This year’s Richmond Marathon was very different than our first marathon last year. I actually had a lot of fun! I’ll recap all my reflections and lessons learned in a separate blog post, like I did last year, but here’s a recap of our second marathon, The Richmond Marathon.
We woke up at 5:00 am, with the plan to leave our hotel in Short Pump by 5:45 am (left slightly later…). With the 26 degree temps, Mike and Matt made some last minute clothing decision changes. Matt decided on pants and another shirt layer. Mike decided to wear his new pants and borrowed Matt’s Nike Element Half Zip (so Mike and I matched – not planned, haha).
I braided my hair and ate half of a bagel from the day before. Since we were running a bit late, we nixed the stop at Starbucks and instead I ran into the hotel lobby for a free coffee. The Residence Inn had set up cold breakfast items and coffee extra early for all the runners staying there. Nice! I forgot to put on Glide so had to run back up to the hotel room. I also decided to grab my Lululemon Run Swiftly short sleeve crewneck, in case I decided to put on another layer. I ate my Picky Bar (Smooth Caffeinator flavor) in the car.
Since we stayed at the Marriott at the start line last year, we didn’t need to deal with parking. Our plan this year was to park by the finish line so we’d have a shorter walk at that end, also figuring the start line spots might already be filling up with 8K’ers and Half Marathoners who all start earlier than the Marathoners. Richmond Marathon clearly explains all the parking lots on their website but we had trouble getting over to the finish line area, with all the road closures. After being stuck in traffic for awhile, we decided to just park sort of near the start line. I made a last minute decision to put on my short sleeve under my Nike Element Half Zip, in order to keep my core a bit warmer. Great decision! And it was COLD out. I was shivering so much on the walk to the start line that my coffee was spilling and I had to toss it before I spilled it all over myself.
We had decided to hang out in the Marriott lobby, after noticing many runners doing so last year. After seeing the massive lines for restrooms, we got in line almost immediately (around 7 am). It was worth the wait to use a real hotel bathroom rather than a portapotty.
We relaxed in the warm conference room hallways, filled with runners, until 7:40 am, 10 minutes before race start. I was concerned about our GPS watches not syncing in time but, luckily, we didn’t have any problems. I got my hand warmers out and situated in my gloves, put on the Turtle Fur neck warmer my mom sent for a throwaway, turned my iPod shuffle on, and retied my sneakers (a pre-race ritual). After the Star Spangled Banner, we were off!
And my watch turned off. Literally as soon as I crossed the start line, I had to re-sync the GPS. Luckily it only took a few seconds but it was pretty strange since that’s never happened before.
This stretch was so much more enjoyable without pouring rain, like last year! Although, there were a lot of runners and the course was pretty packed for the first couple of miles, I had no problem quickly settling into a comfortable pace. I had lost Matt and Mike at the start among the mass of runners, but Mike ran up next to me after about half a mile and we continued to run together!
A little after 2 miles we turned onto Monument Ave, much prettier this year with the colored leaves and sun shining! I spotted Bart Yasso of Runner’s World on the other side of the street so Mike yelled out to him and he said “Hey! Great job, guys!” Despite the cold, the sun was shining and the spectators were out in full force. I LOVE the crowd support for the Richmond Marathon. It’s impossible not to get energy from everyone cheering you on. I also loved all of the bands along the course this year, especially at the beginning!
I was hungry at the start line for some reason so eagerly took my first GU, Caramel Macchiato, at mile 5.5. I have never taken a GU while running, usually I stop, so this was a first. I took it over the course of maybe a mile, taking it little bits at a time and washing each bit down with Kona Cola Nuun. Also, GUs are easy to open with gloves. Nice. Another first!
Our pace was on the faster side. I was a little nervous about burning out but kept checking in with myself and Mike to see if the pace felt comfortable. We ran through some pretty neighborhoods and Mike and I chatted quite a bit. Running with Mike really made the time fly. We were having a lot of fun! As we headed down the GIANT downhill at miles 6/7, Mike and I had to resist speeding down like many other runners flying by us and, instead, kept a safer, more steady pace. I remembered from last year that the downhill ended right at a party zone and this year it was PACKED! We could hear the crowd a ways away and were greeted by a live band. Spectators with noisemakers, bells, etc. lined about a quarter of a mile near a shopping center. Little kids held their hands out for high fives and there were countless entertaining signs to read.
We ran over the bridge and I clearly remembered taking my first Accel gel there last year and having it slip out of my hands before I could finish it! It was fun to run the same race and have so many crystal clear memory flashbacks. I tossed one of my two hand warmers to the side of the road around this point.
After the bridge, we headed down a big hill to run alongside the James River. Last year, this section felt pretty desolate, long and wet. This year, this was probably my favorite stretch of the race! It was gorgeous to run by the river, under the trees, still with their orange/yellow/red leaves. At one point, I had to resist taking out my phone to get a video because it was so picture perfect with the sunlight shining through the yellow leaves falling down on runners. Although there weren’t many spectators along this stretch, I really enjoyed the peacefulness. The trail did narrow a bit and become a little congested in spots. We also had to be careful because of all the leaves falling, which could make for a slick path.
After the river, we turned up to run through a few hilly neighborhoods. I tried to keep my pace around 8:30. I couldn’t believe it when we hit mile 10! Already double digits! The time was flying by. I took a Salted Caramel GU around mile 12. I had to resist the donuts being given out by a group of spectators.
Around mile 12, we ran through the second spectator party zone. I remember seeing my parents here last year, handing off my gloves and then stepping in a huge puddle of water, drenching my sneaker. There were WAY more spectators at the party area around the shopping plaza this year. I couldn’t believe the crowd support! It felt like we were running to the finish line (but not…). Little kids held out their hands for high-fives and many people were holding giant head posters of their runners, the first I’ve seen that. I got a huge boost of energy from the party zone – needed for the hill up ahead! Luckily the uphill didn’t last long and we were soon on a downhill stretch for a few miles, until mile 16.
I was really warming up so I decided to toss my circa 1995 Turtle Fur neck warmer that my mom had sent as a throwaway for me. I hate throwing perfectly good clothing to the side but it needed to go. I’m surprised I kept it that long! It helped me tremendously to have my neck covered during the super cold beginning of the race. I was able to breath much better, didn’t cough at all and stayed much warmer. No need for my inhaler!
A church group was handing out candy around mile 14 with an assortment of leftover Halloween candy, including candy corn and a variety of wrapped candies. Mike and I even saw a ring pop on the ground!
I tried to keep my pace around 8:30 and moved a bit ahead of Mike around mile 14/15. I turned on my iPod shuffle (I had been sporadically listening to it prior). And then it was time to cross the big bridge. This was the worst part of the race. I immediately regretted tossing my neck warmer a mile ago. It was extremely windy and the concrete felt terrible under my feet. We were running into the wind the entire time! The bridge felt like it would never end. I had to do a lot of positive self talk.
But it did end and then the big hill began at mile 16, a little after the bridge. There were lots of spectators along the course after we crossed over the bridge and into downtown Richmond. I remembered seeing Bart Yasso around this point last year so looked for him and, sure enough, spotted him. I darted across the road to give him a high five and he said “You go girl! You’re doing great!”. A great boost! For some reason, the mile 16 hill didn’t seem as bad this year. I’m so glad we incorporated more hill training and strength training into our overall training. It made a difference!
Mile 18 began the Uptown area of Richmond, full of cute cafes, bars and restaurants, and lots of spectators. This is where I hit the wall last year. It was strange to run through the same strip this year and feel really good! I remembered exactly where I stopped to walk last year. There was a lot to look at, making the time really fly by. I really couldn’t believe how the race seemed to be going by so fast. I took a GU Caramel Macchiato around mile 18/19, taking in small bits at a time over about a mile.
It’s so strange how places hold memories and how memories can come flooding back to you. I’m so glad we decided to run the same marathon for a second time. I not only knew what to expect but it was fun to relive the moments from last year. I remembered exactly where I ran into Mike around mile 20 and how I was so tired of running. This year, I felt so close to the finish around mile 20 but knew this was the real test. I told myself that I only had a Lincoln and back run (my typical National Mall running route) to go. I could do it! I got nervous when I saw my mile 20 pace at 8:40! I picked it up a bit for the next couple of miles. The neighborhoods we ran through were pretty hilly but so pretty with all the leaves falling. The sun was out in full force and it was definitely warming up. I took my gloves off around mile 21 and put them in my hydration pack – so handy to have all the pockets!
22 miles was our longest training run this year, making the distance until the end feel much more doable (last year we ran 20 for our longest training run). The spectators were reminding us all that the finish was so close. It felt so close! Last year this stretch felt so long because we walked/slow jogged most of it. I was surprised that I was feeling so good, with zero stomach problems. My calf felt like it might be cramping so I just took some sips of my Nuun and tried to focus on relaxing. I took my last GU at mile 22 (salted caramel), also making the finish feel so close. The last stretch is a lot about playing mind games and staying positive!
At mile 23, I felt pretty good other than feeling some nausea creep in. I was happy I had some gum with me. The peppermint flavor helped with the nausea but I was still conscious of the feeling for the remainder of that race. Annoying! I was upset to see I had slowed down at mile 23, even though I felt like I was still running my usual pace. I knew I had some more in me so tried to push for the final stretch. It was hard. My legs were feeling heavy. I had trouble bumping my pace up. I focused on trying to keep my posture and to keep my form from slipping. But, I really couldn’t believe how much better I was doing than last year – I hadn’t walked once!
I was really looking forward to the finish chute, remembering how exciting it was last year (and also very much downhill!). The downhill actually kind of hurt this year, especially at first. My knees felt sore, the bottoms of my feet hurt, my hips and quads were tight. I didn’t really notice these things until I started to go downhill. But after the first few steps, I felt okay and able to pick up my speed for the finish! The finish area was lined and packed with spectators! It was awesome! I really just focused on the finish line and trying not to fall! I saw the clock from a distance at 3:45 and couldn’t believe I was finishing in 3:45!! My goal was under 4:00.
After crossing the finish, I couldn’t believe that all just happened. I just ran my second marathon?! And it was a completely different experience than my first marathon. I got my medal which is huge and so pretty this year and my fleece blanket (so cool!). I also picked up a water and headed over to a grassy area by the finisher photo area to wait for Mike and Matt. I know it’s not great to do but I sat down immediately. I felt very nauseous and hoped I wouldn’t throw up. Gross, I know. I tracked Matt and Mike on my Friend Finder app, since we all had our phones with us and could see them both a few miles back. I also wanted to hang out around that area so I could get a photo with Mike in front of the backdrop. Once I went through the food area, it would be tricky to get back to the photo area. I took 2 Immodium pills to, hopefully, prevent any stomach issues. I was glad I had the fleece blanket. I was shivering like crazy!
Mike finished in 3:59! And met me at the spot I’d staked out.
We walked through the food area with bagels, bars, bananas and pizzas. I took a bagel and banana but only ate the banana. It’s weird how, even though I just ran 26.2 miles, I wasn’t really that hungry. I knew the hunger would all hit me the next day. We met up with Matt who finished a little over 4:00 and we all purchased the awesome finisher jackets! I love that they are so warm and cozy and not really for running. It’s nice to have some non-running clothing from races. These jackets came in both men’s and women’s and were perfect to keep us warm at the finisher area. We found a nice spot on the grass in the sun, away from the breeze off the river, and laid down for a little while, recounting race moments. Although my stomach wasn’t bothering me, I really wanted to lay down. I felt significantly better after 15 minutes of resting.
We posed for photos by the river, where we got some photos taken last year, and then got our free beer at the beer truck. The finish area at Brown’s Island park is so wide open and spacious. There’s plenty of room to spread out (aka lay down), lots of tables and chairs, food options, etc.
We waited about 15 minutes for a shuttle to the start line area (to avoid walking up a hill) and were much closer to our car. We were all walking pretty well – better than last year! We had about a 20 minute drive back to the Residence Inn, where we pulled out our bags of chips for some salty snacks that really hit the spot. (I read that sitting on the couch and eating chips is probably not the best thing to do after running a marathon but it made us all feel better!).
After showering, we drove to a brewery near Sportsbackers Stadium. Isley Brewery was pretty crowded but we were able to get a table (standing wasn’t happening). It was also a live music night! Since they didn’t offer food other than chips, Mike and I went to the Pig in downtown Richmond where we went last year for dinner. Unfortunately, I was having such bad stomach issues last year that I wasn’t able to enjoy the Pig (I had to leave early to go lay down in the hotel). This year, we sat at the bar and had delicious fried pickles followed by gigantic burgers! A great ending to a wonderful day!
Lululemon Run Swiftly short-sleeve crewneck
Nike Element Half Zip
Nike Epic Run Tights
Moving Comfort JustRight Racer
Champion by Target gloves
Turtlefur neck warmer (through mile 14)