This Race Lets Runners Become a Marathon Finisher— Without Running 26.2 Miles at Once

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The Homefront Rock & Roll for Hope 5k allowed runners to complete a full marathon at their own pace. This Race Lets Runners Become a Marathon Finisher— Without Running 26.2 Miles at Once

For many runners, completing a marathon is the ultimate goal. But running 26.2 miles can be something that just seems a bit out of reach. Luckily, there is a race out there that allows this dream to become a reality… even without marathon training. If you can run a mile, you can become a marathon finisher at the HomeFront’s Rock & Roll for Hope 5k and 1 Mile Fun Run/Walk.

Held on June 10 in Princeton, New Jersey, this family-friendly race allowed runners of all ages to rock it out on the pavement and crush their goals. This was a unique race because of its flexibility when it comes to going the distance. Runners had the option of participating in a mile walk/run or a 5k. But what makes this race stand out is the ability to complete a half or full marathon distance over a period of time before the race with the option to run the last mile or 5k at the event.

This is a great race for any runner who set their eyes on the 13.1 or 26.2 distance but just isn’t quite ready for it yet. And since I have been only half crazy, having completed a few half marathons, it was time go all the way.

The Journey

Even though runners don’t need full on marathon training to complete this event, it is always smart to have some running schedule in place when competing. This helps make sure the runner is prepared for the race. More seasoned runners generally run often enough that for them it would be more to improve their speed/time on race day. Personally, I fall into the second category. The journey to race day was interesting in its own right since I had exactly one week upon registering for the race to complete my 23.1 miles.

This meant running every day for seven days, a challenge that was exciting and kept me on my toes. It included some shorts runs that were only 1 or 2 miles long, but with hill training. It also included longer runs ranging from 6 to 7 miles. Even on a day where running was the last my body wanted do, having this end goal looming over my head helped me get to my feet.  However, I mostly felt great during these daily runs. Setting this goal meant I wanted to push myself to run faster, let alone just motivated me to even lace up. Each completed run felt like a mini victory. And then just like that, race day was here.

The Cause

The event itself was organized by HomeFront, a non-profit organization that helps homeless families combat poverty. Over 350 runners joined together to run at the event, many raising impressive amounts of money. Fundraising efforts allow Mercer County’s homeless and at-risk children the ability to attend summer camp.

“HomeFront’s children’s programming is definitely a cause worth ‘rocking out’ for,” the event’s co-chairperson, Suki Wasserman said in a press release.

The eight-week camp provides healthy meals to the kids, while they enjoy recreational activities like swimming, sports, craft, dance, drama, and field trips, as well as reading and other academics. This helps the children be prepared when school comes back in the fall.

The Event

The event was Rock & Roll-themed, with participants encouraged to run in costume. Prizes were awarded to those in best outfits. And even though not many embraced this theme, the event organized rocked out in their best wigs to show their spirit.

But what’s rock ’n roll without music? Besides the sounds of sneakers hitting the pavement, music filled the air along the course. There was a band performing near the registration table, playing until awards were given at the end. Singers belted out tunes at the starting line as runners whipped around the first bend of the course. There were also bands and acapella groups that performed along the course. This was motivating and fun. No headphones needed.

Musical talents included Boxorox, School of Rock, Homework of Caffeine and Fleetwood Mac & Cheese.

The Location

The HomeFront Rock & Roll for Hope was held at the Educational Testing Service Campus in Princeton, NJ. This meant (depending on the direction coming from) driving through the picturesque Princeton campus which was deserted on Sunday morning. Shops, coffee bars, and restaurants—including a pancake place with the line out to the sidewalk—was nearby for things to do post-race.

There was ample parking at the venue. It included registration tables outside, with booths complete with complimentary Starbucks coffee. After checking in, there was a short walk across the grass to the starting line.

The course itself for the 5k included a loop around half of ETS campus. Runners ran along Research Road, following the road that made a big circle that was just more than a mile. Participants then ran the course again.

The Race

This was a timed event thanks to Best Racing Systems. Michael Pavicic was the winner,  running the course in an impressive 17:11.2. The course was paved, smooth and mostly flat with only two hills on the course. But one of the inclines was a bit of a killer when running fast— and with a stroller. The campus roads were closed off, meaning runners had the full range of the road. No one was on top of each other, which is always a plus.

This was a family-friendly event and welcomed people of all ages. Younger children did a great job at keeping up with their parents who coached them along when they began to get tired. There were runners pushing strollers with their little ones, and parents holding babies cheering on their spouses at the finish line.

Awards were given to the top three overall racers and by age group. Winners took home trophies, and those who completed the half or full marathon distance were given medals for their accomplishment.

And while rain was in the forecast it held off for the 5k, and only started to come down once the event was wrapping up.

Final Song

The best way to describe this race is a family-friendly event and fun run that is enjoyed while jamming out to music.

It served as a great way to take a stab at completing a marathon, something this runner previously thought would never be in cards (despite running a few half marathons). And while technically I don’t feel like a marathoner officially, it is pretty cool to say I took on this challenge and ran a marathon in a week.