The Richmond Marathon did not disappoint. I finally feel like I had the chance to run the race I had been training for over the past two years. I knew I would have to compromise on my goal a bit since it had only been a few weeks since running Chicago, but I still felt I got to put all of my hard work into motion. I am so thankful for my teammates that ran with me and for my coach who helped pull me along when I was starting to get tired.
I write these recaps for myself so that I can go back and remember these moments. Because of that, this is probably going to be a long one. For those with a short attention span that won’t make it or just don’t care to read through a whole race recap, I shaved 8 minutes off of my time for a new PR of 3:48:33!
The weather forecast had looked great all week for the race. I was so happy to finally race in cold temperatures! I decided to wear the same capris I wore for the Columbus Marathon two years ago when the temperatures were similar, my weekday run group tank top, and arm sleeves. I obviously had a throwaway fleece and sweat pants, some gloves, and an ear warmer.
Prior to the race start, a few of us from Race Team RVA met up for a group picture. My training buddy, Sean, and I decided this would be an easy place to meet since we were planning to run together. Tyler, whom had run the half marathon with us, decided to also run with us. Both he and Sean were aiming for their first sub-4. Sean had run Chicago and finished in 4:00:07, so he was looking for redemption!
After the picture, we hit the bag check, stopped by the port-a-pots, and got into our wave to wait for the start. After about 10 shivering minutes, we were off!
I didn’t know how my legs would feel since I have never run two marathons in one season but I thought between my fitness and the weather, a 3:50 was a fair goal for this race. Even if I slowed towards the end, I could possibly still squeak out a PR of sub-3:56.
We agreed to take the first few miles around a 9:00 pace to get warmed up and just take it easy. Despite my wool socks, I couldn’t feel my feet for the first three miles from the cold. I left on my zip up fleece to get myself warm. (9:06/8:58/8:53/8:53)
We turned onto Grove Ave and Bart Yasso was just hanging out on the corner, so I cut across to give him a high-five. Totally worth the ruined tangent and Sean and Tyler joked that it was good luck. I was finally starting to warm up and decided to ditch my fleece and I also took my first gel around this point. We rode the downhill portion on Grove before heading into a cheer zone on River Road. We were just chatting about training and nutrition and letting the miles tick by. We enjoyed laughing at some of the signs and saw one of our teammates as we crossed the bridge on Huguenot Road. (8:47/8:50/8:32/8:45)
We headed down to Riverside Drive which is a really pretty section of the course. It’s flat and pretty straight, but also quiet. It’s a good section to speed up a bit and settle into a comfortable pace. We briefly lost Sean after a water stop in the section, but he caught back up to us. We also passed teammates Katlyn and Morgan who were looking happy and strong. I enjoyed this part, but toward the end of this section I was kind of bored. I took my second gel in this stretch. There is a short, steep hill coming out of Riverside followed by a long, slightly graded hill. My watch vibrates instead of beeps on a split, so I kept missing the splits and had to have Sean and Tyler tell me what their watched said. We started a thing where we’d declare the person with the fasted split the winner for that mile (it was usually just by a second) and that kept us entertained for a while. Running down into Forest Hill was a great pick-me-up after the long, quiet section. There were tons of spectators cheering, a DJ playing some Springsteen, and we had fun giving high-fives and reading signs before moving into another uphill section. (8:45/8:43/8:40/8:48)
We hit the halfway point and knew we were on track to hit our goals. At this point, my legs were starting to feel fatigued and Sean commented that he felt it too. My IT band was bothering me which has never been an issue for me before, and the guys laughed and pointed out that the marathon is for having things hurt that have never hurt before! I knew we’d be at the dreaded Lee Bridge soon and that I’d only have 10 miles left after that. At this point, I knew if I held a 8:45 pace for the rest of the race I could PR, and I was okay with that. Heading into the bridge things were starting to get hard and I told myself to just keep going. I took my third gel as we got ready to go on the bridge. We had all agreed earlier to try to stick together until we crossed the bridge, but at this point I didn’t feel like I had anything else in me to break away. I actually told the group that I thought I’d be sticking to the 8:45 pace the rest of the race because I just didn’t feel I had it in me to speed up. Little did I know, I was wrong. We headed onto the bridge and it was windy, but not nearly as bad as everyone made it out to be. We had planned to run by effort instead of pace in this spot which I think made a huge difference and was a good strategy. I put my earbuds in at this point because I knew I needed to focus in and stop chatting and joking for the last 10 miles. (8:41/8:42/8:43/8:52)
Once we crossed the bridge, things got a little confusing. Sean tapped me on the shoulder to let me know that Tyler was going to stop to go to the bathroom. I had to stop for a half a second to get a cup of water because there weren’t enough volunteers at the mile 16 water stop, and when I looked around I didn’t see Sean. I didn’t know if he was waiting for Tyler, right beside me, or what. I decided to just go. I forgot about my IT band and just started pushing. There is the slightest uphill to get to Main Street and I just pushed to get to Main, knowing that I would turn and have a long, flat straight away followed by one more turn to get on the back half of the course. I looked down at my split at the mile marker and got a little nervous – it felt too early to see 8:3X on my splits. I tried to pull back my pace on the next mile and reminded myself what my friend Nicole told me before my first marathon, “Just keep going, you’ll get a second wind.” I kept hearing her say that over and over as I went back and fourth between feeling like I could push and feeling tired. So many people had told me that they found this stretch to be the hardest part, but we had run it so many times that I actually felt like it went by pretty quickly. I kept plowing down the road and was excited to get to the turn onto Boulevard.
Once I got to Boulevard, I was pretty familiar with the course since it’s almost the same as the half marathon course. Around mile 18 I started to psych myself up to get to mile 23 where my team tent would be and some of the coaches would be around to run with me. I threw the gas on a bit and then got scared I was going too fast, but knew the upcoming hill would slow me. I decided to just run as my body wanted and not pay too much attention to my watch. I hit 19 and got ready to run up the Boulevard hill. It’s not too bad of a hill, but hey, it’s at the mile 19 mark! Right before I entered the hill, I heard someone call my name and turned and saw a woman from my weekday run group who said something along the lines of “Keep going strong!” It was such a nice moment right before going up again. The hill slowed me a bit, but I tried to ride the downhill as much as my legs would let me and was a little thrilled I was already at mile 20. (8:37/8:41/8:20/8:37)
I hit the 20-mile marker and had a brief moment of, “6.2 is actually kind of far,” but I immediately pushed that out of my head and told myself to just keep pushing and letting my splits be what they would be. I knew I couldn’t stomach my last gel. I don’t think I’ve ever taken a gel at 20, but have always brought one. Because it was so cool out I was able to just drink water at all of the stops which helped my stomach from being bombarded with sugar, but I was starting to feel not wonderful in the GI department. I was starting to feel tired, but I just kept pushing. Of course at this point in the race, a lot of people start walking and I kept picking people off and reminding myself that I would see my team in a few miles. I couldn’t believe some of the numbers I was seeing on my watch when I would glance down, but I stayed calm and just kept pushing.
We made the turn onto Brook Road. In the half marathon, this is my least favorite part. It’s just a long straight away, it’s usually sunny, and it’s boring. This day I knew my team would be at the end of the road and I was excited. I finally ditched my gloves and actually pulled down my arm sleeves. I was really digging my playlist when suddenly I caught eyes with my coach who was walking down the road toward me. He jumped in to run with me and told me I looked so strong. I told him I was tired and couldn’t talk much. We chatted intermittently and I made fun of him a few times for pulling ahead. I told him I lost Sean and Tyler after the bridge and had just taken off after that. I told him I was tired. I told him my legs hurt. I knew I was fading, but I just kept pushing. He kept positively commenting on my pace. We got to the end of Brook Road and I saw the team tent and he yelled out to the other coaches. I waved and yelled to them. We turned the corner onto Lombardy and my coach said, “Ok, you’ve got this. DON’T stop. Keep going!” I didn’t want him to leave my side, but I just nodded and kept going. (8:24/8:21/8:31/8:23)
Lombardy has the slightest little incline. Calling it a hill would be a joke, but I was so tired. I wanted to stop. I wanted to walk. I was fading, but working hard to not slow down too much. I told myself I only had about 3 miles left and to keep pushing. Keep pushing because my coach told me not to stop. Keep pushing because three years ago Nicole told me I would get a second wind. Keep pushing because this race was mine and I had worked for it for two years and was not going to let it go now. I got to one of my favorite spots on the course, the turn onto West Grace Street where the Lululemon cheer squad is always out and LOUD. This year was no exception. And though I looked forward to it, I was so focused I turned the corner and barely acknowledged them. I focused on picking people off. I let people pass me that I didn’t think I could catch. I told myself, “One foot in front of the other. Don’t stop pushing. Just keep moving forward.” I wanted to quit ten thousand times, my legs were so tired. I could feel a twitch in my right quad that I was hoping wouldn’t turn into a full-blown cramp. I grabbed a last cup of water at a severely under-staffed water stop. I didn’t need it, but I did. I was at mile 25 and so close. There is one more small uphill before getting into the final stretch and I felt like I was running through molasses. My legs were running out of steam, but I saw the “One mile to go” sign and just kept pushing. I rounded the corner onto East Franklin Street and knew I just had to push to Penny Lane Pub and then I would turn into the downhill finish.
I turned the corner, saw my sister jumping and yelling, and called out,” I’m going to PR!” (Or at least that’s what I was trying to yell.) And she responded, “I know!!!” As much as I wanted to ride the hill down to the finish, my legs were screaming at me so I tried to keep control of my pace while enjoying the moment and just feeling joy for such a great race. I approached the finish and the clock read 3:50:XX. At the halfway point, Sean had told us we had started with a little over a minute on the clock so I knew I had come in sub-3:50. (8:40/8:34/7:57 last .20).
I crossed the line and Bart Yasso was standing right there. I went up to him, gave him a high-five, and told him I had gotten a PR and he congratulated me. I moved on to get my medal and let myself have a quick cry of happy tears before wrapping my blanket around myself and moving on to bag check.
I had to wait a few minutes in line to get my bag and I chatted with the people in front of me. That short wait turned out to be bad because my IT band locked up and I was now in pain in my knee. I put on some warm clothes and found my sister right away. She called out, “You’re gimpy!” Which made me laugh. She was so excited and gave me a big hug and then asked about my knee. We headed to the med tent so I could get some ice and they very nicely wrapped it right around my knee. I’m not sure I would’ve been able to walk back to the car if I didn’t have that!
Saturday evening I met up with my friends Moran & Erin who both finished their first marathons at Richmond. We celebrated and enjoyed some beers before we parted ways to head home very early for a Saturday night to go to bed.
I know that every race won’t be a good one (obviously!), especially when it comes to marathons, but it feels so good to finally have gotten that opportunity to dig down deep and see what I could do in the last half of the race.
In case you’re wondering, Sean and Tyler both got their sub-4 times. Sean came in at 3:55 and Tyler came in at 3:58 after dealing with some bad cramping.
In the words of Shalane Flannagan, “F*ck yes!”