This is going to be a long one, so cozy up and read on!
Friday, I woke up around 4:30 a.m., ready to get to Richmond. After a stressful week with low mileage, I was bouncing off the walls; ready to run.
My entourage (my husband, son, mom, mother-in-law and niece) and I crammed into our SUV around 9 a.m. and started our 2.5 hour trek.
Our drive was uneventful, no traffic, and we arrived at VCU around noon. My stepdaughter had just finished her last class and we walked to 821 Cafe for lunch. The days prior, I was conscious of my nutrition choices and decided on a turkey wrap with orzo salad. Delicious, but man, I wanted some of my son’s nachos!
After lunch, we headed to Arthur Ashe for the Race Expo. This was my first expo experience and I was excited to check out the vendors. First, I made a switch from Wave 4 to Wave 2 since I wanted to be around people running a 3:45 pace. After switching, we browsed all of the booths and definitely received our fair share of freebies. The kids loved it!
Earlier in the week, I had researched restaurants for dinner and we made a reservation for Stuzzi’s. Yum. Sierra and I shared baked ziti with housemade mozzarella and great San Marzano tomato/meat sauce. Water accompanied me at all times.
After dinner, we dropped my MIL and the kids off at Sierra’s apartment in the city and the remaining three of us ventured 10 miles away to Glen Allen where we were staying. The accommodations were so cozy and quiet. I was a little worried I would be too anxious to sleep, but ended up with about 7 hours!
I woke up before my alarm (ok, 3 alarms) and was ready to go. I was worried about possible traffic into the city and finding parking. Thankfully, it was a breeze – no traffic and found parking near the Omni in no time. Sierra was running the 8k, so we quickly hiked to the start and made it with 1 minute to spare. After she was off, we went down to the marathon starting line.
Amazingly, I was fairly calm before the race. My stomach was perfect and I felt ready to go. I found my wave and was able to to stand by the fence with John and my mom. Time went by and soon we were off!
Weeks leading up to the race, I had decided to just shoot for an average 8:30 pace. I did not want to pressure myself to BQ on my first try; just wanted the experience and to finish.
I knew after the taper, my legs would be ready to go and they sure were! The first mile seemed to take forever. I felt like I was jogging at 8:17 pace and was trying to hold back. Race day weather was in the 40s with a slight breeze and I was cold for the first couple of miles. My jaw was trembling and I was glad I kept my gloves on.
Miles 1-3 were very exciting – I enjoyed watching the herd of runners occupying both sides of the city streets. There were so many smiles, cheers and chatting early on.
Mile 4-5 I could feel a little pull in my right hip flexor and I got a side stitch. I never get side stitches. Pretty much just ignored it, focused on my breathing and thought of my running club kids. I don’t believe we ever had one practice without one of the kids complaining of a side stitch. So, I listened to my own advice and kept pushing on.
Around mile 6 or 7, I heard “Becky?” I wasn’t sure who would be calling my name, but soon found out it was someone I knew from Winchester! Michele caught up and told me she recognized my ponytail, ha ha. I had been feeling a little lonely and a bit envious of others running with a partner, so I was glad to have someone to chat with while we ran. We stayed together through the beautiful path along the James River for a few miles (congrats on your BQ Michele!!).
Around 10 or 11, I decided to tune out and listen to my playlist I had created. I had stopped looking at my watch early on (maybe after mile 5?) and just continued to run a comfortable pace and not worry about splits. I knew the halfway mark was coming up soon and was looking forward to the infamous bridge since my family would be waiting for me.
By this time, I had fueled twice and kept drinking my water. Soon, the bridge was upon me and boy, was it windy. Unfortunately, I didn’t have anyone to tuck behind of to break the wind; just buckled down and pushed on. I certainly didn’t miss my support group – I was nearing the end of the bridge when I saw Sierra jumping up and down holding a sign and screaming her head off! I threw my gloves to the side; and was sad to only see my family for 10 seconds or so.
I knew another local running friend would be at mile 18 (waiting to jump in with another friend), so I looked forward to seeing another familiar face. Fatigue was starting to set in when I finally ran past Shane – man was he crazy, screaming and jumping when he saw me. Gave me a little boost of energy and on I went.
Mile 20 came and my shoes were feeling a little funny – maybe around 21, I stopped and retied both and I swear my hands would barely work – it seemed to take me a minute to tie each shoe. My calves were feeling a bit tight, so I stretched and was off running again.
Around 22-23, my calves were starting to feel like bricks and starting cramping. The cramp would cause my whole leg to straighten from quad through my foot. First my left left spasmed; I stopped, walked it off; stretched and then my right did it as well. I have never had this happen before, but there was no way I was letting this get in my way. Each time it happened, I would just stop to walk and stretch and get right back at it. I kept telling myself “you trained too hard to let this get in your way”.
Shane & Renee (congrats on your BQ Renee!!) passed me around 24-25; I grabbed some pretzels from a nearby stop, washed down with some water and picked back up the pace. We were back in the city and I knew the finish wasn’t too far. My legs were still a mess, but honestly, it felt better to run than to walk. I kept reminding myself to take short strides; putting one foot in front of the other and just keep running.
I made the last turn and one long, glorious downhill began and I knew the finish line was near. Once I had the end in sight, I picked up the pace and put a smile on my face. I was so excited to cross that line. I raised my arms in celebration and was so happy I finished!
Mentally was ready – really trusted in my training and was ready to go. And when fatigue and cramps set in, I never let the situation defeat me. I remained positive and continue to push.
I was worried about feeling overly nervous and having an upset stomach before the line, but felt great. I didn’t really change my nutrition over the last week – added in a few more carbs, but nothing drastic. When I ran my long training runs, the diet I had worked just fine and I didn’t want to do something new for race week.
Fueled every 5, hydrated with water and G2 along the way, just as planned.
The amount of support from the crowd in the city and neighborhoods was amazing. I really enjoyed reading the signs and all the music along the way. The little kids giving high 5s really made me smile.
My Mile band – I wrote all my dedicated miles on a green bracelet that I wrote during the race. Often, I’d glance down and think of many of you.
Between my Injinji socks and Hoka One Ones, I did not have one single blister or bloody toe when I finished!
Looking back at my splits, I definitely had a good clip going but didn’t feel that I was going too fast. I just wanted to feel comfortable and hang on for as long as possible.
Things I would do different (if I did this crazy race again):
I would have family support at more areas along the course. You really do look forward to seeing familiar faces, especially in the later half.
Having someone to run with for the last 6 miles would be great. It definitely gets lonely, especially when you are hurting.
Conclusion: So thankful for this experience and happy with the result!
Official time was 3:46:15; half splits were 1:47 & 1:59. Even fighting through the cramps, my last half pace overall was still at a 9:04. Overall official pace was 8:38.
So many thanks – thanks to my family who came to cheer me on, family who tracked me from afar, all the support from friends, the city of Richmond, the spectators, fellow runners and the Richmond Marathon. Our entire experience was amazing and I would highly recommend to anyone.
Will I do it again? Maybe! But for now, I’m excited for a few upcoming 5ks!
Again, thank you all for your support – I really felt all the positive vibes along the way and although I was in pain after the race, all of the notifications on my phone really made my heart burst. Thank you for being a part of my journey.