Richmond Marathon – November 12, 2016
Finishing Time: 4:57:53
Races keep me running, and keep me challenging myself. I’m going to be honest and accountable about how my training is going, so I’ll also share how the actual race went.
For those of you who have been reading my blog this summer and fall, you know that I have had pain in my hip since late July on runs longer than 10 miles. Oof- it makes for a rough marathon training season when running hurts. I was finally diagnosed with bursitis in October, exactly one month before the Richmond Marathon. I had just completed my longest training run of 22 miles, and luckily, my physical therapist quickly determined that I wasn’t going to stop running this close to my final race.
The rest of my long runs were spent trying out different strategies. Should I run faster, and hopefully be further along before the pain starts? Should I run slower so the inflammation is delayed? Should I do more of the run, or even all of it, as run/walk intervals? I eventually decided to run at least 7 miles at a slower starting pace, and at no later than 10 miles, I would switch to run/walk intervals.
I rode down to Richmond with my friend Jenn the afternoon before the race. Both of had the day off (Veteran’s Day), so we could leave DC early. And yet, we still hit some terrible traffic. Even with that, it was a 3 hour drive, which isn’t bad for the DC area. We went directly to a gas station by the expo (car problem) and then to the expo to pick up my packet. I have always gone to the Richmond expo, but it was Jenn’s first time. Even though she had her packet mailed to her, she was switching races, and needed to do that in person. We got our shirts, and wandered through the expos. We picked up an extra bag, had a beer sample, took some pictures, and scouted new races.
We checked into the hotel (right by the start line) and then headed out for dinner. We had done some research and found an Italian restaurant within 5 blocks of the hotel, so we could walk there. It was maybe the slowest service I have ever seen. The food was good- I had a glass of wine and pasta primavera, and Jenn had a beer, watermelon caprese salad and mussels- but man was it slow. By the time we got back to the hotel, we coordinated morning meet-up plans with our running group friends and got ready to sleep. I did a little foam rolling and iced both hips.
Alarms were set early, but not crazy early since we were meeting people at 6:45 in our hotel lobby. Jenn and I got mostly ready, but since our races didn’t start until 7:30 and 7:45, we planned to run to our room for final things before checking our bags with the hotel and heading to the start line. Race morning was cold- temp was predicted to be 37 at the start. I chose to race in running pants, a Baltimore running festival t-shirt and super lightweight long sleeve. Plus my visor, which would keep the tips of my ears warm, and a cheap pair of gloves bought at the expo. I had Nuun in my water bottle, 3 PowerBar gels and my motivational skittles in my running pouch. I was ready!
We met up with Loren, Justin, Anita and Cathy for a pre-race photo and hanging out a little. It was very relaxed and nice to have people to chat with before the race. We checked our bags and Jenn headed to the half marathon. Cathy, Anita and I headed out a few minutes late for the marathon start. On the way, we ran into 2 more people from Arlington Road Runners heading to the marathon start. We broke off for the pacing groups. For Anita and I, it was the third time running the Richmond Marathon for both of us, but we hadn’t run the same one before! She hopped in with the 4:30 pace group, and I joined the 4:45 pace group to start.
Miles 1-4: For me, starting with a pace group is incredibly helpful. It helps me start at the pace I intend to, and keeps me from getting caught up in early excitement and adrenaline. The first two miles of the race are straight west on Broad St. We then keep going west but along Monument. Monument is pretty famous in Richmond and there are some nice houses. By mile 4, we turn into the neighborhoods. I kept having to remind myself to not get more than 10 feet in front of the pace group. I felt great during these miles, though one of my knees tweaked slightly.
Miles 5-9: The spectators in Richmond are awesome! You never run through empty neighborhoods- everyone is out cheering. Mile 6 is particularly pretty- big houses, trees, I was feeling good. There is a cheer zone at mile 7- hi-fives for everyone! I also took my first gel. And then we cross the bridge over the river to the south side of Richmond. I had told myself the initial goal was to run through the cheer station and then if I was hurting or even just aching, to switch to intervals. I felt fine, so I kept running. Miles 8-10 are some of my favorites, along the river, quiet, pretty. I saw Jess from JessRunsATL and said hello before she pushed on (congrats on the PR!). The guy with a loudspeaker was there again just past mile 9, encouraging people in the middle of the only section of the course with few spectators. Then the hills began, but I knew I was approaching my max running distance before switching to run/walk intervals.
Miles 10-14: I began my switch to intervals at 5:00 running/:30 walking. I knew there would be times when that walk would stretch to a minute or two, so I kept it short while I was feeling good. I got hot during this stretch and took off my long sleeve shirt (and had to re-do my race number). I had some jelly beans (who says no to Jelly Bellys?) during a walk break and then kept going. I lost the pace group just after mile 13- I was really proud that I was able to basically stay with them for 3 miles while they were running and I was doing intervals. I took my second gel at mile 14, and kept topping off my water bottle.
Miles 15-18: Ok, so I knew that these miles can be hard. Mile 15 sends you back north across the bridge and it was super windy. But, there is a junk food stop once you get across! I don’t usually take snacks or food from the stations along the way, but I thought I would at least see what they had. My weakness- gummy bears! I had a couple- they were so chewy, I swear they got me through a whole mile just working on that. Miles 17-18 were hot and I was getting pretty tired. Richmond automatically puts your name on your bib and the spectators shouting encouragement to me by name was really helpful.
Miles 19-21: Hills. So this was my third time running Richmond, and I know that there is this big hill in mile 19, right before you get to the Richmond baseball diamond. It sucks. Every year. But I must have been looking particularly misera ble or tired, because on that hill, someone shouted to me “this hill isn’t as bad as Baltimore” – to which I said “True!” and kept on pushing. The hill was bad, but I was reminded that I could do hills, so I kept digging. Right around mile 20 I realized that I hadn’t seen the 5 hour pace group, and that I was on track to finish in just under 5 hours if I kept going at my current intervals pace. Talk about a goal to keep me focused in those last miles! We turned into the Northside neighborhoods, which go all out in terms of the neighborhood competitions.
Miles 22-26.2: I actually enjoyed miles 22-24. They went much quicker than I was expecting. I was mentally awake enough to notice the crowds, the rolling hills in the neighborhoods, the barefoot running guy, the military guy who would run fast for a few hundred feet and then walk, the trees, the weather. It was actually almost enjoyable. I took 2 advil from one of the cheer stations and kept going. By mile 24 it was hot, and my hip ached, but I could keep going. It actually hurt more in the times slowing down to walk and the first few steps switching back to running. At mile 25 you turn back towards downtown, and I knew I was close. I took my last walk break at 25.2 (1 Mile to the Finish!) and ran the rest of the way. The final .3-.4 miles of the Richmond races is downhill, like a steep downhill, to Brown’s Island. Every. Step. Hurts. But you can see the finish areas, you know it’s close, so you breathe, try to smile when you see cameras, and get to the finish line. I was so excited and proud of myself to finish in under 5 hours!
I collected my medal, blanket and finisher’s hat. I got some food and found Jenn in the finish area. After resting for a little, doing some stretching, we took the shuttle back to the hotel. Another Richmond race successfully completed! My average pace in 5-mile increments was 10:46, 10:28, 11:22, 12:23, 11:59, and then 9:30 for the last 1.2 miles. Total time, 4:57:53!
And I’m already registered for the Richmond Half Marathon next fall 😉