sated my hunger and made me feel like I’d eaten something of substance. The Hazelnut Crunch protein wafer bar has 200 calories, 17 grams of total fat (largely from the nuts), 4 grams of fiber, and 11 grams of protein, for example.  The caramel & almonds with dark chocolate protein squares have 150 calories, 9 grams of fat, 2 grams of fiber, and 10 grams of protein PER SQUARE (each pack has two squares).

You can learn more on their website, https://www.beingbettermatters.com which is also the only place to buy them right now. (Or at least I checked Amazon and found nothing, and Google didn’t return anything.) At the time I’m writing this post, there is an offer to get a hat, a sticker, and another sample with your first order if you subscribe to the Be Better mailing list.

Psst! My friend Christine is giving away a WHOLE BOX of Be Better bars! Head over to her blog to enter to win!

Jimmy Bar

Bain with a Jimmy Bar in her mouth, in an IDEA session and armed with snacks
Saturday IDEA World session, snacks at the ready

Jimmy Bar sponsored our BlogFest swag bags this year and while they weren’t hanging out in the room with us, they put some bars in our bags and were super welcoming at their Expo booth. It might sound odd to have two sponsors that both make bars, but Jimmy Bar and Be Better seem more like separate categories to me. (That’s probably because I’m a snack conneisseur.) While Be Better features chocolate and a light and flaky texture, Jimmy Bar has does not feature chocolate (though there are some chocolate flavors available) and has a texture that I describe as like a Rice Krispies treat where someone pulverized all of the Rice Krispies before making it and then allowed it to harden up a bit after it cooled. It’s snacktastic. (I bought two boxes before I left the Expo.)

Jimmy Bar’s protein bars also follows the higher calorie, higher protein trend I’m seeing in snack bars now, so one bar is plenty for a snack. For example, the Birthday Cake flavor Jimmy Bar has 260 calories, 11 grams of fat, 29 grams of carbs, and 21 grams of protein. Depending on how your other meals are timed, I could also see eating a bigger breakfast and dinner, and having a Jimmy Bar as a lunch (with a piece of fruit or something, to make sure I get produce in that meal).  I’m planning to add Jimmy Bar to my running stash as well, because the solid texture of the bar means it will be easy to open and eat while I’m out on a run or at a race. Jimmy Bar makes multiple varieties including some that are vegan, nut-free, and in smaller sizes. You can learn more about Jimmy Bar at their website.

Jimmy Bar has been around since 2013, and is more widely available than Be Better. There is a store locator on the Jimmy Bar website, and you can also buy them on Amazon (that’s an affiliate link, but it doesn’t cost you anything extra to use it and Jimmy Bars are eligible for Prime, so…). They have a Dog CEO, and currently offer free shipping on orders over $40.

La Croix

Sweat Pink squad with foam rollers and yoga mats at the La Croix booth
Carleeh and Some of the Sweat Pink Squad at the La Croix booth. Photo courtesy of Carleeh.

While not present in the BlogFest conference room, La Croix also played a major role in my BlogFest and not just because they sponsored the BlogFest Networking Happy Hour that marked the official end of BlogFest. In addition to being a BlogFest sponsor, La Croix is a staple in my fridge. (Friends, 24 cans at Costco for around $7.) Also, they always have a great booth at the IDEA World Expo, and this year was no exception. The photo booth has been a staple for the past few years, and they supply fun props to use. This year each side of the La Croix booth had a color/flavor theme. In addition to their photo booth (tangerine), they had a set of punching bags and pink boxing gloves on one side (berry), and yoga mats and blocks and foam rollers (lime). Each corner had a big fridge filled with every flavor of La Croix, including the new key lime (which was also included in our swag bags).

If you’ve been living under a rock, you can learn more about La Croix on their website, which also has cute pictures of some of their other sampling booth layouts from other events. If you can’t find La Croix at a store near you, try Amazon (affiliate link, and some combinations are available on Prime).

Unfortunately this year the Expo was not in the same building as most of the IDEA sessions—one reason I hope IDEA does not return to San Diego–it was at the far end of the San Diego Convention Center. Since it took a good 15 minutes to walk from one building to the next, I didn’t get to spend as much time in the expo as I had hoped. This won’t be an issue next year in Anaheim, thankfully.

Fizzique

display box of four cans of fizzique
Fizzique sparkling protein water

While not an official sponsor of BlogFest, Fizzique did include some product in our swag bags, and I know they have worked with Sweat Pink, so I went out of my way to find them at the Expo and see what they are all about. The description–sparkling water with whey protein–sounds weird and questionable, but the product is actually quite tasty. First, it’s clear. (I had expected it to be milky-looking due to the whey protein.) It’s only 80 calories, which is about halfway between a diet soda and a regular one. All of the calories come from the protein, as Fizzique has zero carbs.

Fizzique is at the intersection of two very popular categories of consumer packaged goods: sparkling water and protein. The idea behind Fizzique is to curb hunger between meals by giving your body some protein but not many calories. (It is NOT a meal replacement drink.) Each can also has 45 grams of caffeine, which is about the same as a cup of green tea. There are currently two flavors, Tropical Limon and Strawberry Watermelon. I tasted both, and I like them both. In a toss up, I’d pick Strawberry Watermelon.

Fizzique currently has an offer on their website where you can get 10% off if you subscribe to their email list. Or you can order from Amazon (affiliate link, but if you’ve read this far you probably don’t mind supporting the blog?) and it is eligible for Prime.

Win BlogFest Goodies!

There are two prizes for this giveaway: Snacks and Sips.

Snacks. This prize features the brands that sponsored BlogFest, Be Better and Jimmy Bars…though I may just have to sneak a few more things in there to fill up the box, you know?

Jimmy Bar and Be Better bars prizes
Snacks Prize!
  • Be Better drawstring backpack
  • Be Better protein squares in Coconut Trail Mix, Almonds & Hemp Seeds, Honey Oats, and Caramel & Almonds
  • Be Better protein wafer bar in Hazelnut Crunch
  • Jimmy Bar tote and sweat band
  • Jimmy Bar clean snack bar in No Bluffin’ Banana Muffin
  • Jimmy Bar high protein bars in Birthday Cake, Peanut Butter Ice Cream, and Coconut Cream Pie

Sips. This prize features La Croix-themed items, because seriously, who doesn’t love La Croix? Drink it straight, use it as a mixer, make it into a mocktail. There’s enough swag here to share with your bestie, too.

La Croix swag prize
Sips Prizes!
  • La Croix printed tote
  • La Croix embroidered hats (one for you, one for a friend!)
  • La Croix enamel keychains
  • La Croix decals
  • La Croix enamel pins
  • La Croix branded workout bands

Enter using the widget below. But first, start by leaving a blog comment to tell me which prize you’d like to win! Two winners will be randomly selected, the first winner gets to choose their prize.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: while this is not a sponsored post, and contains no sponsored content, my ticket to BlogFest—just like everyone else’s—was generously paid for by the BlogFest sponsors. I’m thankful for that. As is my editorial policy, all of the opinions and words below are my own. (Product links are to my Amazon affiliate storefront. You pay nothing extra, I make a few bucks to pay web hosting fees.)

Remember how you looked forward to Christmas as a kid? All the anticipation, special treats, relatives, preparations! That’s how I feel about IDEA World, especially now that BlogFest takes up the first two days. Sometimes the things I wasn’t all that excited about turn out to be the very best things—just like Christmas, BlogFest is full of surprises!

This year, BlogFest hit at a somewhat inopportune time. I have A LOT going on in my “day job,” and some parts of that are extremely stressful. A year after moving to Portland, I’m still not fully settled into my apartment (and I’ve already renewed the lease). My godfather is extremely sick. One of my best friends just lost her mother. I have twenty-five (yes, 25!) drafted but unfinished blog posts, multiple brand new yet unread books on my dresser, a pile of packages that haven’t yet made it to the post office, and a mound of laundry patiently waiting for me. Every time I got closer to finishing something, I hit another set back. For example, I finished the first of five big giveaway posts, only to discover the photos I wanted to use are on my camera, and the battery was dead, and unlike my old camera this one requires a special battery. (Hooray for Amazon Prime.) Even though the thought of travel just depressed me and made me want to stay home so I could continue to dig myself out of the heap, I knew I’d feel better once I actually got to BlogFest.

BlogFest beach workout FitBodies
Workout on the “beach.” Photo courtesy of Carleeh

 I chose the last flight from Portland to San Diego on Wednesday night (for day-job-related reasons), and got in quite late. I was so excited to see Briana again that we spent a little more time than we should have catching up, and suddenly it was way past my bedtime. Oops. I didn’t sleep well at all, and just could not pry my body out of bed to get to the morning BlogFest workout on the beach. (As it was, in order to be on time to the opening remarks, we had to check in and get our badges beforehand, and the day started WAY earlier than I usually get to the office.) Despite the fact that the first day was THURSDAY, in my head it was Monday. (Seriously, it has been that kind of week!) The morning workout, presented by sponsor Fit Bodies, Inc., wasn’t something I felt I could do without compromising my commitment to NOT coming down with post-convention crud. I heard the workout was really fun, a simulated workout on the beach (with the “beach” being inside). I did read all about Fit Bodies prior to BlogFest. Essentially it is a way for personal trainers and group ex instructors to have a working vacation at a reduced price; in exchange for teaching a week of classes, fitness professionals can stay at the host resorts for a greatly reduced fee and enjoy all the same amenities as a regular guest. (I will definitely be checking into this for 2019!)

Petra Kolber at BlogFest
My imperfect photo of Petra in action

We kicked the day off with a welcome and initial thank you for the speakers. The morning presentation was Petra Kolber. You may not know who she is, but I’ve been following her since back in the days before DVDs. I used to get my VHS exercise tapes from Collage Video, and Petra was a force in the era of “step aerobics” (as well as the subsequent “Hi-Lo” format and beyond), so her name was all over the catalogue (and later, the website). At first I was a wee bit concerned that her topic—”The Perfection Detox: Tame Your Inner Critic, Live Bravely and Unleash Your Joy”—was just a big ol’ ad for her upcoming book (named, of course, The Perfection Detox). Yes, I’m cynical at times, but if you’ve read my prior posts you already knew this… I’m pleased to report that (1) I was totally wrong, and (2) I am so excited for the release of Petra’s book that I want to plan a group participation (free!) #PerfectionDetoxChallenge online. (Head over to my Amazon affiliate page and pre-order her book. Stay tuned for more details.) Petra shared her own history with anxiety and imposter syndrome, and encouraged each of us to STOP being so self-critical. Petra’s message was something I think we all really needed to hear, and it was a welcome shift from the energy that permeated the earlier part of my week.

Moment of transparency: originally I had planned to write a multi-part re-cap based on the three days I attended BlogFest and IDEA World. It suddenly makes MUCH more sense to break things down by topic, so instead of continuing on with Thursday, I’m shifting to talk about the rest of the super content from the BlogFest sessions.

If I was excited to hear from Petra Kolber—who I swear does not look like she is old enough to have been on VHS—I was positively stoked to hear from the first speaker for the afternoon, Sadie Nardini. If you do yoga you may already be familiar with Sadie Nardini. If you work out and hang out on Instagram, you’ve probably seen an ad for one or more of Sadie’s online courses, such as Fit and Fierce over 40 or Yoga Shred. In the yoga world, she’s seen as a bit of a yoga rebel (and not just because she has a fierce blonde mohawk and is in a rock band). Technically, Sadie was there to teach us about creating online content that provides asymmetrical income—the opposite of trading time for money—with a presentation titled “How to Make 6 Figures Online While You Sleep—Even if You Aren’t Tech-Savvy.” The meat-and-potatoes of the presentation outlined how to plan and film online content and create courses. But the underlying message was to quit being afraid of getting it wrong or doing a terrible job, and to go out there and DO that thing. Sadie had a really cool way of demonstrating how who she is on video is simply who she is not-on-video, with just a smattering of being nervous about being on video. (Aren’t we all??) I wish I’d had the chance to go hang out with her at wine o’clock, but I didn’t want to miss the next presentation.

The theme of this year’s BlogFest—which I’ve nicknamed “Stop Beating Yourself Up!”—continued with the BlogFest Keynote on Friday, delivered by Heidi Powell. Heidi spoke frankly about the businesses she runs with her husband, Chris Powell, and taming her own inner self-perfection-demanding critic. She also gave us a unique perspective on how to deal with the haters (you know, the people hiding behind their computers who have nothing better to do than criticize some detail of whatever it is you’ve most recently done). For more detail on the key takeaways on the BlogFest theme, check out Fab Fit Friends. Oh, and also Run Out Of The Box.

BlogFest is a social media conference, so we also had some presentations very specific to the things we do online. Chantal Brodrick came all the way from Australia to talk to us about “The Power of Podcasts,” but then lost her voice! Fortunately she had prepared her slide deck and had a friend deliver her presentation. Even though she couldn’t talk, Chantal still came to see us and help answer questions. No less a celebrity, GiGi Ashworth of Gigi Eats Celebrities gave a talk on video titled “Make Love to the Camera.” If you’re online, you know video is where all the action is right now, and I don’t just mean YouTube. Instagram supports video, as does Facebook (which owns Instagram). Twitter has video all over it. Blogs even have embedded video now, and some of it looks better than what is available on TV! GiGi’s talk was practical and hilarious. If you’ve watched any of her videos online, just imagine her teaching about how not to look ridiculous on camera. Finally, we had a quality presentation by Kristine Beatty, “Actionable Analytics—Beyond Your (Google Analytics) Home Page.” This is probably the technical talk I needed to hear most, since it is the topic I know the least about; sure, I have Google Analytics installed on this blog, but I have no idea what to do with it other than look at page views and bounce rates. I sent Kristine a message right after her presentation (since I’m such a newbie that even some of the terms she used lost me) and I’m definitely planning to use her slide deck and the resources she recommended to learn more.

Overall, the content in this year’s BlogFest was SOLID. Each year has been a little different in terms of how the schedule is organized and which topics and speakers are featured. This year, I’m committing to not beating myself up. Would you like to join me?
Feel free to follow me on Twitter and Instagram, where I’ll be announcing my online book club/offline “Perfection Detox” Challenge when Petra’s book comes out. You can also join my tribe using the form at the bottom of the blog—and I do solemnly promise and swear there will be no spam, ever, and I won’t share your email address without your permission, ever.

Thank you to this year’s BlogFest sponsors. (Curious? Click and learn more!)

Before I go, tell me: how does “perfection” have a hold on your life? What would it be like to live your life in a self-judgment-free zone? I’ll randomly choose a comment to win a sweet prize (which might just include a copy of Petra’s book when it is released in August) on July 31, 2018.

 

Yesterday, the Portland Board of Marathon Directors announced that there will be no Portland Marathon in 2018. Further, the organization is dissolving, and all remaining funds will be donated to local charities. The 2500 runners who already registered for the 2018 event will receive full refunds.

I loved and adored this race.

The Portland Marathon was my first marathon. After moving to Oregon in 2001, I got involved in Volkssports, which in the United States largely consist of untimed 5k and 10k walks hosted by local clubs. Participants track the number of events they have completed in one booklet, and the number of kilometers in another. As soon as I learned there was a walking division for the 42k Portland Marathon, I started talking my friends into walking it with me. In the end, it was me, my friend Susan, and my Dad. During the marathon we called Mom every few miles to give her an update.

I loved that marathon, which gave the three of us a ton of things to laugh about later. At one point, Dad turned to Susan and asked how she was doing. Susan smiled and said, “I think I should have packed Advil, because I am in some MAJOR pain.” Later in the course we were greeted by a tiny grandmotherly women who caught up with us. She asked if it was our first marathon, and we chatted for a few minutes before she told us to enjoy ourselves, and “I’ve got to go now. Goodbye!” Still walking, she sped ahead of us and we saw the sign on her back: this is my 50th marathon, how ’bout you? Yes, we got looped by the friendly neighborhood powerwalking grandmother. After Susan drove us back to my apartment, Dad and I learned why you shouldn’t immediately sit down after a marathon–getting up was so hard!–and slowly climbed the stairs to my second story apartment. Then I dropped my keys. We both started to bend down to pick them up, and we both stopped. (If you’ve completed a marathon, you know why!)

The Portland Marathon was the first race expo I ever went to, in the basement ballrooms of the downtown Hilton. Now that I’ve been to hundreds of race expos, I realize it wasn’t even that large in terms of race expos, but it was very exciting. I remember seeing all of the vendors and their running stuff, the weigh-in for the Clydesdale and Athena divisions, and the barbell station for the “pump and run” competition. As a walker, this was all foreign to me. There were attachments to your bib to indicate you wanted to have your picture taken, and another to confirm we had paid the local AVA club so they could stamp our walking books.

The finish line was my first big race finish line, complete with big finish line goodies. After receiving the medal–a shiny wonder on a red, white, and blue ribbon that I cherish–we received FINISHER shirts. (My first race shirts. My first shirts from Leslie Jordan, the first big athletic apparel company founded by a woman–also a local company.) All runners received a rose, a tree seedling, and other gifts, in addition to the gigantic buffet of post-race food: bananas, snacks, water, gatorade, slices of bread…I was hungry but couldn’t contemplate eating the dizzying buffet that lined the post-chute area.

I loved the Portland Marathon so much I did it three more times, and talked other friends into joining me. One year I even made it to the after party. (The first year, after Dad and I showered, we slept for many hours. Too tired to deal with anything, we ordered a pizza for dinner.)

I loved the iconic course, which showed off the entire city. (Until the city ruined the course last year, more on that later.) Runners went through downtown, the gates to Chinatown, under the Steel Bridge, over the St. John’s Bridge, and covered parts of each quarter of the city. The course went through a variety of neighborhoods, where residents threw marathon parties with signs, and kids got out sidewalk chalk and pom-poms and acted like cheerleaders. It have views of the Cascades, Swan Island, and the city’s skyline. The course literally was the finisher shirt design for many years, which I also loved (though some people were annoyed that the design was the same from year to year).

I loved how much of the city got involved in the marathon. There was entertainment at literally every mile (and you thought the Rock ‘n’ Roll series invented that idea? Nope!). I remember belly dancers, classical musicians, a Christian rock band. The course was staffed by volunteers from all sorts of groups; I first got involved in the marathon as a volunteer with the Penn State Club, as the Big Ten Clubs of Portland manned a water stop and several course monitor/directions posts.

I loved how much the marathon gave back. For years the Portland Marathon hosted “marathon school,” to teach other race directors how to put on a world-class event. The Portland Marathon was a world-class event. People came from all over the world to run it. Runners World consistently listed it as a destination race and a bucket list race. The marathon gave money to local charities, too.

For years after I started running, any time someone asked for a race recommendation, the Portland Marathon was at the top of my list. When I moved back to Portland in 2017, I was excited about the possibility of running the 50th annual Portland Marathon. I wasn’t the only one in love with this event, which The Bleacher Report called an “exceptional all-around event.”

A few bad apples spoil the cider.

Unfortunately, underneath this all a gigantic mess was brewing.

First, former Portland Marathon director, Les Smith, had embezzled a boatload of funds from the non-profit marathon. (Source for this fact and others in this paragraph. I should point out he ended up working out a deal and so wasn’t convicted of any crime and did not admit any guilt–but you don’t agree to pay back $845,000 that you didn’t take in the first place. Fortunately he’s banned from serving on non-profits, planning races, and practicing law as part of the agreement.) Like hundreds of thousands of dollars. So much that the Oregon Department of Justice was involved. In addition, there was a questionable relationship between the non-profit Portland Marathon and a for-profit company called Next Events that Smith partially owned. That investigation isn’t quite over. It’s pretty understandable that once this news broke, runners were uneasy about signing up to run the Portland Marath0n.

Second, that iconic course? It died an ugly death. The final year for the fast, flat (other than the lead-ups to the bridges) course was 2016. The first thing every announcement cites is “declining registration.” I am positive the destruction of the beautiful course directly resulted in a decline in registrations. The 2016 race also hit a snafu when the safety plan didn’t get approved by the Portland Fire Bureau, which seems kind of unthinkable since the race had a 40+ year history and surely the organization knew what it would take to file a proper plan, and on race day had not circulated the approved plan to the race officials and volunteers–the course was almost shut down. The race also directed runners to run extra mileage.

(That op-ed piece from The Oregonian–Portland’s newspaper–also documents other problems, including handing the first place trophy to the third place winner. In the end, Oregonian staff called for Portland to find another organization to organize the 2017 Portland Marathon.)

Sometime between when I moved to California in 2008 and 2o17, Portland became very antagonistic to races. I had barely started to run a 5k here and there by the time I left, but at that point all of the races I did were downtown, with a start and finish convenient to local brunches. When I moved back, I was shocked to learn that many of those courses, such as Pints to Pasta, had not only moved out of downtown, but had moved to other cities! This is baffling to me, as many runners meet up with friends after events for drinks or brunch (or both), and I definitely did some shopping after some of those races.

After the 2016 race, the city of Portland forced the course change, supposedly on the grounds that there were not enough Portland police officers to take care of the epic, historic course of the Portland Marathon. (When Runners World is publishing the scoop to the entire running world, that has to hurt registration too.) I’m not privvy to the internal discussions on that, but I have definitely been to races that used trained volunteers and police from other jurisdictions where the host city couldn’t supply the number of police the city required. The 2017 almost didn’t happen because the marathon organization ignored the requirement for a new course (and I’m guessing did not submit any alternative proposals for police coverage). Just a month out from the marathon, the event did not have a permit. According to that Runners World article, the marathon also still owed a police bill from the 2016 race!

In the end, the 2017 was pretty awful-looking, and I was glad I had not signed up to run. Instead of the gorgeous loop that showed off the best of the city, the course was largely an out-and-back along main roads and the freeway. Yuck. If I had been registered, I would have been pissed, despite the then-director’s attempt to spin the course as flatter and faster and even more BQ-friendly. Big ol’ bowl of NOPE there.

The 2017 race almost did not happen–surely another cause for declining registrations for 2018. For those who didn’t read about it in Runners World (the article is linked above), the city officials and race officials had a terrible working relationship after the 2016 event–no surprise even given the little I know–and by June 2017 the Oregon Department of Justice was investigating Smith. (That’s actually what kept me from registering in the first place.)

The Portland Marathon’s official statement regarding the cancellation of the marathon and dissolution of the organization is here. I find it is less than transparent, and downright dishonest in some aspects. Can you blame the city for wanting to “move in another direction” after the serious problems in 2016 and the discovery that the former race director embezzled nearly a million dollars from what was supposed to be a charitable group–one that was the face of Portland to thousands world wide? How is it that the Board of Directors failed to notice that the organization was breaking the law? (Smith and his partner, Mamie Wheeler, were the only two officers of both the non-profit Portland Marathon and their for-profit Next Events–creating a massive conflict of interest–in violation of Oregon law. Since Smith had been race director for 30 years and was also an attorney, he definitely knew better.)

In the face of what amounts to a dumpster fire, I believe the Portland Marathon organization had no choice but to dissolve. It abused the trust (and time and work) of runners and volunteers alike. The city had openly solicited proposals for another group to produce the event. After a rest, I’m hoping the city finds another race director who has the experience and integrity to give Portland the marathon it so richly deserves.