Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon Recap

November 21, 2013

The 4th annual Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon was originally scheduled for October 6, 2013 (the same weekend I ran the Crawlin’ Crab Half Marathon).  Due to the government shutdown (a majority of the course is on National Park property) the race was rescheduled for November 10, 2013.  Race directors gave runners an option to run the race on November 10th, or defer their entry for up to two years.  


Logo: Wilson Bridge Half Marathon

When I heard race registration would reopen, I debated (for weeks!) whether I should sign-up or not:

  • Yes: The Wilson Bridge half was on my running bucket list, and I’ve never run a course on the GW Parkway (I know DC running blasphemy!)
  • No: I just ran the Healdsburg Wine Country half two weeks ago and I am going to burn out if I run another half
  • Yes: Runner’s World named it one of the Best 27 Half Marathons in their February 2013 issue
  • No: $$$$$$$
  • Yes: If I do not run it this year, I will not be able to run until 2015! (there are so many October races on the east coast, I plan on signing up for the Wineglass Half the same weekend next year)

The last Yes sold me-I registered on Wednesday before the half!

Packet Pickup/Expo

Packet pickup was held at the Holiday Inn Eisenhower Avenue in Alexandria, VA.  They let us in shortly after 9am (there was a small line forming) and we were directed to a hallway to look up our bib numbers.  After memorizing my number I proceeded into the small expo room, picked up my bib and race premium. 


The race premium was a spike bag with a zipper pouch.  The bag is embroidered with the race logo and the material is pretty strong, however a shirt would have been nice… 🙂 (you could purchase race shirts in advance or at the expo).  The expo had a few vendors that sold the basics (gels, gus, gloves, clothing, shoes)-I picked up some throwaway gloves and a belt (translation: a runner’s fanny pack).

Race Morning

The Wilson half is a point to point race that begins in Mount Vernon (Alexandria, VA) and ends at the National Harbor (National Harbor, MD).  For those of you unfamiliar with Mount Vernon, it was the home of the first President of the United States, George Washington.  

I left my apartment at 5:00am and headed to the National Habor to catch the shuttle to the start line (runners only).  They had you enter the garage through a round-about way, but it made sense because it alleviated any parking bottleneck concerns near the garage.  I brought along my headband, two shirts, and vest jacket to wear before the race (lesson learned from Healdsburg).  Even though I was dressed more appropriately, I still had an hour to kill and it was cold!  The portable light was emitting small amounts of heat, so I huddled around that for a good 45 minutes before heading to the porta-potties (long lines!) and bag drop off (bye-bye to my long shirt and vest).


Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon

The race began promptly at 7:00am.  The start line formed a semi-circle, so I could see the front of the pack runners start-they are so fast!


The first 8 miles took us along the GW Parkway. It never felt congested as the road was very wide-there were approximately 1,800 runners. I wish I remembered to take photos of the first portion of the course-it was so beautiful!  The Potomac River was to your right and the leaves were lovely shades of yellow and orange.  I’ve trained on the Mount Vernon Trail (which is parallel to the GW Parkway), but it was always during the summer.

I knew I was on pace to PR as I was running sub 13:00mm through the first 10 miles.  When I reached the bridge (oooh uphill) I ran 30 seconds and walked 30 seconds with a fellow runner.  It made the climb go by much quicker.  Mile marker 9 was placed near the foot of the bridge (perhaps for logistical and/or safety reasons)-but it was definitely premature.  There was no way I ran a sub-9 mile between 8 and 9.  


After we crossed the Wilson Bridge, we entered National Harbor and ran the circumference of the property.  There were rolling hills and a segment of the course was on gravel (not fun)! This was the view shortly after mile 12.  I ran over that?! It looks so flat from here. Perspective is amazing right?


I also passed this awesomeness: the Awakening.  I have not seen this sculpture since I ran the 2007 Marine Corps Marathon.  It was moved from Hains Point to its present location in 2008.  


Shortly after passing the sculpture I saw mile marker 13.  Only .1 mile to go! I started picking up my pace as I knew I was close to breaking 2:50.  I think mile marker 13 may have been misplaced OR I was really really tired, but that last section felt like eternity.  It was difficult to judge where the finish line was-the last portion of the race wrapped around the post race festival, and the view of the finish line was obstructed.  When I saw the clock I sprinted across the line-2:49:51!!  Another PR!


I dropped another 7 minutes from two weeks ago and ran an average pace under 13:00mm! I am now 4 minutes away from my half split from the MCM.  My 5M and 10M splits also bested my official race times from the Navy 5 Miler and Army 10 Miler.  I look forward to running a 5M or 10M to officially PR in those distances 🙂

Post Race and Final Thoughts

I cannot believe I finished my 10th half marathon-my 5th this year.  This half was certainly memorable-the PR was a result of a consistent running and strength training routine.  I look forward to more goal setting and improvements in 2014.


  • If you are looking to PR this is the race for you! There are a few inclines, but overall this is a net downhill race
  • Another scenic course
  • I wonder what it would be like to run this race in October-perhaps not as chilly at the start?
  • Race support was excellent.  Even though there were not many spectators along the course, I enjoyed the peacefulness of the run
  • Spike bag vs. shirt? Perhaps this will change in the future
  • Cute medal right?

I will definitely run this half again.  I have my eye on the GW Parkway Classic (10 miler) this spring-it shares a similar course to the Wilson half. 


Post half yumminess at Matchbox.


3 more days until my last half of 2013!

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