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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:


Passport to Race: 2009 Godparent 5k, Lynchburg, VA


Runner: Bob Huntington (above in green hat)

Age: 86

Home:  Lynchburg, VA

Summer Home: Van Buren Point, NY

Race: Godparent Home 5k (raised over $5,000 for Maternity Home and Adoption Agency)

Race Location: Lynchburg, VA

Race Date: April 18, 2009

Number of Racers: 300 runners

Describe your race experience: Beautiful weather- 55 degrees! Friendly race.  Ran with daughter Kathy, granddaughters Leigh and Kelly, and friend Andraya.  Course starts at the Old Kemper Street Train Station.  First mile and a half was all downgrade, so moved right along at a good pace. Passed numerous walkers.  The entire race is on the scenic Blackwater Creek Trail.  You run under bridges, train tressles and through a tunnel about an eighth of a mile long.  My favorite part was “hooting” like a steam whistle as I ran through! The second half was more challenging- all uphill! Finished strong with a 50:29 time.

Next race: Cameron 5k, August 8, 2009, Dunkirk, NY


Robert Huntington is a patriarch of sorts of Races In Places.  Inspiring numerous runners within his family and beyond, a perfect race day is a day you get to run with Bob!

Passport to Race: Shamrock Marathon, VA Beach

by Pat Early

shamrock-marathon-2The 2007 Grandmas Marathon was supposed to be my first marathon. But an injury with 4 weeks to go prevented me from running the marathon and it knocked me out of running all together for the better part of a year. I was finally healthy again and the 2009 Shamrock was going to be my debut marathon.

The weather was pretty much perfect, in the 30’s with basically no wind, which is very unusual for Shamrock. B and I met D and did a 10 minute warm up a little after 7am and came back to the hotel room to stretch before the race. We were on the start line with about 5 minutes to spare. B said hi to W who was racing after finishing 2nd in the National Marathon the day before. We were on the second row from the front so when the gun sounded. D and I tucked in behind B and we tried to take it easy letting all the people starting too fast go by. D and I had a goal of 2.56.50 (6.45 pace) and B was there to pace us. Despite trying to take it easy we went through the first mile in 6.37, a little fast but not terrible. We purposely slowed down for the next few miles going through 2 at 6.52 and 3 at 6.51. As we crossed Rudee Inlet we tried to settle in around 6.45 pace. We hit 4 in 6.41 and 5 in 6.46. As we were nearing the turn around between 5 and 6 the leaders were passing us heading the opposite direction. The guy in first looked uncomfortable and Wardian was cruising in second place. One of the guys near the front was wearing head phones. As we passed B yells at him and threatens to catch him and rip them off his head. After the turn around we click mile 6 at 7.10 and immediately pick it up. It was still fairly crowded at this point. Miles 7, 8, 9 went by fast in 6.41, 6.36, 6.36. We were starting to pass some of the people that had passed us the first mile and the crowd was starting to thin out. Around mile 8 some guy in a Final Kick jersey slides in behind us. B looks at him and says “Are you on the team or are you just wearing the jersey?” and the guy replies “Final Kick for life.” He only lasted for about a mile. Between 9 and 10 we see the pace car marking the end of the racers going the other way and shortly after we notice a guy running with a Wii control, including nun chuck. Did the Wii Fit come out with a new game? We hit mile 10 in 6.42 and 11 in 6.46. I had been taking a little water at every stop and took my first gel at the water stop after 12. I knew we would see my fiancée and family around mile 13 and all three of us decided we didn’t need our gloves anymore. We came through 13 in 6.38 and could see M up ahead trying to take a picture. As we approached we all tossed our sweat drenched gloves at her and I could tell from her expression she wasn’t expecting them. We had hit the ½ way point in 1.28.27, 2 seconds off pace and no one felt like they were work too hard.

This was it 13.1 miles to go it wasn’t going to be easy but we were in shape and the weather was perfect. I thought to myself No Excuses! As we headed towards Fort Story we could see some of the half marathoners nearing the finish. Mile 14 was 6.42 and 15 was 6.35. B was in front and we were cruising. As we approached the water stop near mile 16 I could tell my bladder was pretty full. I’ve never had to stop a race to use to bathroom and I hoped today would bring an end to that streak. Mile 16 was 6.34 as we merged onto Shore Drive and we purposely tried to slow down a little. Over the next few miles we passed three people and were gaining on a handful more. There were now 3 or 4 guys that running with us and we were the only pack in sight. As we rolled through miles 17 in 6.37, 18 in 6.37, and 19 in 6.37 Bert talked to the new additions to the group and D and I led the pack. Every quarter mile or so one of D or I would start to pick it up and the other would immediately say take it easy. We came through mile 20 in 6.41 and I took ½ of second (and last) gel. I seriously considered stopping to use the bathroom at this point but decided it wasn’t worth breaking up the solid group we had.

I felt fine between miles 20 and 21 but tried to drop back in the pack and conserve energy. By now B was back in front leading. After about a quarter mile I couldn’t handle being in the back and moved back up to the front on B’s shoulder. D was right there with us and pretty much all talking had stopped. Mile 21 was 6.43 and mile 22 was 6.53. I was still with the pack but in the back. This is the first time I remember feeling uncomfortable and needing to use the bathroom was definitely a factor. B noticed I was dropping off and immediately slowed letting the pack pass and yelling up to D to go for the team. I remember looking at my watch to see had hit mile 23 in 7.03. The pack had gapped us and from what I could see D was still leading. Somewhere around this time B started trying to motivate me. At first it was “Don’t look at your watch just keep your eyes on me, you can do this”. Mile 24 was 7.14 and the motivation had progressed to “ You F#$@ing @#$#$, I didn’t come down here to run over 3 hours”. For the next two miles I feel sorry for any kids that my of overheard B’s attempts to keep me motivated. I remember thinking about how much I hated B and that I should tell him to shut the hell up, but I didn’t want to waste the energy. Mile 25 was 7.31, which I didn’t know at the time since I was only focused on keeping up with B. During the last couple of miles B realized that everyone was cheering for him since his name was on his number and he was in front of me. From that point on he yelled at everyone to cheer for me as he pointed at me.

As we turned on the boardwalk there was less than a half mile to go and you could see the finish line. At this point my legs felt like concrete pylons anchored to the ocean floor. I knew I was going to be close to 3 hours but didn’t know how close. I remember hearing someone say I wasn’t going to make it if I didn’t pick it up. I tried to glance at my watch but couldn’t read it. At mile 26 I caught a glimpse of my family wearing the Team Early shirts M had made the night before. I crossed the finish line in 2.59.04. Success! My debut marathon in under 3 hours and I had qualified. Boston 2010 awaits. 

Passport to Race: Ukrops 10k

Ukrops 10K Start

by Dean Christesen

March 28, 2009
RICHMOND, VA – Thirty-two thousand people ran on Richmond’s most scenic street on Saturday for the 10th annual Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10K.  The sky over Richmond was overcast, the air chilly, but unlike last year’s race, the rain never came.  With 37 different waves–the last beginning over 90 minutes after the first–the race is just as friendly for walkers as it is runners.  So many racers and an estimated 50,000 spectators help make this race a notable one, and a definite must-run for Virginians.

The course begins on Richmond’s Broad St., just near Virginia Commonwealth University’s Siegel Center, staying on Broad only briefly before crossing over to Monument Ave.  Runners pass all of the monuments that embellish the street: J.E.B. Stuart, Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson (you may recall Richmond was once the capital of the confederacy), and the oddballs Matthew Maury and Arthur Ashe.  Along with these six monuments, Monument Ave. is known for its large and expensive homes, its wide grassy median with its beautiful greenery, and its use as a major thoroughfare in Richmond’s uptown neighborhoods.  After three miles on Monument Ave., running through the Fan and Museum Districts and nearly reaching Willow Lawn, the course makes a U-turn, sending the runners the opposite way down the now familiar avenue.  For about two miles, runners experience what they saw on the outbound from a new perspective.  Once passing J.E.B. Stuart’s monument for the second time, with about one mile to finish, the scene is new.  Runners re-enter the VCU campus from a different street, passing the various eccentric administration buildings and sprinting to the finish at the entrance to Monroe Park.

Dean ChristensenUnlike courses that wind through a city, providing new things to see and a variety of terrain and elevations, the Monument Ave. 10K’s course is almost literally a down-and-back route.  The excitement of seeing the same thing twice is comparable to that of a loop course: nearly nothing changes on the inbound 5K except the runner’s energy level and the new sights of the final fragment of a mile.  The course is fairly flat; there are absolutely no extreme pitches or hills, but the outbound does have an almost-negligible incline.  However, the course is not what Sports Backers–the organization that runs the race–claims makes the race so exciting.  Instead, it’s the sheer amount of people that participate, whether running, volunteering, or cheering.  Like any great race, a sense of community is prevalent throughout.  A “Dress-Up-and-Run” competition encourages people to dress up in costumes for cash prizes.  Group themes enter a category of their own, spawning some outright ridiculous sights.  This year, I spotted Indiana Jones with a massive boulder made from cloth following closely behind, as well as Willy Wonka with two orange-faced oompa-loompas (if Wonka had a bigger entourage, I’m sure they would have been contenders for the prize).  The Dash for the Cash allows a random registered racer (usually a mere mortal like the rest of us) to have a head start and attempt to finish before the first elite athlete does, and creates even more excitement surrounding the race.  This year, like last year, the woman with the 2.7 mile headstart finished before the race’s winner, Tilahun Regassa, to win the cash prize.

The race prides itself with having thirty five bands and performers along the route.  But one major criticism of the race that I have is the level of musicianship that the event organizers allow.  This seems like a strange topic on which to critique a race, but consider this: people who run or workout with an mp3 player carefully select each song to make a mix that satisfies their need to be energized, motivated, and sufficiently pumped to push their body to its limits.  Each perceptive sense is extremely vulnerable under conditions like a race.  As much as a runner doesn’t want to smell cigarette smoke or car exhaust while running, some people also do not want to be attacked with the unattractive sounds of less-than-desirable bands.  Thirty five bands playing trance music would have been more exciting (and without a doubt more energizing) than what I was forced to hear as I ran by.

Sixty-six runners make up the 100K Club, reserved for the runners who have participated in all ten years of the event.  This year was only my second time running the race, but as it has become such a Richmond staple, so has it become an annual essential.

Dean Christesen is a student and musician in Richmond, VA where he is the Assistant Director of Jazz at WRIR, Richmond Independent Radio and creator of RVAjazz.  Check out his blog, The Artist’s Rightful Place.

For more information on the Ukrops 10k, visit their official website:

For more information on Richmond, VA, click here:

if you would like to review a recent race, or contribute in any other way to this blog, please email:

Passport to Run: Fredericksburg, VA

Fredericksburg, VA is a quaint Civil War town halfway between Richmond, VA and Washington, DC. Growing every year, some consider it to be the newest suburb of DC. The majority of the charm is located in it’s downtown section, east of I-95. There is fairly big running population and the town has recently made it’s way to the runner’s map thanks to playing host to the Marine Corps Half Marathon.


Kelly Fenton


Former local.


Absolute favorite run is on Lee Drive:

Located just off the intersection of Rt. 3 and Rt. 17 Bus (see map) this road runs through the Fredericksburg Battlefield. Shady with some hills, it stretches 4.5 miles in one direction and is a popular spot for runners, walkers, and bikers. Be careful as there are no sidewalks, but the car traffic is minimal and usually made up of tourists adhering to the 25-35 mph speed limit. There are parking lots along the way and at either end of the drive and one major street intersection that make it easy to divide up a run anywhere between a short 4 miler or long 9 miler. I always feel safe as it’s usually just populated enough and there is the occasional patrolling park ranger. If you’re out for just an easy run, indulge in some of the historical placards along the way!

Insiders tip: If you start at the far end of the drive, run up to the cross street and back; that’s around 4 miles with only slight hillage. Alternately, start at the top of the drive right off of Rt. 17, run to the same cross street (there’s only one cross street) and back with a pretty steep hill at the end; that’ll give you around 5 miles.

Another great place is Pratt Park (see map.) Sandwiched between River Rd and the Falmouth YMCA, this park has a giant loop that runs about a mile. In the middle are playing fields that can get pretty busy with recreational kid’s sports. For about half the loop you have the option of a paved path or dirt trail (I prefer the dirt). Surrounding the park are woods and if you’re feeling adventurous head out for trail running on the far end of the park and the woods will connect you to the next park over, Brooks Park. I usually head here when I just want to run in circles. For the most part the loop is flat, though there is a slight incline at the far wooded side.

Insiders tip: The main entrance and parking lot is located off of River Drive, but can often get crowded, supposedly there’s a fee-collector for non-residents and if it’s rained recently, River Dr. gets flooded. Try accessing the park via the YMCA. Turn off of Butler road into the YMCA’s parking lot but follow the dirt road past the water park and at the end of the road to the left you’ll see a little informal space for parking. There’s a break in the fence where you can enter the loop. But don’t take a clean car- it will most certainly get dirty from the dust and/or any mud from recent rains.

I would also recommend just running through downtown Fredericksburg. The town is based off a grid system but is pretty small, so don’t expect a super long run. It’s a safe place so have fun turning where you feel like, finding your way along the Rappahannock River, and admire the beautiful old houses. Or take a look at a map beforehand and create a route that takes you up to Mary Washington University’s Battleground Athletic Complex located off of Sunken Drive (and offering a tasty hill to run up) which can add some mileage if you run around the fields. There’s also pull-up bars, etc. if you want to through in some strength training.


There are a LOT of races offered by the Fredericksburg Area Running Club (FARC). I’m partial to the July 4th Heritage 5 miler and the Thanksgiving Day 5k Turkey Trot. Both of these take you through downtown Fredericksburg which I always love running through.

Last spring was the Inaugural Marine Corps Half Marathon which was fantastic.


My favorite is Castiglia’s Italian Restaurant. There’s several locations now, but go to the original on William’s Street in downtown Fredericksburg. I love the bruschetta and pizza!


Treat yourself to a tasty soft serve ice cream at famous Carl’s Ice Cream located at 2200 Princess Anne St. in downtown Fredericksburg. There’s almost always a line, but it’s worth the wait. My fave is a simple chocolate sugar cone!


VA Runner in Central Park (a huge shopping complex) is great with a knowledgeable staff who can help solve most running apparel problems.


Fredericksburg Area Running Club (FARC) sponsors the majority of the races in Fredericksburg. Give them a call for all questions related to running in Fredericksburg.


There’s a TON of historical things to see and do. In fact that’s about all there is to do. Skip the shopping unless it’s for antiques. In that case, and regardless, roam the streets of downtown Fredericksburg. Hit up Washington Avenue (huge Civil War homes!), visit Kenmore, the Rising Sun Tavern, then head to Hyperion for a coffee (cash only!). After your pick-me-up browse the shops on Caroline Street– my favorite is the Griffin Bookstore, then maybe stop into Sammy T’s for lunch (great vegetarian and vegan options). Finally head down the Rappahanock River and hang out in Old Mill Park.


Official Website of Fredericksburg, VA

Fredericksburg Tourist Center

Kelly Fenton is a back-of-the-pack runner who has completed 6 marathons and many smaller races over three continents. A current resident of NYC, Kelly composes music for her band the Bottomless Cup Jazz Orchestra and blogs about comic books at Bottomless Cup.

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