|Awesome sign from Fellow Flowers!|
Leading up to Richmond Marathon I had really wanted to go after a sub-4:30 marathon. I wasn't sure how doable it was given that a lot of my work in September and October was trail work, and I hadn't done many pace or tempo workouts especially at longer distances. I also had a ton of long distance mileage on my legs (for me anyway...serious ultrarunners can feel free to laugh now). I had done Drake Well Marathon on August 18, Youngstown Ultra Trail 50K in September, and paced 50K of Oil Creek in October so this was going to be my 4th marathon plus distance in a 90 day period. Richmond also made me eligible for Marathon Maniac because Richmond would be my 3rd marathon+ distance in 90 days. (Maniac #8062 reporting for duty as a double agent-half fanatic and marathon maniac both this year!)
In search of the 4:30 goal, I signed up for the pace group. I got an e-mail from the pace leader about a week before the race. He sounded like he had a great plan so I was excited. I also had a few women from Moms Run This Town that were going for a similar goal that were going to meet me at the pace group as well. So on Thursday before Richmond, I get this insane idea to race with no Garmin. My reasoning was that no Garmin would remove the stress of the pace from myself, would force me to trust and hopefully stay with the pace group, and would keep me from really doubting myself near the end. So I arrived in Richmond on Friday with no Garmin.
We checked into the Richmond Marriott Downtown. I highly recommend this as a hotel location for the marathon. The start was right outside of the hotel, and they had a Starbucks right inside the hotel. They also had a restaurant that opened early and graciously left a nice finisher's packet with post race snacks and Gatorade on every runner's door after the race. The hotel also had a table set up in the lobby when we checked in with cute door hangers, bottled water, granola bars, and race maps and spectator information. Two thumbs up for the Marriott service!
|Awesome door hangers!|
We chilled out in the hotel for a little and then walked down the street to find a restaurant called Gibson's Grill. It was right near the National Theater and had some bad reviews for being slow, but I think that must be on theater nights. When we went in, there was really no one there and we were served in a reasonable amount of time. I got some penne pasta with veggies and marinara sauce and then headed back to the hotel to get the race gear together and get ready for the morning.
|Flat mama-was deciding between t or tank...went with tank|
I did not sleep all that well and we ended up getting up at 5:30 am. It was raining pretty hard when we woke up, but the local weatherman kept assuring us that the rain would stop before the marathon start. JD went down to the Starbucks to get me some coffee, and I made a sandwich with peanut butter, raisin bread, and banana (usual marathon breakfast). I got dressed and bibbed up and then just hung out in the room watching race coverage on the local news. The 8K started at 7 am, and it was pouring at that point. We could actually watch the runners go right by our hotel from our room so that was fun.
|View of marathon start and the downpour from my hotel window|
|Last minute hug|
Around 7:30 we went out to the street to watch the half marathon start. It was drizzling a little, but it wasn't too bad. I got corralled around 7:45 and found my friends and pace group really easily. I have to say that I loved race morning logistics since I could hang out in my hotel room until 30 minutes before race start and not have to worry about portapotties. It was also easy to find friends in the corral. I ate a Honey Stinger waffle and some water right around that time.
|I am very nervous!|
|Rocking it through the Starbucks party zone|
We hit 10K at 1:04:56 for a pace of 10:28 in that section. We were walking through the water stations and then picking up the pace a little after each section. The next section of the course was my favorite because we hit a party stop at the Starbucks and ran right beside the James River for a few miles.
|Gorgeous river views|
After that we ran through a bunch of neighborhoods and up and down some little hills. This is all honestly a blur because I was so keyed in on keeping with the pace leader that I wasn't looking at much else. I ran with some of the MRTT ladies for a little while at this point and got slightly ahead of the pace group, but we hit a short climb so I slowed down and let myself drop back to them. We hit a party station and the half marathon exactly at 2:15:09 so our pace overall was 10:18/mile, but we had done a significant negative split in that section dropping our average pace to 10:16. Somewhere in here I pushed my arm warmers down because I was starting to heat up a little. I felt like I was doing a great job with hydration and fueling by taking small amounts of fuel starting at mile 6 and doing every 2 miles after that with either Honey Stingers or Sport Beans plus water. Somehow I completely forgot about my Endurolytes even though I had them with me.
|Locked in and focused|
As we are part way up the climb in mile 16-17, the crowd starts to grow, and I start looking for the kids. I spotted them, and made my way over for quick hugs as I was running through. I was so excited to see friends and family that it helped me up that climb. Around mile 18-19, I started to experience some stomach cramps. I knew I was going to need a bathroom. The portapotties had massive lines, and there was no way I was waiting in line during a race but running was starting to get uncomfortable. I was also drifting to the back of the pace group as they were moving faster. Finally I spotted a gas station as we were running through a neighborhood and darted in and found an empty bathroom. I was much better after that and rejoined the race and picked my running back up. Unfortunately I lost about 5-7 minutes during that stop and also lost my pace group. I knew I wasn't going to be able to catch them so I settled in to get my self to run the last miles on my own.
|Waving to my fake cheering section|
During this section, I saw a huge cheering section with signs for Heather. Obviously, it was for another Heather, but when I pointed to the name on my bib, they all went crazy for me so that was fun. There was also a young woman who was holding a sign that said "Clear Eyes, Full Hearts..." I saw her at 3 different party stations, and every time I saw her I would point to her and she would shout out "Can't Lose" with me. So that was fun because I love that saying from Friday Night Lights.
|Let's finish this thing!|
I was using the ipod in between aid stations, but the aid stations and community cheer stations were so awesome that I found myself only needing music for short periods of time before the crowds would pick up again. At mile 20, we run under a stone archway and someone had put up a sign on it that said "The Wall". I put my hand on that wall as I passed under the arch as a metaphor of the fact that I was breaking through the wall. I hit mile 20 at 3:33:08 average 10:39 pace for the race, but my pace for that section had dropped to 11:10 due to the bathroom stop.
The last 6.2 miles were slower going, but I was still running. I had promised myself that I was going to run this whole race so I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and repeating "no doubt, no fear, no judgement". My quads were cramping badly (consequence of forgetting about the Endurolytes), but I just told myself that they were going to hurt even if I was walking so I should just keep moving. I was grabbing a few sips of Gatorade at the aid stations which were every mile at this point to try to help a little.
|Having a little fun at the 5K to go mark!|
|Not happy about the hill ahead|
The marker for the last 5K was really fun as the neighborhood had hung up a banner for an actual 5K right at the 5K mark and had a DJ calling out runner names or numbers as we came through. At this point, the 4:45 pace group caught me, but it was really only the pace leaders as their group had fallen apart. Another lady and I joined the two female pace leaders who were super encouraging, and we got that last 5K done. The downhill finish was really pretty awful. The hill was terrifying steep, and due to cramping I was so scared that I would cramp up and just fall down the hill. I didn't really let loose like I thought I would down that hill, but I was so happy. I saw friends and family along the side and had a big smile on my face. I was super excited to finish having run the whole way. Final time was 4:46:33 for a pace of 10:56 overall and only 11:55 in that last 10K section (so slow, but still running).
I can definitely say that this was my best marathon ever although I did not PR. I ran the whole thing, I had fun running it, I finished with a smile, and I didn't cry or get discouraged once during the whole race. I learned a lot about myself and about how to run a marathon correctly that I can definitely carry on to my next race. I also had a terrific experience running with no Garmin and running with a pace group. I will definitely do this again for another marathon that offers pace group options.
|Just spotted the kids on the way to the finish!|
Overall Richmond is a great marathon. It was hillier than I expected, but it was not awful and would have been fine if I would not have expected it to be flatter in the later stages. There were some gorgeous sections along the James River, but I didn’t think it was overly scenic as a whole. Running through the neighborhoods was fun, and the community cheer stations and party zones were terrific. Logistics were really easy for us since we stayed near the start which was only a 0.5 mile walk from the finish as well. I loved the smaller field, and aid stations were never overcrowded and were well stocked. The medal was simply stunning, the long sleeve tech t-shirt was really nice, and we also got an awesome fleece blanket at the finish line. Great value for the money! It definitely is America’s Friendliest Marathon and a good bet for a first time marathon as well.