Race Review: Annapolis Running Classic Half Marathon

Sunrise at the Annapolis City Dock. (Photo by Charlie Stinchcomb/flickr)

Sunrise at the Annapolis City Dock. (Photo by Charlie Stinchcomb/flickr)

“Beautiful, but challenging.” That’s how I describe the TCS Annapolis Classic in Annapolis, Maryland, for any runner in the mid-Atlantic region who’s hunting for a fall half marathon just before Thanksgiving.

This year, the race falls on Saturday, November 22. For those running — or considering running — here is what you can expect (and what you should not expect) based on last year’s race.

The start and finish line are in the parking lot of the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium which is very easy to get to and has tons of parking just steps away from the start of the race. There is a party-like atmosphere both before and after the race with heated tents to keep you toasty. The race starts at 7:00 a.m. but runners who are driving must be in stadium parking lot by 6:30 to allow roads to close.

Last year, the beginning of the race was a bit rushed, there were no corral markers — which made seeding yourself a bit of a challenge — and everyone needed to be through the start in 10 minutes because of road closures so there was a bit of a hectic feel among the race directors which lead to some confusion for the runners.

There is a 3-1/2 hour time limit for both the half marathon and 10k because all roads must reopen at 10:30 a.m. The half marathon is capped at 4,000 runners and the 10k is capped at 1,500 runners.

The course is challenging, but beautiful. For those dreaming of a PR, Annapolis might not be the place. Maryland’s capital city is hilly place and the race course has a massive bridge right in the middle of it. It’s worth the challenge for the historic tour of a sweet city, but it is certainly a challenge.

For miles 2-4 the course is all through downtown Annapolis. For me, these miles flew by because of the awesome scenery. But beware of cobblestones! I fell at mile 3 when I tripped over an uneven rock in the street. After a thump, some scrapes and very kind runners, I was back on my feet for 10 more miles. “That’ll bruise tomorrow!” a few people shouted my way. Yup. It did. Lesson learned: look down on cobblestone.

Here’s what mile 6 brought:

A view of the Naval Academy Bridge during the Annapolis 10-Miler from a few years back. (Photo by Mark Zimmerman/flickr)

A view of the Naval Academy Bridge from a runner’s perspective during the Annapolis 10-Miler from a few years back. (Photo by Mark Zimmerman/flickr)

You see this? This bridge? Be ready to run over it — twice.

If you ever run a race in Annapolis — be it this one, the ZOOMA Annapolis Half Marathon in the spring, or the Annapolis 10 Miler in August, do not make the mistake of thinking this bridge is the worst part. It’s not. Everything on the other side of the bridge is hilly. Very hilly. Have a look at the elevation chart:

Half-Marathon-Elevation-ChartBut again, the energy of the race trumps the pain of the hills. Perhaps it’s the military feel in Annapolis, but the intense “Go Navy!” spirit was captivating. Once we crossed the bridge there were three men playing bagpipes, jugglers and groups of Annapolis residents out on their lawns cheering us on. A few miles through hilly neighborhoods and we were back over the bridge for the home stretch.

The post-race festivities were just a few hundred yards away from the finish line in heated tents.  On the way, we got our medals and much-needed heat sheets:


Then to the finisher’s tent where we got our long sleeved Annapolis Classic Tech shirts and a pair of Annapolis Classic socks. This year’s half marathon finisher’s gear is even fancier. (See it here.)

In the post-race food tent the Annapolis Classic really steps it up. In addition to bananas and bagels, there was “award-winning” tomato soup from a local vendor and vegetable broth. Also – oysters, both grilled and on the half shell! I’ve never seen that at a race before.

The after-party has live music and a dance floor (for those with something left in their legs) and plenty of beer.

Overall, the Annapolis Classic is a well-organized race with a beautiful yet challenging course and a kickin’ after party. Save a little something in your legs so you can enjoy it!

Here’s what the course map looks like — you can also check it out here:

1 comment… add one
  • Michelle September 17, 2015, 12:32 pm

    Really great article! I’ve signed up for this year’s half marathon and will use your insights to help me train. Thanks.

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