Have you ever wanted to run one half of one half of a marathon, eat a delicious “half smoke” chili dog and chips, and then run the second half back to the start? Well, you’re in luck – there’s an event where you can do all of that, and it’s the “DC Half and Half Marathon” in our nation’s capital.
I had the chance to visit Washington DC this past weekend, to meet up with my family for a couple of days. Since I had a 12-mile training run on my schedule and came across the Half and Half during some online research, I thought “why not?” The course looked like a nice, windy, out-and-back through Rock Creek Park, the thought of eating a half-smoke brought back memories of my summer internship at the CBO, and race founders and organizers Chris and Pete Magnuson seemed like genuinely nice guys. I filled out the online form, sent in my eighty bucks and planned to be in NW Washington early on Saturday.
On race day about 150 total runners showed up, gathering briefly at the Second Wind Cross Fit on 14th Street for an orientation, followed by a quick herding down the block to the start line (a 10 x 10 canopy in a local farmers market). Everyone seemed excited and hungry, some in costumes, and cheers went up at the starting “gun” and we gaggled off towards Rock Creek Park.
The best way to describe the course conditions would be “Gorgeous Early AM Mid-Atlantic Fall”, with crisp, cold air and bright rays of sunshine beaming through a canopy of red and yellow leaves. Although the course wasn’t officially closed to traffic, there were only a few cars out at dawn and our thinning pack easily wound its way down through Rock Creek, past the National Zoo and over to Adams Morgan. Throughout the first half, I maintained a nice, slow pace, kept an effortlessly low HR, and spent the hour totally enjoying the day. By the time I traversed across 18th to U-Street, the district seemed to have woken up a little, and I found myself running in place at a number of red lights or waiting for breaks in the city traffic.
The halfway point is clearly the high point of this race, where runners have the opportunity to duck inside Ben’s Chili Bowl – a DC culinary landmark (one that is surprisingly bustling with patrons at 9am). Chris and Pete arranged to have a separate room set up in the back of the restaurant, where volunteers pass out water, chips and, of course, big, hot half smokes, smothered in spicy chili. After picking up my tray, I stared down anxiously at its contents, worried about being able to ingest a entire chili dog after running 6+ miles. After the first bite, however, I quickly remembered that a) chili dogs are delicious and b) I had skipped breakfast. I gulped down my half smoke in just a few, big chomps, got a quick photo with the DC United mascot in front of Ben’s, and then headed off to finish the second half of the race.
Needless to say, this race is lot of fun. Don’t expect to set a PR on the course – stopping midway for a dog and pausing at multiple, busy city intersections will derail any efforts at speed records. But let’s be clear: that’s not why you run the DC Half and Half. You do it because it’s a good time, a beautiful course, well organized and a chance to see some interesting parts of a great city.
A few other observations:
- The tech T-shirts are good quality, with fun, creative, “half smoke” graphics on the front
- There are a handful of water stops (aka friendly volunteers with pitchers), plenty for a 13-mile run
- The route is fairly well marked – I only got confused at a couple of points in the downtown section, but there were more than enough volunteers out of the course to help out and point you in the right direction
- No timing – so if you really want to know your finish time, it’s DIY
- And no nearby metro stops; after the race I ended up taking a Capital Bikeshare back to mom’s house
Net takeaway: DO IT – IT’S FUN!