After a (mostly) great experience at the Richmond Marathon in 2013, I knew I wanted to come back and run this race again. I love that it is such a big running event but still seems to flow as smoothly as any small town race that I have run. And spending a weekend in Richmond always gives me a chance to spend time with my family.
This time around, I chose the half marathon since I had sworn off marathons for the remainder of 2014. And I was truly excited to sign up for the half. Since I hit the wall around mile 19 of the full marathon last year, I wanted to get a chance to really enjoy every mile of the race this time around and the half marathon is easily the most fun distance for me. To add to the excitement, a best friend of mine from high school decided to run Richmond as her first half marathon. I was really happy to be able to spend time with her and be a part of her first half marathon experience.
Of course, there’s no way everything can go according to plan. And in the week leading up to race day it became obvious it was going to be a VERY cold morning in Richmond (in the upper 20’s around the starting time). I obsessed over what I should or shouldn’t wear for multiple days.
After much debate, on race morning I stuck with my stubborn side’s inclination to wear shorts, my Bull City Track Club jersey, arm sleeves, gloves, and ear warmers. It was cold but really not bad at all after a few miles in. Amelia and I got there somewhat early and jogged around the start in throwaway sweats for a while which got us pretty warm.
My estimated finish time put me in the front corral so with 15 minutes left until the start I gave Amelia a hug and found a place in my corral to keep warming up. My watch decided to test my nerves and absolutely refused to catch a signal before the start. When the start came and it still hadn’t gotten with the program, I thought I was going to have to run watch-less. But, finally, a tenth of a mile in I heard it beep and come to life. A huge relief.
My goal for the race was to run a PR – under 1:43:30 – or even, if things went magically, get my first finish under 1:40.
I started at a pace that was fast enough to PR (around 7:42 per mile) but not sub-1:40 speed. I didn’t want to crash and burn at the end and lose the chance to PR, which is what I did in the Bull City Race Fest Half Marathon just a month ago. The first 4 or 5 miles I wondered if even a PR was going to happen, though. My legs felt fatigued even though it was early in the race. The first three miles were also a bit dull running straight down one road through the city. Mentally, I wasn’t feeling very positive at all.
The next chunk of miles (5-8) I got a little more comfortable and confident that the PR was going to happen. We ran through a park and some residential areas and the changing leaves were so bright in some areas it was breathtaking. Mile 8 was hard (and my slowest mile) but I was still hovering at the same 7:42 per mile average pace. I felt like I could hold onto it but not like I could pick it up any faster. So I had kind of let go of the sub 1:40 idea.
Around mile 9 was a huge turning point. I don’t know what sort of good running karma I earned to deserve it, but so many things happened seemingly all at once that totally changed my mentality, and the outcome of my race…
- Bull City Running Company, the local store that sponsors Bull City Track Club, had set up a huge display of Durham running signs on the side of the street. It was so good to see some familiar signage at this point.
- A friendly stranger named Amanda came up from right behind me, told me my pace was awesome and how much I was helping her keep her goal pace. We ran together for a little bit until…
- I saw another bright orange Bull City Track Club jersey ahead but couldn’t figure out who it was. So I picked it way up to catch them and say hello. Turns out it was a teammate I had yet to meet named Jen.
- Another teammate, Jennifer (who I also hadn’t met), was right near by and introduced herself to me. She had been near me a lot of the race and even waved a few miles earlier but she was wearing a different top so I didn’t make the connection.
- I saw some other familiar faces from the Durham running crowd out spectating. They were speeding by on the sidewalk riding on ElliptiGOs cheering like crazy. You can’t ask for better motivation than that.
By the time all this happened it was mile 10ish. All the motivators had me picking up speed without even noticing it. I looked down at my watch and suddenly my average pace was 7:38 per mile or so.
Jennifer picked up the pace and started to move ahead and I chased after her. I did my best to keep her in my sights for the entire last three miles and was completely amazed by what was happening. It was the last three miles of a half marathon, my pace was ticking faster and faster (as opposed to the usual slower and slower), and I was having fun and feeling surprisingly good.
Richmond finishes on a notoriously steep downhill. I knew that was coming so I pushed myself hard up to it. I was so thankful for that downhill too, because my calves were on the verge of cramping completely by the time I got there. But all my legs had to do was not give out and take advantage of the gravity for a speedy finish.
My chip time was 1:39:39. Almost a 4 minute PR and breaking below the 1:40 mark for the first time. I couldn’t be happier with it!
The thing I am probably most proud of is my split times. Every mile from mile 8 on was progressively faster and miles 9 through 13 were my fastest miles of the whole race:
Mile 1: 7:44
Mile 2: 7:40
Mile 3: 7:41
Mile 4: 7:39
Mile 5: 7:39
Mile 6: 7:42
Mile 7: 7:39
Mile 8: 7:48
Mile 9: 7:32
Mile 10: 7:29
Mile 11: 7:26
Mile 12: 7:18
Mile 13: 7:04
Amelia also had an amazing first half marathon result and finished in 1:46! A cold but successful day in Richmond and I couldn’t have asked for a more fun weekend!
What’s the coldest temperature you’ve ever raced in?