Passport to Race: Rock ‘N’ Roll Half Marathon 2009

My bib from this year's race

My bib from this year's race

Your Name: Kelly Fenton

Name of Race: Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon

Place: VA Beach

Tourist or Local? Tourist

Distance: Half Marathon – 13.1 miles

Date you raced: Sunday, Sept. 6, 2009

Number of times you’ve run this race: 9 – every year since this race started!

Number of runners in race: 15792 finishers

Describe/rate the:

–       Start

I should start off saying that I love this race and have been running it every year since its inception in 2001.  Each year the running field has grown and this year in particular I was extremely frustrated with the start.  Unlike years past, there were no volunteers monitoring the entrances to the corrals (at least not when I entered which was a good 10 or 15 minutes after the official start thanks to a long port-a-potty line).  Because of the lack of monitors, people who should have been in the back corrals were mixed in with my corral.  Now, I’m not a super fast runner by any means- I was put into the 18th corral, but I did intend to run this race competitively (with my myself of course!) and was extremely frustrated by the MOBS of walkers that cluttered the road for a good 3 miles.  Other than that, the start is well intentioned by staggering the start of each corral by 2 minutes.  There is also a good vibe and a large space to wonder around before the starting gun with food, drink, and the ubiquitous port-a-potty lines.

–       Food/drink on course

This year the course served Cytomax which I wasn’t too excited about as I prefer good ol’ Gatorade, but it actually wasn’t too bad.  There were plenty of stops and some of them even had ice in the water!  This year they gave out GU which I declined in favor of my beloved Powerbar Gel.

–       Port-a-potties

There’s plenty of port-a-potties at the start, but the lines are, as always, super long so jump in early!

–       Course (Hilly? Flat?)

The course, which changed last year, is not bad- very flat with 2 slight inclines to accommodate a bridge you cross twice.  The road goes down to a 2-laner when it enters Camp Pendleton and it gets quite crowded!  But my main complaint would be the lack of shade.  When the sky is clear, as it was this year, the sun beats right down on you zapping every ounce of energy you have! I definitely run this race slower thanks to the hot, direct sunlight.  Other than that though, there are lots of fun spectators and the promised rock bands and cheerleaders.  My favorite spot this year was right before the return into town where Jamaican themed spectators cheered, gave out water, and had 2 hoses cooling us down.

–       Finish

The last mile is on the board walk and while it seems to take for-EVER to spot that magical “13” sign, the breeze off the ocean is great and the excitement of the impending finish is unavoidable!  Even better is after crossing the finish.  This is one of the best and well organized finishes.  Immediately after crossing the line, volunteers hand you an opened cold water (can’t tell you how nice it is to have that top off the bottle!).  Next comes a cold, wet towel, which feels AMAZING.  Now that we no longer have chips that need removing, we are free to keep walking as volunteers are staggered handing out Cytomax, bananas, popsicles, a bag of more food, and of course the finisher’s medal.  What I love about this finish is that there is no back-up of lingering finishers as the runners are forced to continue to walk in order to get through and out to meet their friends.  There is no confusion or line to get the food, and a bag is included so you don’t have to juggle everything.  Eventually you make your way out of the finish line where you can head to the beach, the beer tent, and the family reunion site identifiable by large letter signs.  Very clear, very easy, which is very appreciated after 13.1 miles of exhaustion!

–       Staff

Very friendly and lots of them!

Recommended pre/post-race restaurant:

I have actually never been to a VA Beach restaurant for this race weekend as I always stay at a good friend’s house where she prepares the most amazing dinner and lunch for all the runners.  However, I’m sure there are lots of great places to dine- if you know of one, leave it in the comments! 🙂

Local tourist attractions (running or non-running related):

If you’re gonna make a weekend out of this race, the beach and Atlantic Ave. are the obvious places to hang out!  I might also recommend the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center as well as Mount Trashmore, a landfill that was remade into a park!

Personal anecdotes:

There are too many anecdotes to mention in a single race report!  But I can say the reason I love this race is because it is the one guaranteed time a year that I know I will see my best friend, college roommate, and Races in Places co-founder JuliaHart.  We have been running this race since its debut in 2001 and have vowed to run it every year until the race closes, which hopefully will never happen!

Your Name:

Name of Race:


Tourist or Local?


Date you raced:

Number of times you’ve run this race:

Number of runners in race:

Describe/rate the:


Food/drink on course


Course (Hilly? Flat?)



Other aspects?

Recommended pre-race restaurant:

Recommended post-race restaurant:

Local tourist attractions (running or non-running related):

Personal anecdotes:

Other things to know about this race:


The first long run back is always the hardest

Harlem Piers along the Hudson River Parkway

Harlem Piers along the Hudson River Parkway

This past weekend I went on my first long run in several months.  Saturday night I begrudgingly set the alarm and woke up early Sunday morning to gray clouds telling me to go back to bed and sleep in.  Had it been a month ago, had it been the weekend before, I would have heeded those clouds and snuggled back into my bed in my air conditioned bedroom.  But last month, the prior weekend even I was not in training and this weekend, I’m afraid I am.

For the last 8 months (wow! has it been that long?!) I have been running without a race on my horizon.  I usually run a half-marathon in the spring but frankly, after the NYC Marathon this past 2008, I was exhausted and wanted to try running without training.  This was the first time I’ve ever really run semi-regularly with out the promise of a race.

I must admit, I found it completely liberating!  I took off the watch and GPS and just ran! I stopped logging my runs and paid no attention to how long it took, how fast I was going, and I walked when I needed to walk.  Running became for the first time, a true stress relief.  I even brought my iPod along a few times! When I missed a run, I didn’t feel guilty for slacking on my training schedule, I just felt lousy.  My body started to crave the runs in a way it never had before! Running became my salvation, the time to truly decompress and work out anxiety.  Not that I didn’t have these benefits before while training, but when the sole purpose of the run was for stress relief and not because my training schedule said I had too, the benefits were all the more rewarding.  I was like a kid who decided to research something not for school but out of genuine interest.

The downfall of this type of free running was consistency.  Sure I wanted to run every day or every other day, but when days became full and projects piled up, running (along with sleep!) was the first to get cut.  As a freelance musician, my daily schedule varies.  I aim for structure but when a job comes in that requires everything to be dropped in order to meet the deadline, I drop everything, sit at the computer for unheard of hours in a row ignoring nutrition, sleep, and to some degree, hygiene (ew, gross!).  While the best thing for me very well would be to get out and run, I just can’t tear myself away from the work, unless of course, I am in training.  Then the running takes a higher priority (though I wholeheartedly feel it should always be given that high priority, I just have a hard time enforcing it.)

So now, in the midst of new projects, I am in training again, and my running is becoming consistent again.  The race? The Rock ‘N Roll Half Marathon at VA Beach.  I, along with Races in Places co-founder and recent Spain runner JuliaHart have run this race every year since it’s inaugural race in 2001.  Admittingly, I am a little late to start training for a half, but this race has historically been more of a “fun run” than a competitive one.  The higher purpose being for me and JuliaHart to see each other and catch up (we live quite a distance apart) rather than beat a PR.  This race also serves as a great jump start to fall marathon training.  It basically announces the beginning of the fall and the return to training.  This is a fantastic race which we will definitely be posting about in the near future.  Which leads me to one final point…

Now that I’ve returned to focused running, I hope to return to maintaining this blog.  I feel very passionate about creating a place for ordinary runners to share their running stories, taking its readers on a virtual road trip around the world.  I truly believe that running, even more so than music, is a universal language that we can use to understand and appreciate each other’s various lifestyles and cultures, be it the difference between living and running in the southern vs. northern states of America, or far more reaching areas of our world.

And so encourage you readers to share your stories here, spread the word, and happy return to training!

Run hard but not too fast to enjoy the scenery!!

Passport to Race: The 2009 Boston Marathon

Cathy running the 2007 Richmond Marathon

Cathy running the 2007 Richmond Marathon

Your Name: Cathy Polishuk

Name of Race: Boston Marathon

Place: Boston

Tourist or Local? Definitely a tourist. I’ve never been to Boston which made driving downtown with closed roads difficult. Note for anyone who decides to drive into the city for packet pick-up – bring a map!!

Distance: marathon

Date you raced: 4/20/09

Number of times you’ve run this race: First time!

Number of runners in race: 28 thousand and change – I’m not sure how many started, but about 22 thousand finished


I met 30 of my fellow Richmond runners at 7:30AM on Monday after getting lost on the way to meet them. The directions from MapQuest were terrible! So of course, I started off the morning with tears imagining that I would miss the race because I did not have a contingency plan for getting to the start. My boyfriend and I stopped for directions… The first lady Mike asked did not speak English. I then made him cross the road to ask a man that was running towards us who refused to help us. I was upset and imaging that all Bostonians were like this man but was soon proven wrong after we met someone who gave us great directions in addition to all the wonderful people along the marathon route.

I boarded the bus and we made it to Hopkington State Park where we walked up to the runners village and dropped our bags. We did not get there early enough to get the free B.A.A. gloves they were giving out, but we did take lots of pictures. The photographers were amazing! I made the mistake of not bringing any throw away clothes, so I hung around in my running gear for a couple hours – note to self: Bring old clothes to wear – they donate them after you throw them away.

I was in Wave 2 (of 2) and from there they put you in corrals of 1,000 people each. They started us at 10:30 which is the latest race I’ve started by more than 2 hours. This late start time will play a role in some lessons I learned later in the day…The beginning of the course was a nice easy downhill and the spectators were great. I was feeling positive and excited to finally be running Boston. Within the first 8 miles, I saw a girl cop a squat for the first time in my life. I’ve heard about it, but never seen it. Right there on the side of the road! Then we approached Wellesley and the boys slowly made their way to the right side of the road where the girls would be. And you may have heard rumors about those girls and I think they are all true. Yes, you can literally hear them from a mile away. Yes, a ton of them had “Kiss Me” signs and yes, it was a truly amazing feeling to run through all that noise. It gave me a taste of what it feels like to be a super star athlete. I have to admit I got a little teary. That’s embarassing…

The next portion of the race is a blur of screaming faces yelling out my name (which I had written on my shirt – smart move:) ). Then came the Newton Hills – a series of “rolling” hills that precede Heartbreak. First of all, I wasn’t exactly sure where Heartbreak was (another smart move on my part in retrospect) because I kept thinking, “was that Heartbreak? That wasn’t so bad.” And then I knew when I hit it. I barely made it up that road. But up ahead I saw a man walking and then the crowd began chanting, “run, run, run, run” until he did and I knew I wouldn’t be allowed to walk!

I was still feeling great – even smiling and high fiving little kids. I passed a guy who yelled out, “Go Cathy – you’re not even sweating”. He jinxed me. Remember that late start – well the only meal I had eaten that day was around 6:30AM and we were running through lunch time. All the Gatorade and gels on a relatively empty stomach did not go over so well. At 23, I started feeling sick, but I was surrounded by people. So, I started walking until I felt better, then ran until I felt sick, etc. This went on until 25 when we went under an overpass. Open grass! For the first time ever during a race, I got sick. But then, amazingly, I felt great. Puke and rally! I ran into downtown Boston with a smile on my face and crossed the line in 3:54:46. Certainly not my best time, but still an accomplishment.

After turning in my chip, I received my beautiful finisher’s medal, a much needed mylar blanket and a bag of food – very smart – how many times have you had to try to carry a bagel, a banana, powerade and whatever else you can get your hands on? It’s not easy. The bag was a miracle.

My recommendations for those who will run Boston:

Bring throw away clothes and a rain poncho

Keep eating as close to the race as you can get

Wear sunscreen (seriously – don’t forget)

Train on those hills and don’t be too scared of Heartbreak – the crowd will pull you up it

Soak up the noise of the fans and high five a few kids



Cathy runs and dances in Richmond, VA.  This was her first Boston Marathon, but third sixth marathon.

Faces in Places: Lady Southpaw

Lady Southpaw

Lady Southpaw

Your Name: Erin Sholl A.K.A. Lady Southpaw

Your Occupation: Musician

Your Town: Brooklyn, NY

When & why did you start running? I started running in college during the summer when I couldn’t use the gym. It was a simple way to stay in shape. A year ago I did an event with Team in Training (TNT) which is when I started racing and becoming more serious about it.

Favorite local running route: Now that the weather is getting warmer I like to run to the promenade along the New York bay. It goes under the Verrazano bridge and has an amazing view of the water and lower Manhattan. I run down the 69th St pier at the entrance of the promenade in the YouTube video I made last year while fund raising for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Favorite local race: Brooklyn Half Marathon

Favorite out-of-town running place/route: Running is definitely something I love to do when traveling as a way to connect to a new place. My favorite of all time was when I was studying abroad Rome, Italy. I lived near to the Gianicolo, a huge hill with a park at the top and a breath taking view of the eternal city.

Favorite out-of-town race: The only out-of-town race I’ve run was the Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco. It was fantastic.

iPod while running? If so, what artists? The past couple years I have been doing a ton of running with music in order to write songs that fit perfectly into the experience. Running and music are my two favorite things and they go so well together. There are so many natural rhythms happening in the body as you run and music releases pleasure chemicals in the brain that make running feel better.  I could talk about this subject all day which is why I started a blog about it called “Running Rocks.”

I have been listening to a lot of Hendrix since my marathon because there was a woman playing his covers that got me through the toughest part. I also like “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” by Green Day, “Half Cocked Concepts,” by P.O.S. and “My Pad & Pen,” by Blackalicious. Although lately I am mostly testing out my own song experiments to see what works.

Favorite pre-run/race fuel? Chocolate Outrage GU

Favorite post-run./race fuel? Chocolate milk. Hello my name is Erin and I am a chocoholic.

Favorite people to run with? Running with TNT last year was a life changing experience. I learned so much and made so many running buddies that way. That’s where I met my friend Jess. We still run together almost every week.

Lady Southpaw & Jess

Lady Southpaw & Jess

Running heroes? Possibly due to all the Nike propaganda I get, my favorite elite is Kara Goucher. In fact I did a running lady sketch for my website that was based on Kara running the New York marathon last year (arm warmers included.)

Kara Goucher

Kara Goucher

Place (or race) you’d like to one day run? ING New York Marathon of course!

Favorite running experience/anecdote? I used to have a favorite treadmill at a 25th floor gym in midtown Manhattan facing the window with an amazing view.  It was my morning sanctuary before going into an unsatisfying marketing job.  One day another regular on a neighboring machine asked me out.  I had seen him there for about two years without ever talking to him; now we’ve been together over two years!

Currently training for: I have been getting in my nine New York Road Runners races this year to qualify for the NY marathon in 2010. This includes the Brooklyn Half at the end of the month.

Why run? I recently wrote a song called “Why I Run.” It was inspired by testimonials of TNT team mates running for friends and family members with cancer.  It got me thinking about who gives me strength while I’m running and the person I thought of was my father.  He is a lifelong athlete with incredible work ethic.  I guess he’s really my running “hero.”  It’s something I can always work to improve at, it regulates my schedule, my weight, my energy levels and my moods.  Another reason I love both running and singing is because they both force you to breath deeply and be in the moment.  Running is a body, mind and spirit connecting experience I can have in my life on an almost daily basis.


Lady Southpaw is looking for runners to try out her songs and give her some feed back.  If you would like to try a free song please write to her at

The Songs for Running will be released for sale around the end of this summer. You can get the Lady Southpaw self titled E.P. (which is not written for running) on iTunes:

Passport to Run: Spain part 4: Liais

by JuliaHart

Near the city of Oruense is the small town of Liais and here there is a spa hotel with pools to take the water.  It is right on the Rio Mino which is beautiful.  There is a small track/trail in the grass that runs in front of the hotel and I immediately thought it would be a good place to try to run.  Yesterday morning Becky and I went down the path which connects with a path to a station and had several other roads leading off it.  We went 2K down the path then ran up to the main road.  Up here near a bridge it looked like West Virginia with all the different types of trees and the mountains covering the horizon.  Another runner in our group said he found a path to the top of the mountain.  I am not that fast or strong but I am jealous, he must have had a great view from the top!!! This church is at the end of this run.

Run hard but not too fast to enjoy the scenery!!

2009-5-07--Spain Liais 3

2009-5-07--Spain Liais 4

2009-5-07--Spain Liais 2

2009-5-07--Spain Liais 1

Call for Contributions!!!



Races in Places strives to be a community resource for runners all over the globe! We are interested in the people that run, why they run, where they run, and all the personal aspects of running.   We want to hear your stories, your interests, and all about the places where you run.

Running is certainly a solitary sport, but our solo runs form an undeniable community from which we can learn more about running, and about each other. We can also help each other out by sharing our experiences.

The idea is this, say you have to go to your cousin’s wedding in Dallas, but are in week 13 of your marathon training. You can’t afford to miss a weekend long run, but have no idea where in Dallas you run an 18 miler.  Rather than google “running groups Dallas” and hope to get in touch with some long distance runners, you could simply log on to, select “Texas” in the categories box, and read the Dallas entry of our “Passport to Run” column.  Hopefully, a Dallas based runner has filled out the form complete with links to the best routes, restaurants, and running clubs.  If that doesn’t give you enough information, you could then contact us and we will put you in contact with that Dallas runner, thus cultivating a new running contact and keeping you on your marathon training schedule!

Our mission statement explains further:

The Races in Places (RiP) blog is designed to be an interactive resource for runners looking for inspiration and information on running in new destinations. While topics concerning training and nutrition will not be avoided, this blog will focus more on the peripherals of running, including the comradery and overall experience of running, especially as it relates to different parts of the world. Regular columns will include:

  • Passport to Run A detailed account of how to navigate running in various large and small cities around the world.
  • Passport to Race A detailed account of various races around the world.
  • BackTrack A place to share your favorite, or worst, racing experiences.
  • Faces in Places A profiling of different runners from around the globe.
  • Mixtape Runners can share their favorite playlist to run to.
  • Race Fuel A recipe swap of favorite pre- or post- race meals & snacks.
  • Around the Waterstop An informal list of links or news bites relating to running.
  • Race Expo A highlighting and discussion of various pieces of running gear.

We hope to become a resource for travelers looking for great spots to run, eat, and sight see, but in order to do that, we need your help!  We are currently accepting contributions for all of our columns, listed above.  All you need to do is email us at, and we’ll tell you what you need to do.  Don’t forget to check us out on Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter!

We look forward to building this online community of runners and travelers!

Happy Running!

Happy Mother’s Day!

running moms

In honor of Mother’s Day today, we’ve compiled a list of blogs and other online resources for all those running moms out there!

Happy Mother’s Day!

seeMOMMYrun a networking Web portal that allows moms to communicate and make their own arrangements for running or walking together in groups

Mothers Across America:MAAM – a nonprofit organization that empowers mothers to achieve personal goals through goal-based running programs

Running Moms – a network with the goal to nurture the inner athlete in moms everywhere

Running-Mom – a blog with a long list of online resources and articles for moms

Running Skirts –  a place to get running gear for ladies

Marathon Mommy – a collective blog covering issues ranging from sports bras to running during pregnancy

Moms That Run – a forum from running moms

These are just a few… feel free to leave more links in the comments, and Happy Mother’s Day!


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