Back when I was better about writing up races (think, 2017 maybe), I really looked forward to doing the end of year recap. I’d sort through the memories of 15-25 races, find the pictures that stood out and crunch the stats to see some of the trends. The 2020-2022 race season for Rock n Roll will be like a lot of things impacted by the pandemic, a season full of turmoil and adjustments.
2020 started with Arizona and New Orleans as usual. I remember coming back from NoLa after staying late to watch a parade with a group of new friends thinking nothing was going to change. We rarely go overseas, so Medellin, Santiago and Oaxaca weren’t on our calendar.
Medellin was canceled due to air quality (not Covid) but when countries started shutting down in early March the dominoes started falling. Santiago was was the last race to knob as scheduled (postponed from 2019 – thanks Russell!). DC was the first US race to be canceled. Many thought we would be back to normal in 4-6 weeks, but after a month, I started saying we wouldn’t be back to racing until June of 2021. I was actually overly optimistic.
Starting with DC, 27 tour stops were canceled or postponed for later in the year, but canceled then. RNR announced that San Francisco, Chicago, Dublin, Philadelphia, Montreal and Denver would not return. In December of 2020, I posted this blog wondering how things would look “at the end of this”. We’re still not there.
2021 got rocky as races were scheduled, postponed, then canceled. We started guessing how soon before the next race we would get the cancelation email. Registrations were rolled from 2020 with Rock n Roll honoring the TourPass credentials for the following year. RNR’s Virtual Run Club started filling our need for a calendar and offered some swag for purchase. Year 2 of the pandemic killed off more races.
Virginia Beach, one of the oldest locations, announced that 2021 would be its last. Liverpool followed suit. The inaugural Clearwater was canceled for a second time. But Fall of 2021 started the reopening.
We had a flood of 9 races in a span of 14 weeks, starting in Virginia Beach. Rock n Roll announced that they would count all races done in 2020 to 2022 toward the Hall of Fame medal, and for a short time setting the Hall level at 20 total races, but after the international races (all with TBD tour dates) went away, that number was rolled back to 15. By the end of 2021, two of our Rock n Rollers had hit the “It’s Raining 10” medal. They would never be caught on the road to be the season Chart Toppers.
I’m glad things opened before our home race in San Jose and the October date for San Diego made for a beautiful weekend. Contrast that with the brutal conditions in Savannah with temps in the 30’s, winds gusting to 40 mph and heavy rains. By the time we finished in at a warm San Antonio weekend, we could see that the numbers weren’t up to pre-pandemic which was to be expected. The TourPass extension continued into 2022 .
2022 was looking better with 17 races on the schedule including a new international location (Manila). International travel was still a crapshoot with Covid outbreaks and war in Eastern Europe happening. Medellin was open only to deferrals from 2020, making this location a question mark for me on how to count this for streaks (the ones who DID go obviously got credit for the weekend!).
Seattle moved to Bellevue where Legacy runners could continue their status. The forecasting for the Hall of Fame numbers got challenging as we added Manila, but then lost Savannah (canceled) and Clearwater for the fourth time (Hurricane Ian).
The three-year Hall of Fame season will close with the smallest group since it started in 2014. Rock n Roll made some concessions for folks who needed Savannah and Clearwater to get to 15 races, but that brings the total to 25, unofficially. I guess we will know for sure when we see the banner in Vegas?
Questions linger about the future of the Rock n Roll Running Series. They’ve pared down to 13 locations on the calendar but three (Manila, Estado de Mexico and Bellevue) without dates as of this writing. With 10 confirmed races (including the new location in Salt Lake City), the Hall of Fame 15-race medal clearly has to change. I’ve heard that the Heavy Medals will be redesigned for 2023 so I’m looking forward to that!
Even with the contraction on the the series, there was a lot to remember extended season. Tony, who is probably going to hit 800 half and full marathons this year, very likely snuck under my radar to get to 100 Rock n Rolls. Leah finished her 100th Rock n Roll event in Bellevue, the pseudo replacement for Seattle and effectively the home race, to be the first Canadian to hit the Century mark.
San Antonio saw TWO century milestones. Fred became the 21st person to reach the 100th Rock n Roll.
And Sherry became the first (and maybe the only) Rock n Roller to hit the 200 race mark. She hasn’t missed a Rock n Roll weekend in nearly 7 years.
Outside of the Rock n Roll Running Series, a lot of Black Sheep Run members hit century milestones also. Shout outs to Russell (@russell_gilbert) and Briana (I: @matmilesmedals) hitting their 100th in 2022. Jay, Cheryl (@myfavoritethingstodo) and Natalie (@natalieu23) hit their 200th (Natalie also joined the Half Fanatics Hall of Fame). Amy (@runcheeseball27) finished her 200th and is also months away from publishing her first book! I remember sitting in the lobby before the pre-race dinner in San Antonio noticing that there were more people with OVER 100 halfs or 100 Rock n Roll races than NOT. Kudos to all you crazies adding to their lifetime totals!
There were some sad notes for this extended season. Early in the pandemic, we lost some Black Sheep Run family. The group has over 1000 members and some relatives and friends were lost to Covid. I hope that most of the folks in the group who are just lurking are OK. In the last days of 2022, our dear friend Karin lost her battle with ALS. Joe was with her to the very end. Jim (@jimbobwaay) died suddenly after flying back from the Honolulu marathon. Our thoughts are with their friends and families.
On a personal level, we were able to visit a few new cities (Bellevue, the one-and-done Atlantic City), see a different part of New Orleans and find a good post-half diner near the university, spend more time with my relatives in San Diego, but most of all, reconnect with people. It’s still weird to me how I only see some of my closest friends at races and these past few years have reminded me not to take that for granted. On the course, I trained for a 2:32 half at San Jose and pushed hard to crack 2:30 that weekend, but the bigger story for me was dad doing his first Rock n Roll 5K at age 87. He finished second in his age group (out of 2, but.. yay!). He’s looking forward to next year in San Jose.
And with the Heavy Medal program ready for a major overhaul, i was able to grab that piece of hardware for the sixth time. Well, fifth actually. Year one we got the jackets. Kudos to Mitchell for being the last Legacy Hall of Famer standing – the only Rock n Roller with SEVEN Hall of Fame medals!
Some of my friends know that I stopped making New Year’s resolutions a long time ago because I went with the same one every year: “Every Year Better Than The Last”. I feel like for the first time since 2019, I might have a chance for a better year in 2023.
Hope everyone does the same.
Special thanks to Russell Gilbert for keeping these race records. I doubt anyone would have seen this kind of mess coming back in 2020.