When most race registration websites encourage runners to sign up their particular event, Riley’s Rumble Half Marathon cautions participants.
“Don’t be seduced by the lush bucolic countryside of rural Montgomery County,” it said. “This race will challenge the best runners. If you want the 3 H’s (hills, heat, and humidity), this is the race for you.”
[button-red url=”http://www.mcrrc.org/rileys-rumble-1″ target=”_self” position=”left”] Half Marathon Results [/button-red]Despite all of this discouragement, more than 400 participants showed up to the starting line at 7 a.m. to conquer what they knew and expected to be a tough course. In fact, those words of warning were part of the draw.
“If another guy suggests to do something challenging or possibly stupid, I don’t back away,” Sasha Rourk of Washington, D.C. said. “It’s definitely tougher on country roads with a lot more hills. But there’s fewer tourists than the Mall.”
Rourk said his colleague, Arie Heijkoop, recommended the race to him in preparation for the Marine Corps Marathon he plans to run in this fall.
“It’s probably the toughest thing I’m going to do this year,” Heijkoop said. “I think everything they say about these races are true — Park’s Half Marathon is the ‘nice half.’ And this is the race ‘your mother warned you about.’”
The race used to take place along the C&O Canal at Riley’s Lock (the race’s namesake). But after logistical difficulties, race director Joel Carrier said, the course moved to its current location in Boyds, near the South Germantown Recreational Park. Carrier said he prefers the new course but added “I wait until the fall to run it.”
“It’s the nicest day we’ve had in years,” he said while talking about the temperatures, which were in the low 70’s with a few sprinkles of rain. “Usually it’s hot and humid.”
Riley’s Rumble is one of several events among MCRRC’s low-key race series. While there were no awards, t-shirts or finisher medals, one of the temptations to sign up for the race was the low cost: free for club members or a $21.40 registration fee for everyone else—a steal for a half marathon near Washington, D.C.
The low cost was what lured Scott Smith of Bellaire, Md. into signing up. He’s currently in the midst of attempting 13 half marathons in 13 months. He said he’s running three of these halves in August, solely because they were the most affordable.
“This was a bargain and I try to do as many bargains as possible,” Smith said.
Smith is also training for numerous marathons in between his half marathon challenge.
“It’s gonna be a tough week,” Smith, who has another half marathon coming up next week, said. “But Maryland in general is a hilly place and it will toughen me up for the marathons.”
Though the race website recommended first timers steer away from Riley’s Rumble, the event marked Nicole Dawson’s first half marathon. She’ll not only remember her first half marathon because of the course, but also because of the fact that she was the first woman to come through the finish.
At only 19 years old and a junior at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, won the women’s division by nearly two minutes, with a time of 1:32:28. She ran the first half of the race with her UMBC teammate, Sarah Zielinski, then broke away.
Megan Haberle of the Dojo of Pain was also among one of the top women to come through the finish. She felt like she was in a state of shock at staying upright for 13 miles after being dogged by injuries all spring. She added one of her favorite things about the low-key race series is how supportive the other runners in the race were.
“I’m a small town girl at heart and this recaptures that same feeling I remember when I watched my dad run small 10k races,” Haberle said.
She added that she also enjoyed the rural scenery.
“It’s a beautiful course,” she said. “You’re not breathing in car exhaust, you’re just looking out in the landscape. It’s a nice distraction.”
Jim Dahlem of Silver Spring said he was quite surprised to see how rural Montgomery County actually was.
“This is by far the most rural half marathon I’ve ever done,” he said. “We passed through farms and cows all on country roads.”
That wasn’t the only aspect of the race that surprised him.
“When you’re going downhill in the beginning you don’t realize how steep it’s going to be coming back because you’re not tired yet.”
Though Dahlem had a few surprises, he still managed to finish third in his age group.
The top finisher in the race, who’s now a back-to-back first place finisher winning this year’s and last, MCRRC racing team member Nicolas Crouzier passed through the finish line at 1:17:03 — a 4:37 lead over second place finisher Miles Aitken. Crouzier said he aimed to run each mile a little quicker than his marathon pace.
“I started out with 5:45 per mile then eased up a little after a few miles,” Courzier said.
The MCRRC competitive team recruited Courzier after he won this race last year . He added that the low-key races series put on by the club is a favorite of his.
“I just love these small local races,” he said. “You don’t have to worry about medals or anything like that, it’s just pure and simple racing—and that’s what I like.”
As local road races find their footing in the post-pandemic world, along with attracting racers, they also need to be well-staffed with volunteers to handle all of those things that make a race worth running.
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