Just the Facts
Date: April 30, 2016
Location: Nashville, TN
Participants: 30,000
Weather: Cloudy/Rainy, mid 60° F
Races: 5K, Half Marathon, and Full Marathon

About the Race

For the previous 16 years this race has been known as the Country Music Marathon. This year however, to conform with the naming of the other Competitor Group’s series races, it is now named the Rock ‘n’ Roll Nashville Marathon (actually the full name is the St. Jude Rock ‘n’ Roll Nashville Marathon and ½ Marathon).

RnRNash16LogoIn its 17th year history, this will be my 7th consecutive year to run it; six years in the half marathon and one year where I mistakenly thought the full marathon would be fun (I would like to blame it on my youth, but it was only last year and I’m not young by any definition). This is generally my last race of the season as racing in the south after the end of April is difficult due to the heat. Not that you can’t race in the heat, it is simply tough mentally and physically to train in the heat and humidity – the races are easy since you only have to motivate yourself for under 2 hours early in the morning, but training sucks when it is hot and the humidity prevents the sweat from evaporating.

The Expo (Thursday and Friday)

As with all Rock ‘n’ Roll marathons (and for that matter all marathons I have done) there is a Health & Fitness Expo that each runner must visit to pick up their racing packets. Just like last year, the expo was held in the Nashville Music City Center. Definitely not necessary, but I attended both days the expo was open. The first day (Thursday) I walked from my office at lunch time to pick up my packet (bib, timing chip/band, gear check bag, race technical shirt) and quickly checked out the various displays and vendors. On Friday, day two, I met my family at the convention center after work so we could all go through the expo and check everything out. I would definitely recommend going on Thursday if you have the option as it is far less crowded.

The expo is pretty big with lots of companies represented. The biggest displays were Brooks with all their Nashville Marathon branded merchandise and a gaming area, Toyota with some of their vehicles on display, and the title sponsor St. Jude Research Hospital. Beyond those, there were the usual types of vendors such as clothing and shoe retailers, some nutritional and drink vendors, as well as other marathons/races advertising their events. On the technology front there was Garmin showing off their line of watches and Jaybird headphones. Rather odd to see at a marathon expo was a local funeral home with a booth, but I believe they were there more to provide support and advertising for a wounded warrior type event.

Race Day (Saturday)

Saturday was the big day! There were three distances being run in two different races.  A 6:45 am start time for the 5k was postponed to around 7:20 am due to bad weather and thunder in the area.  This meant that the second race group, the half-marathon (my event) and the marathon races were moved from the original start time of 7:15 am to around 7:50 am.

Yup, it rained for a bit of my race. This meant that it remained cloudy for the duration of the race (good) but it also meant that the humidity was very high (bad). The temperature was in the mid-60’s F so a little warmer than I would like, but it was fine.

RnR Nashville Start Line

2016 Rock ‘n’ Roll Nashville Marathon Starting Line

If you have ever been to Nashville, or better yet had the opportunity to run here, you know it is hilly. For me I find that to be an easier course than a really flat course; it gives different muscles an opportunity to help out and give others a brief break at times. Don’t get me wrong though, your muscles take a beating. A day or two after a race on a course like this and I am definitely waddling when I start moving from rest and I wear a funny smile (due to the cursing under my breath) when I  go down stairs. This year’s course changed a little as adjustments had to be made due to all the construction going on in Nashville. The starting line was moved back a couple of blocks, and the opening mile had different turns from previous years. The last 2.5 miles had a number of changes as well. This would be behind the Tennessee State Capital and Bicentennial Capital Mall, as well as moving east along Gay St. to 1st Avenue. I don’t think I minded the changes, though the first one is a little bit of a mental challenge as you run down a hill just so you can turn around and run up another hill/street and circle back to where you started – all within half a mile.

Both the full and half marathon run together for just under 11 miles. For the half’s 11 and 12 mile stretch, the marathon runs parallel with it’s 16 and 17 mile stretch. Both races finish at Nissan Stadium, home of the NFL’s Tennessee Titans.

That is a quick outline of the course, but the reason folks run this race is because it is BIG – 30,000+ participants strong. The race takes up entire streets, highway exit ramps are closed down, entire streets are blocked off, and lots of people come out to watch and support the runners. That is the really cool part – on an early Saturday morning the streets are filled with spectators, bands, cheerleaders, and of course participants. As with all Rock ‘n’ Roll branded races there are bands along the route playing music. With this being Nashville, Music City, there is lots of talent guaranteeing you will hear good music along the course (almost every mile).

I was lucky this year to run the half marathon with my daughter. This was her second one and she was hoping to better her previous race time. Her 1st half marathon time in October was close to my best time ever, so I was expecting her to leave me in the dust (or puddles due to this years rain) after the first couple of miles. Sadly for her, but a super bonus to me, she was a little off on her time so I got to run with her the entire course and cross the finish line together.

The course support was great throughout. There was water and Gatorade along the course, and at mile 7’ish there was GLUKOS. This was the first time I have run in a race that provided this rather than the normal GU. I missed having GU but maybe that is simply because I like familiarity when I am stresses or exerting myself.

RnR Nashville Medal

2016 Rock ‘n’ Roll Nashville Half Marathon Medal

After 13 miles the course turns into Nissan Stadium where the finish line is located. After crossing the line you get your medal, have some pictures taken by the photo folks and walk the long finish shoot where there is so much food and drinks to replenish your body that you really have to be choosy as you can’t carry it all. Soon your exiting and meeting up with your friends and loved ones who are thinking that it is only 9 am “so lets go do something”, while you are so pooped you want to rest for a while. There is a finisher’s village where there is still more music and entertainment, Brooks has set up a tent where you can buy Finisher merchandise, and you can claim your free beer. Don’t get too excited about the beer though because it is really low alcohol beer – it tastes fine, but after running that distance you need a few more calories/carbs than what you get from a “healthy” beer.

Most Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon races have a headliner concert right after the race in a parking lot or grass area. Well, this is not a regular race. No here in Nashville they pull out all the stops and move the concert to a full, nighttime, concert in a big arena (Bridgestone Arena with 17,000-18,000 seats). This years headliner was The Wallflowers, but unfortunately I had other commitments that evening so I passed on going but I have gone previously and it is usually quite fun.

I really enjoy this race and I will be back on this course again April 29, 2017. I plan on PR’ing and I know that my daughter will be at the top of her game and will kick my old butt and be waiting for me at the finish line bored waiting for me to finish – but I will be just as excited to have run a race once again with my daughter.

Hits and Misses

The Hits
It’s an event: It seems the whole city is involved
The spectators: Unlike some races where you can go for a while without seeing a spectator, there are folks everywhere along the race cheering for everyone
Organization: This is not their first rodeo so to speak so everything is well organized. The police presence, the event staff, and volunteers.
Volunteers: Wow they get lots of folks that are willing to come back year after year to help out. This race would not be the same without them. From the volunteers who help at the expo sorting and handing out packets (my wife is one of these fine folks), to the on course support who give out water, directions, encouragement, and medical help. Thanks to all of them.
The Misses
No GU: I’ll give it another try, but I did not really care for the GLUKOS brand gel. Admittedly with GU you need water because it is thick and with GLUKOS not so much, but I missed the smaller package that holds a real punch
The Starting Line: I did not mention it above in my review, but the starting line was really crowded and very difficult to get to. Hopefully next year this will be resolved by moving it back to where it was previously.

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