Rock 'n' Roll DC 2018 (Road Marathon)

I had been training all winter long for one of my favorite races - a local Montgomery County Road Runners Club (woot woot) 50K. I had a B-/B training block, short a few key workouts and one big week but otherwise fine. I felt sub-optimal, but I was determined to have a good race.

Well, wind and dangerous course conditions and understandably cautious race direction conspired to call the race off the morning-of. At 5 in the morning, race morning, I considered my options. Pretty quickly I shifted gears to the idea of jumping into the DC Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon and getting the ’19 BQ Monkey off my back (I don’t love road marathons, though I’m sure I could stand to do more of them, but a lot of my friends are running Boston in ’19 and I won’t wanna miss that party). Turns out I’m not getting any younger and my qualifying standard is somewhere in the neighborhood of 3:10 so I was pretty sure I could run it conservatively and use it as a training run.

But I knew my good friend (and dude I started running with going on 6 years ago) Sam was running Rock ’n’ Roll and I knew he was keen to get his first sub-3 marathon in. I figured I could pace him for a good workout, secure my BQ and not worry about road marathons for 13 months. During an impromptu training run the afternoon of my cancelled 50K, he agreed and we decided I’d run with him and try to pace him around a 6:45 mile and get him to the sub-3 promised land (and he’d keep me interested and invested in a race I otherwise had little enthusiasm for).

I felt like crap the week-of: kind of a low-level cold and achey, weird naggy muscle issues. I had a good(ish) workout Wednesday and a fine shakeout Friday and I thought I would have a perfectly fine day on Saturday. 

Brevity is the soul of… something… and this isn’t an epic poem so let’s get to the point- 

What happened on race morning is pretty straightforward and simple: Sam brought it! I can’t pace for shit and started us off too fast (in the 6:20s) and he was good. I kept checking in, not wanting to sabotage his race, but he was good! We kept going. Around the halfway mark, he suggested we take it down a notch and I did (a little, but not by much - 10 seconds a mile or so). 

And Sam kept running, so I never really dropped the pace much lower than that. It was super impressive and really rewarding to see all of his work paying off. He was crushing it! I was also really happy with my performance. My cardio was a little weak but my neuromuscular game was on point - I was running comfortably and happily at a personal best pace.

So the next part of the story is crazy and I still, almost two days later, cannot believe what happened. At Mile 24, I had plenty in the tank and wanted to put the hammer down and catch a runner or two (got one). I knew Sam had sub-3 in the bag and that it was his race for the home stretch. He agreed and off I went. I ran the last two miles 6:04 and 6:02 which, for that deep in a race, is pretty fast for me. It wasn’t all I had (I was getting a little queasy from the sixth gel in two-and-a-half hours) but it felt good and there was real effort in it.

So when I write that I crossed the finish line in 2:49:45 and bent down to catch my breath and to turn off my watch and just check my gut real quick that I wasn’t about to throw up the last salted caramel (or was it toasted marshmallow?) Gu…when I write that I turned around a few seconds after crossing the finish line to see my friend Sam crossing the finish line in under two hours and fifty minutes…when I write that, know that I write that utterly incapable of expressing just how profoundly fucking awesome it was to see and proud I was. Sam chased me! I had no idea but he was only about 15 seconds behind me! Now, I’m not trying to act like I’m all that but I wasn’t bullshitting the last two miles, either. I felt like I put in a pretty good effort and he chased me! I was/am thrilled. 

He wanted that achievement badly and worked hard for it and it was incredible to witness the payoff. It was a great reminder of what we should all be running for. 

We want to know we’ve done better than we’ve ever done before.  Without equivocation. When that happens - it’s something special, something verging on sacred. While I didn’t experience it on a personal this day, seeing it in action was affirming. It’s given me something to aspire for. I said it shortly afterward: I’ve never seen anybody run as ballsy and reckless and perfect a race as my friend did. Not only did he PR, he did so by more than 15 minutes. That’s a rare day when you see, in action, the distance between what you think you can do and what you can do. 

I got my BQ and a great run with my friend but the most important thing is that I got a lesson in the right way to do this thing - work hard and have a big heart and run like you can’t fail and don’t worry that it hurts. All that hurt will disappear when you cross the line and it’ll be worth it and you'll have an achievement you’ll be proud of for the rest of your life.



TIME: 2:49:46 (new PR)

OVERALL: 13/1856 GENDER: 13/1136 DIVISION: 2/199

SHOES: Altra Solstice 1 w/ Altra Vanish-R 1 supportive insoles

Adrian Spencer