Race: Rock ‘N’ Roll Washington Half Marathon
Runner: Coach Brian Comer
Race Date: 09/04/2022
Location: Bellevue, Washington
Strava Activity Link: https://www.strava.com/activities/7753992061/overview
3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?
- Very well run event from expo to race day.
- Lots of positive energy and vibes in addition to course support (ample number of volunteers).
- Live music on course with various local bands covering a wide spectrum of genres performing during the race.
Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you
Nothing that necessarily falls into this category but the cone layout was often confusing as far as determining what side of the road you were supposed to run on. However, this was remedied by volunteers and police at critical intersections along the course directing traffic.
Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?
Again, nothing that really falls into this category but the live bands on the course is a aspect unique to races in the Rock ‘N’ Roll Marathon Series. Also at around mile 9, we had a well-timed “sasquatch crossing” that helped lift spirits as we got into the latter portion of the race and things started to hurt a little more. That was a fun little thing that helped boost overall morale. It was also along a section of the course that had a lot more surrounding trees as well, which I thought was appropriate.
Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?
For the first time in 3 years, Rock ‘N’ Roll was back in the PNW! It was cancelled for the pandemic in 2020, then again in 2021 when it was determined that Seattle didn’t have the police force necessary to host the event. Luckily, Bellevue was able to step up and host this year, re-branding the race as the inaugural Rock ‘N’ Roll Washington. It was nice to come back home and run in such a marquee event.
Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner
The course gives you plenty of variety, lots of ups and downs. You may not get the impression looking at the course map, but the course can be deceptively hilly and can be hard to find a rhythm on. This is because while there are a couple fairly major uphill segments, there are also some fairly significant downhill segments that you can really fly on. My advice would be to just take what the course gives you, trying to keep even effort on the uphills then cruising on the downhills.
Lessons you learned that will help you next time around
I felt that having a conservative start was particularly beneficial, however there were definitely sections of the course where I could have pushed it a little more than I did. It was really easy to commit early on when starting in Corral 1, I was passing runners who started in the Elite Corral in the first couple miles (there was a minute gap between the corrals, via a wave start) but for much of the middle miles, I found myself in no man’s land. It wasn’t until around mile 10 where I found another Elite Corral runner to latch onto and pack up with for the last 5K of the race.
Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race
The course is essentially one big loop though you’ll be making an ample amount of turns in both directions. The start and finish are both adjacent to Bellevue Downtown Park on opposite ends of the park. Don’t let the uphill along Bel-Red Road get in your head too much as you’ll get a significant downhill to catch your legs a couple miles later as you approach the 10 mile mark.
Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?
I’d say it’s a decently pretty course, we had really nice weather, sunny and clear plus not too warm, which helped this cause. Some of the residential sections and the aforementioned tree tunnel at the sasquatch crossing I’d say are pretty. The rest of the course is very indicative of what you’d find in a big city, but on the other hand it’s in those sections of the course where more spectators tend to congregate and cheer runners on.
Difficulty – Is it a tough course?
I’d probably give the course a medium difficulty rating, nothing too crazy. While the uphills can be a little deceptive, there is more than enough downhill to make up for it. As I said, I think the most difficult thing is that you can’t rely on rhythm running when it comes to this course.
Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?
Absolutely, I’d say that all the Rock ‘N’ Roll events are very well run. They have been going on for a long time in various locations around the globe and despite this being the first edition of Rock ‘N’ Roll Washington, it would definitely qualify as a well-oiled machine.
Competition – Is there a strong field?
I’d say there is pretty good competition. The winner snuck in just under 1:10 and top 10 were all mid-1:16 or under. I wound up finishing 5th overall, 1st in my age group and among non-elites. All 4 runners ahead of me in addition to the 6th place finisher were in the Elite Division (starting in the Elite Corral). I ran a time of 1:12:42, which was a 42 second PR. The field had some pretty decent depth as well as 15 runners broke 1:20 and 74 runners broke 1:30 in a field of 7904.
Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.
If your coming from out of town, definitely book a hotel sooner rather than later. I didn’t have this problem technically being a local who grew up in the area but definitely plan accordingly if planning to travel in from out of town. Likewise, I’d register sooner rather than later as well, even just to try and lock down the best price. I feel a lot of entries this year (myself included) were entries that rolled over from 2020 and/or 2021 and when word gets out, it’ll fill up even quicker.
Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?
Pretty standard fare, water at all aid stations and Gatorade Endurance at every other aid station (8 total aid stations for the half marathon).
Weather and typical race conditions
Usually your in for pretty nice weather. It didn’t rain this year and there were cooler temps at the start given the start time is 6:30 AM but nothing cooler than mid-50s, getting into the mid-60s as you creep later into the morning (which is the listed average temperature listed on the website). Given the course time limit of 4 hours, you can reasonably expect to avoid the heat of the day.
Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next runner?
Nothing overly specific or out of the ordinary.
Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?
Definitely a spectator friendly course, you can catch both the start and finish without straying very far from the Downtown Park. In addition, there are plenty of good viewpoints elsewhere in the downtown sections and in the residential areas if you either have local know-how or did your homework in reviewing the course and road closures.
How’s the Swag?
The swag is great and the medals are very cool (both individual race medals in addition to the heavy medals and remix medals). Not to mention at the expo, there is plenty of swag available for purchase both from various vendor booths in addition to the more official looking race swag like shirts, hats, sweatshirts, and finisher jackets.
The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?
I’d definitely give it 5 stars without a doubt. I’d recommend the race to others, whether your a beginner or advanced runner. The atmosphere and vibes at these events is pretty special and unmatched in many ways.
Brian Comer is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about him or to work with him, check out his coach profile.