We jumped into the corral as it was moving to the start and we basically just starting running. This was happening! We were running a marathon! I was really happy my shin or calf or foot wasn’t hurting immediately. I tried not to think of the long run ahead and to just focus on the present moment. Then it started POURING! This was not in the forecast! I hoped it would just pass. The rain lightened eventually but the entire run was pretty wet, rainy, cold and dreary. I hoped this wouldn’t keep spectators from cheering us on. I would really need them later on in the race!
The first seven miles were pretty uneventful. The race began on a nice wide road and turned onto Monument Avenue with another wide boulevard. The houses (mansions!) were beautiful along Monument Ave. We then entered more residential areas with still a lot of spectators. It was HILLY. Hillier than I thought it would be. This wasn’t good for my extensor tendonitis on top of my foot. I really tried to relax my foot and keep my toes down. I didn’t want to inflame it so early on in the race.
I tried to keep my pace anywhere between 8:30 and 9:30. I know – big range. I wasn’t doing this for time but I KNEW I was capable of running at sub 4:00 marathon. At the same time, I had tendonitis issues and hadn’t run as many training miles as I’d have liked to.
Mile 7 was the first party zone with a huge downhill leading into it. Nice! Even though it was still raining, the area was packed with spectators – noisemakers, signs, bells, etc. I was disappointed I didn’t see my parents. They were going to try to drive to the first two party zones. I had my first Accel gel that I’d brought. It was kind of wet so slipped out of my hands before I got to finish it. Oops.
We crossed the bridge over the river and I knew we’d be turning around now. I basically had the map memorized and the turning back (although it wasn’t halfway), still felt great! And I saw my parents on the other side of the bridge! I had planned to hand off my gloves but it was still pretty chilly out. It was great to see them and I got a huge boost. Another HUGE downhill to the river road. I tried not to think about the uphill later on.
The path along the James River was gorgeous. Although there weren’t many spectators along this part of the course, it was so enjoyable – so scenic. And pretty flat! It was a little narrow which made it tricky to pass people, but by that time I was around people who were running around 9:00 minute miles.
A little before mile 13 was another cheer zone. I could hear us approaching it and was excited for a boost after not seeing many spectators. I saw my parents right away and handed off my soggy gloves. It was great to see them again but I couldn’t believe I wouldn’t see them again until the finish. That thought actually made the finish seem close. The first 13 miles actually went by really quickly. I only had to do that again! I was feeling really positive and strong. This was the real turnaround point. Nothing was hurting. I was hydrating and fueling well. I was SO CLOSE.
Then I stepped in a GIANT puddle. My left foot was soaked. Not good. I really regretted not putting Body Glide on my feet. But it wasn’t supposed to rain. But I told myself I was halfway through! I was so close to becoming a marathoner! Lots of positive self-talk.
The first Accel gel station was around mile 14 so I picked up a vanilla gel. I was disappointed there were no chocolates at this station. I could have gone for the caffeine boost.
I was running low on water in my water bottle. I carried my handheld the whole time. I like always having water with me and was used to running with it from training. I wanted to get a refill before the terrible bridge at mile 15 that I’d heard about. But I waited too long and had to run the bridge with just a teeny bit of water left. Luckily, it wasn’t too windy but the concrete felt terrible under my feet. It was pretty to be running back toward the city and to see the few “skyscrapers” of Richmond but my feet felt awful.
Mile 16 was the big hill I’d been worried about. There was a water station partway up the hill. The volunteers were great! I held out my water bottle and they’d quickly fill it up. I dropped in a nuun and headed up the hill again.
Highlight: I saw Bart Yasso from Runners World! I put out my hand and he gave me a high five. Perfect time for a boost. It was awesome to have all the crowd support as we ran back into the city. I was feeling great still!
THE WALL. Why couldn’t it have hit me later? All of a sudden, I didn’t want to run anymore. My legs felt like they were full of weights. I had trouble just moving them. What was happening? I had been doing so well! I felt like I was dragging myself through these miles but my time was actually pretty good at 9:33 for both. I thought it’d be around 11-12:00. I walked a little bit. I didn’t want to but I couldn’t help myself. I looked around at people running around me still and couldn’t understand why I hit the wall. Where was my mental strength?!
This was actually a really pretty area of Richmond – Uptown – with cute cafes, restaurants and shops, and tons of crowd support. But I still had 6-8 miles to go. I had an internal debate with myself – “only 8 left – that’s nothing!” “8’s almost 10 miles! I can barely move my legs!”. I calculated the pace that I’d need to keep to get a sub 4:00 finish. Still doable!
Maybe I was hungry. I had half of a honey stinger waffle and a couple of the honey stinger chews with natural caffeine. And then I saw a big hill. Seriously?! My mental drive was fading. I wanted to sit down.
Then I saw Mike! He was stretching at the top of the hill (that I just SLOWLY ran/walked up). He had gotten a bad cramp in his leg due to lack of water/electrolytes. I gave him my water bottle full of nuun.
Mike and I stayed together for the last 6.2 miles. We’d run a bit and then stop to stretch Mike’s leg. At this point, I didn’t even care about time. I wanted to finish out the race with Mike and really enjoy the experience. We chatted about the first 20 miles and stopped at the junk food stations for gummi bears, pretzels and Coke. Coke tasted delicious! It was hard to walk and start running because we started to get pretty cold. I was so envious of the half marathoners watching us, wrapped in their fleece blankets from the finish.
The camaraderie among the runners for the last 6 miles was great. Runners would encourage other runners to keep pushing. One girl came up to me to compliment me on my hairstyle and we chatted for awhile. Any distractions from running were welcomed!
Our bibs had our names on them so spectators would cheer us on by name. This made a huge difference, at least to me! Someone cheered for Mike, the line from the Geico commercial with the hump day camel – “Mike, Mike, Mike, Mike, Mike.”
The downhill “chute” to the finish was awesome! We stopped at the top to stretch because Mike’s leg would all of a sudden cramp up. We didn’t want it to cramp close to the finish line. Then the final push downhill to the finish! The sides of the course were packed with spectators cheering us on – even by name! It was so much fun!! I wanted to go fast but I wanted to savor every second. We finished in 4:25 – not what we were shooting for but still admirable to finish in a good time while dealing with injuries.
It was actually kind of anti-climatic to finish the marathon. It was exciting and rewarding but I had built it up and thought about that moment for 5 months! But it was great to call myself a Marathoner!
We got our fleece blankets – amazing – and saw my mom right away. Mike and I went through the food area with bagels, bananas, pizza. I had two bites of pizza but realized it may not be the best thing for my stomach.
We found Matt and my dad, and then bought long-sleeve finisher shirts (Eddie Bauer brand). All I wanted to do was to sit down so we hung out at the tables/chairs by the band. My muscles started to tighten up badly. It was hard to walk. The guys had more pizza and we all got beers (free for runners). Blue Moon tasted delicious.
Later we walked about five blocks back to our hotel, which was probably good for our legs. I laid down on our yoga mat and ate pretzels for awhile. Then the stomach issues began – cramping, gurgling, etc. My digestive system was in bad shape. This isn’t unusual for me but I was surprised by the delay. I did long training runs with zero issues. Maybe I should have had a chocolate milk immediately afterwards. Maybe it was the ibuprofen since I’d never had that running before and it’s tough on the stomach. Maybe it’s because I haven’t run in 3 weeks and my body (stomach/digestive system) wasn’t used to it. I barely made it to dinner and ended up leaving early because it hurt my stomach to sit down; I wanted to lay down.
But I woke up feeling fine (my stomach) the next day and was pretty excited for a breakfast buffet! We were all so sore and walked VERY slow. It was pretty tough for me to stand up from a seated position. My quads, shins, calves and back were probably the sorest. I’ve never felt like that in my life. It wasn’t painful, just hard to move. None of us wanted to talk about running or races. I felt exhausted physically and emotionally. Immediately after the marathon, I thought that’s it. I’m not doing another one of those. That was crazy and not nearly as fun as a half marathon. But as time has gone by, I’m remembering all the really fun times leading up to the race and in the race itself and I want to try it again and try to hit sub 4:00! I think Richmond Reflections deserves its own blog post with lessons learned and ways to improve for next time. It takes awhile to digest it all!