2015 Richmond Marathon Race Recap

Richmond Marathon Race Recap

The Richmond Marathon touts itself as “America’s Friendliest Marathon”, and I have to say that I agree with that tagline.  I had such a fantastic experience this weekend, and I wonder how long it will take to have another race this fantastic.  If you remember, I made three non-time goals for this race:

Best day: Negative Split

Better day: Consistent effort

Good day: Run a race I’m proud of and have fun

I’m happy to report that I completely nailed my “Best Day” goal and set a PR of 28 minutes!

Going into the day, I was nervous about three things: my IT band (which has decided to start acting up the past couple of weeks), the wind (forecasted to be 15-20 mph), and the Lee Bridge at mile 16.

The day before the race, we did the bus tour of the course. After doing the tour, I felt really good about the course. It was helpful to know what to expect, and I got to see the dreaded bridge. The tour guide has been coaching this marathon for 10 years so had some great tips! The one thing I was a little concerned about after the tour was the flatness. I was expecting some teeny hills. Nope….almost the entire course was flat as a pancake. I just reminded myself that I did at least half of almost every long run on a flat surface and I should be ok.

Dinner on Friday night was great. Then we heard about Paris.

I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that it really killed my happiness that night. I couldn’t even bring myself to take a flat runner picture because it just seemed so silly. I thought about how people were doing the exact same thing we were doing that night when their whole lives changed.  It really made me so incredibly sad.  I forced myself to turn off the news and vowed to use the marathon to be grateful the next day. We didn’t turn the news back on until after the race.

Race morning was easy and low stress. I got up and ate and got dressed.  My biggest stress of this morning was “pants or shorts?”.  I ultimately decided on thin tights, because Carrie reminded me how much I complain when my legs are cold.  We had about .7 mile walk to the start, most of which was uphill so it was a good warmup.

I felt totally fine. No nerves at all. No anxiety. Just calm and ready to run! It was strange.

In our warmup clothes before the race!

In our warmup clothes before the race!

I did my dynamic stretching and warmup with a gel about 30 mins before the start, then we were off!

The weather was absolutely perfect on race day.  Just below 40 at the start, but a little breezy.  I decided to run with my handheld because my throat had felt dry all weekend, and I trained with it.  I knew I could always ditch it later in the race if I wanted. I took gel every 4 miles starting at 4, and sports drink every 4 miles starting at 2. I liked this because that meant I had something to look forward to at every water stop for the first 20 miles. The timing worked out well!

Miles 1-6: 12:24/12:11/12:05/11:56/11:22/11:22

Chrissy and I planned to run the first mile together, and I really wanted to stay conversation  pace so we ran her pace.  It was taking me time to get loosened up so I actually stayed with her until about 3.5.

Around 3.5 I split up with Christina and picked up the pace a bit, but it was still a pretty easy pace. Mile 4 was the first gel and I felt great.  I ditched my gloves around mile 5 and got ready for the first party zone.

Miles 7-13: 10:38/11:20/10:58/10:56/10:59/10:45/11:11

Once I hit the downhill after 6 I picked it up slightly. The party zone around mile 7 was fun but less hyped up than I was expecting.  However, the bridge around mile 8 was truly breathtaking. Keith Urban’s “Who Wouldn’t Wanna Be Me” came on right as this view was in front of me:

The bridge heading to the southside of Richmond

The bridge heading to the southside of Richmond

In case you’re not familiar, the chorus of this song has the following lyrics:

And the sun is shinin’
This road keeps windin’
Through the prettiest country
From Georgia to Tennessee
And I got the one I love beside me
My troubles behind me
I’m alive and I’m free
Who wouldn’t wanna be me

I thought about Paris.  I thought about people in my life who are having medical struggles and who can’t run.  I thought about how one day I wouldn’t be able to do this, but today I could.  The sense of gratitude I had was so overwhelming.  It was a really special moment for me.

The next few miles were peaceful by the river and beautiful. It was a nice place to have this part of the course because it was early enough to really appreciate it. I took my second gel at mile 8 and got my water bottle refilled by a volunteer.  There weren’t a lot of spectators at this part but that was okay, the views were enough for me.

Running along Riverside Drive

Running along Riverside Drive

By the time we hit the series of hills around 10.5 I was ready for them. I’d go as far as to say my body was craving them. They were easy in Atlanta terms, about what I trained on in Smyrna. They gave me a big confidence boost as well because just about everyone was walking them and I really had no trouble. They made me feel strong.

Miles 11.5 through 13 were a little tougher.  We popped out onto another road, not by the river, and there was hardly any breeze or shade.  The sun was beating straight down on us. I took my gel about a quarter mile early. Right before the party zone at mile 13 I saw my friend from VCU, Chris, who I wasn’t expecting to see and it gave me a nice pickup. The party zone at 13 was great! There was a lot of energy and a good DJ. I was excited to hit the half point to send my tracking to everyone. I knew that I had started slow and I wanted everyone to know I was feeling strong. Coming out on the other side of the party zone, my gel had clearly kicked in and the crowd really gave me a boost. I felt strong and started mentally preparing myself for the bridge.

Miles 14-20: 10:34/10:31/11:22/11:42/10:40/10:18/10:38

I spent miles 14 & 15 holding myself back. I knew I was speeding up because of the downhill and I was feeling good, but I needed to conserve energy for the bridge at mile 16.  We hit the bridge and the view was of downtown Richmond. It was beautiful.

The view crossing the Lee Bridge

The view crossing the Lee Bridge

The wind sucked. It was a straight headwind and pretty strong. I knew it could be easy to expend a ton of energy here and that would really be bad for me in my later miles, so my main focus was conserving energy. I came up on a pack of 4 girls running a little slower than me….so I tucked in behind them and drafted off them. I don’t even think they knew I was there!! It didn’t block all the wind but it really helped. I also knew I would see a lot of my support crew on the other side of the bridge and that helped me push through.

Right after the bridge I saw my friend Brooke (who ran the half and PRed that morning!) and I got a hug from her. Shortly after I saw Brian.  It was great to see him with a big smile on his face.  He also had a bag of emergency supplies for me which I was grateful for, because I had dropped my Chapstick somewhere around mile 5.  I got some Vaseline on my lips which felt great after the bridge.

All smiles at mile 17

All smiles at mile 17

Then after that I saw my friend from college Rachel who made me a really great sign that referenced our times in the VCU Fashion Department.  I hadn’t seen her in at least 5 years so I was so happy to see her! She ran along side me for a second and that gave me a big adrenaline rush.

Rachel and I

Rachel and I

Shortly after that I saw Christina’s family holding the sign she had made for me that said “This is what you get for finding your roommate on Craigslist ” which made me laugh so hard I had to stop running for a second.

The rest of mile 17 was slightly uphill, so I just took my time. The bridge had cooled me off and now there was now shade and a breeze so I was comfortable.  This mile and 18 ran right through the VCU campus which was really special to me.  Lots of students were out partying and the pep squad was there too. I knew there was a big hill at the end of 18 and then it was easy going as far as the course was concerned. Right before the hill, I passed the 5:00 pace crew and that gave me a boost of confidence. Once again, I had no issues with the hill and everyone around me was walking. I took some time to recover from the hill then started picking it up. I was really looking forward to hitting 20 for the party station and tracking.

The party zone at 20 was awesome! I took my gel and then I picked it up slightly here, and decided I wanted to try to hold that pace for the balance.  I was also excited to hit the tracking because I knew I had sped up during the last leg and my friends, family, and coach would all know I was running a strong race.

Miles 21-finish: 10:22/10:21/10:33/10:25/10:27/9:41

We entered the Bellvue neighborhood and I got excited.  My best friend from college & her husband were around 21.5 so I looked forward to that. Right around 21 I felt my legs for the first time the whole race…tired and achy. I thought I felt my IT band too but it went away quickly. It was at this moment I remembered an email my coach had sent me going into the weekend with final words of advice. I gave myself a pep talk that the next few miles may be hard and my body was going to hate me, but this is where I really found out what I was made of. I pushed forward.

I saw my friend right where she said she would be and got a big hug and then kept on. This part was a neighborhood and the residents were all out partying on the course. There was a lot of energy which is what you totally need during these last few miles.

Running through Bellvue

Running through Bellvue

Mile 23 station had wet washcloths which were AMAZING.   I washed a lot of the salt off my face and it gave me a nice pickup. I started looking forward to 24 because I knew Christina’s family would be there. This mile was tough.  There was another little hill and I was getting tired and ready to be done.  I reminded myself it would be over soon, and I didn’t get up at 4 am all those mornings to give in now.

I took my final gel at 24. I debated taking it at all but I was feeling so good, I didn’t want to crash the last two miles and kill such a good race. I saw Christina’s parents at 24.5 and that made me happy and I realized it would be over soon. We were back in downtown and I just kept waiting for the numbered streets. I knew that the finish line was on 5th.

Around mile 25 there was a hill, and right before that hill my friend Rachel was there unexpectedly. She ran up the hill with me and I was super giddy at this point.  I kept thinking “less than 15 minutes to go!” She ran about a block or two with me then I was on my way. I hit the numbered streets and started the count.

Mile 25

Mile 25

I found my friend Amy right around the middle of mile 25 (we split up at mile 2) and we spent the next mile chasing each other down. We hit 5th and turned to the downhill finish and I just turned it up. I flew down the hill with my quads screaming yet a big stupid grin on my face the whole way. It was a long chute but a fantastic way to finish the race.  I was so excited to see the clock and knew that not only had I crushed my negative split, but hit a huge PR in the process!  My official time was 4:49:33, a huge improvement off my first marathon which was 5:17.

Sprinting to the finish

Sprinting to the finish

After the race, I got my swag, stretched, and found Brian.  We waited for everyone to cross the finish and laid around Brown’s Island at the post-race party.

Brooke, Myself, Christina, Amy, Carrie

Brooke, Myself, Christina, Amy, Carrie

We did some recovery back at the hotel and then had dinner at Rail City Taphouse.  I had my giant burger and a big beer.  We all hashed out the details of our race and really had a great time.

Ready to celebrate!

Ready to celebrate!

Thoughts on my race:

I’ll admit that I looked at my watch during this race, but only as it buzzed on auto lap. I didn’t have the current pace on my screen. I was really pleased with the splits I ran and how I was able to stay consistent.

Negative Splits!

Negative Splits!

Could I have run a faster time? Yes.  Probably quite a bit faster.  However, I wasn’t trying to get the very best time I could out of this race, and by taking that pressure off of myself I had a really great time.  I ran a strong race and had a strong finish and that is exactly what I wanted.

I really listened to my body the whole way. There were a couple water stops where I walked for about 30-45 seconds (miles 12 and 23 stand out in my mind) to gather myself and give my body a minute when I needed it. I took in extra sports drink as needed. I slowed down when I needed to, and sped up when I felt like I had it.  I enjoyed every single moment of this race. I gave hugs to my spectators, I took a couple pictures, I high-fived little kids, I read signs and laughed. There was and lot to soak up in this race and I feel like I got it all!

This race was incredibly well done. The course was great.  Bringing the marathon course back along the half course for the last 9 miles of the race is brilliant because the crowds were great. It was flat or downhill most of the course and there was a lot of change in scenery.  Every single water stop was exactly where it should have been, well stocked and well manned. The crowd support was phenomenal, really through the entire race. It was clear that it is a race the entire city embraces. The swag is fantastic….medal, tee, hat, and fleece blanket.  I’ve already decided that I want to do this full marathon again next year!

2015 @Sportsbackers Richmond Marathon Race Recap #runchat Click To Tweet
SWAG

SWAG

I couldn’t end this post without a huge THANK YOU.  Thank you to Brian for putting up with me the last 4 months during training and being an amazing supporter race weekend.  Thank you to Carrie for sharing so many training miles with me, thank you to Chrissy for believing in me, thank you to everyone who came to cheer me on in person or sent me messages virtually.  Thank you to my family to supporting me in every way they could.  Thank you to my coach, Jesica, for helping me figure out how to listen to my body and run a smart race.  Thank you to the race organizers and the city of Richmond for putting on a fantastic race.  And finally, thank YOU, you readers who have been following along in my journey and have sent me notes of encouragement.  This was a truly fantastic weekend and not one I will forget anytime soon.

Two-time marathoner!

Two-time marathoner!

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Jess

21 Comments

  1. woot woot! i’ve already signed up for the full for next year as well. let’s run together 🙂 way to go – it was the PERFECT day for a PR. so many of my friends had incredible races. so glad to add you to that list! 🙂

  2. Congrats on running an amazing race and the huge PR! You knocked it out of the park with your consistent training. it is always nice to see months of hard work pay off. I might have my eye on Richmond for a full next year just depends on how far I want to travel for a marathon but everyone always says amazing things about it. Enjoy your recovery and downtime!

    • Thank you!! I would definitely recommend this race. It’s pretty inexpensive to stay if you book ahead of time.

    • Congrats to you as well!! Your first marathon is something you’ll always remember, I’m glad you had a good experience!

  3. Congratulations on your second marathon!! I wanted to thank you for your blog and all your inspiring posts. Your marathon posts were very useful when I was training for my first marathon.

    Thank you!

  4. It was the Athens Marathon. It was great. I had lots of fun. I was able to finish it on 5:17:37. It was a hard race because there were about 22kms of hills and it was a warm day. However, I am really glad I went for it. It was a great experience and a pretty cool place to run my first marathon!! http://www.athensauthenticmarathon.gr/

  5. Big congratulations Jess! You did so well- met ALL your goals! You must be happy. I bet you’re still glowing from the post-marathon high!

    • Thanks Jessie! I’m sad we couldn’t meet up but I’m hoping to see you one day at another race. I’ll be back in Richmond next year, it was a great race! What’s on your docket for 2016?

  6. I just realized I never officially commented on this and I’m so freaking proud of you. Your splits and progression, your calmness and your smart race and performance are outstanding. I’m so glad this day was YOUR day, and I couldn’t be more proud of how dedicated you were during training. It has been such a pleasure to coach you during this cycle, and I’m excited to see how your half marathon training will pay off in the spring. And now I really want to run this race!!! xoxo

  7. Wow! Congrats on a huge pr- that’s awesome! I’ve heard so many people say that Richmond is an awesome race.. I’m definitely considering it for 2016!

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