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Mother Nature must have been feeling merciful. A radiant sunrise turned to overcast skies, 50-degree temperatures and a slight breeze, providing ideal conditions for over 19,000 racers at the Rock ‘n’ Roll D.C. marathon and half marathon.
Runners at the starting line were happy to avoid a repeat of last year’s cold rain.
“Perfect. This is perfect,” said Alex Smith, who flew in from Milwaukee for the race. He chose Rock n’ Roll because it was the closest big marathon that would motivate him to keep training in Wisconsin’s harsh winter.
Vincent Reddish and Joshua Cowan said they were excited, nervous, and ready to start. Cowan was one of 518 runners at today’s race running on behalf of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital; the team raised over $200,000 for the charity.
Martha Nelson, though, missed the rain. The defending champion said last year was the smoothest marathon she’s ever run whereas this year proved to be more of a mental challenge.
“Getting the F1 [bib number] puts a lot of pressure on. I knew as much as I told myself you don’t have to win, you’re always going to have that defending champion bullseye on your back.”
Nelson, who lives in D.C., relaxed by helping pace a friend to a sub-3:00 finish and taking advantage of her hometown advantage. “It’s a fun race for me because I get to see a lot of friends along the course,” she said.
Nelson reeled in the eventual runner-up, Lori Nedescu (2:59:55), on the big hill in Fort Dupont Park near mile 21. “I felt if I could pass her going up the hill, that meant that I had more strength. It’s a hard thing to take the lead when you’re that exhausted.”
She struggled in the final miles, but gutted it out to finish in 2:58:02. Katie Moran (3:04:33) finished in third.
The closest 1-2 finish of the day came during the women’s half marathon. Bethany Sachtleben (1:19:43) and Kerry Allen (1:20:07) raced together for the first half, with Laurel Le Moigne joining for part of the Rock Creek Parkway portion, but Sachtleben pulled away around mile eight and never gave up the lead.
“It was fun to have our little pack for a while,” Sachtleben said. Today’s race helped her prepare for the U.S. half marathon championships in late April.
Hannah Eckstein (1:19:24) finished third in her first half marathon.
Both men’s races were blowouts. Mizael Carrera (1:06:16) went in knowing he could be the top finisher and left no doubt as he led from the gun, two minutes under his PR and over a minute-and-a-half ahead of his nearest competitor.
He slowed from his goal pace of 5-minute miles as he got into the race. “I didn’t look at the course elevation, so I didn’t know there were hills. I kind of backed it off because I didn’t want to hit the wall.”
Carrera is training through this race to prepare for an April marathon in Germany, where he hopes to qualify for Puerto Rico’s Olympic team.
D.C.’s Carlos Jamieson edged out Bethesda’s Andrew Brodeur for second place. At the awards ceremony, Brodeur said “the wheels just came off” in his final ten steps. Jamieson won last year’s race and later qualified for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, but a hot day in Los Angeles forced him to drop out halfway through. He wore his old high school uniform, that of North Rockland, N.Y., which saw its girls distance medley relay team with the New Balance Nationals Indoor title the day before, in a national record time.
Alfredo Arevalo Reyes, who signed up for the marathon this week, ran a lonely 2:30:04 to win by over four minutes. Even with the commanding lead, the two-time Olympian glanced over his shoulder throughout the race to make sure no one would catch up to him. To his surprise, no one ever did.
Reyes, 40, was excited to win a marathon on U.S. soil, even if he didn’t get his qualifying time for the 2016 Olympics. At the finish, he hoisted the flag from his home of Guatemala, one of 47 countries represented by Rock n’ Roll racers this morning.
Steve Chu (2:34:09) finished in second while Dirian Bonilla (2:37:25) finished third.
Dickson Mercer (16:10) and Kendahl Melvin (20:54) each took first place in the 5k. Guler Koca (2:16:38) and Salomon Vazquez (3:34:39) won the marathon’s wheelchair division; Daniel Hagarty (2:12:15) was the top wheelchair finisher for the half marathon; Amanda Strite (33:23) and Erin Kelman (26:45) won the wheelchair 5k.
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D.C.’s weather also made an impact on the finish area this year. Race organizers added changing tents after soggy runners went home shivering in 2015 and moved the finish line because the original spot was still covered in stubborn snow piles.
Aimee Price of Williamsport, Md., said the mild winter this year made training for the half marathon a little easer. She and Tamara Krumm both loved the course. “It’s always good. You can see all of Washington,” Krumm said.
Brigitte Todd said her half marathon time wasn’t her best because she’s coming back from injury. “I took it easy, I stopped a couple times, I drank champagne and margaritas on the way” courtesy of some roadside fans in the middle of the race.
“I wasn’t taking it very seriously,” she said with a laugh.