I’m pretty late posting this, but a week ago I ran the Richmond Half Marathon. I hung around Richmond for the rest of the week and didn’t have access to a computer, but I wanted to make sure I got this recap down. I’ve run this race before back in 2013 as my second half marathon ever and broke 2 hours there. I hadn’t originally planned to run this, but when I found myself needing to make a work-related trip down to Richmond, I decided to give it a go. I debated going in for the full, but since I’ve decided to run a spring full, I really need to let myself recover fully before jumping into another training cycle. I registered just about a week before the race and headed down to Richmond early to stay with my sister.
Like every race, there are positives and negatives to the Richmond Half Marathon. The first time I ran the race I felt it really lacked crowd support. I didn’t feel differently this time around; while there are groups of cheering onlookers here and there, the majority of the course is pretty barren. On the flip side, I find it to be a very scenic course so what it lacks in crowd support it makes up for in scenery. If you really need those crowds to push you along then this race may not be for you, but if you like to take in your surroundings it’s a great one for that. Another positive about this race is that the half marathon and full marathon start on different streets and are on a separate course for much of the race. This allows for a lot of space getting out of the start and lessens the need to weave. While I love love love the awesome, grand start of the Columbus Marathon, getting out of the start can be a challenge.
I didn’t have big plans going into this race. It was just 4 weeks following my marathon and I didn’t feel I was recovered enough to tackle it as I would if it were a goal race. The course was the same as when I had first run it so I knew what I was going into. I had given myself a progressive pacing plan, but that quickly went out the window (in a good way). It was in the high 30s for the start of the race and I was pretty pumped to finally get to wear my snazzy capris. They have a nice sized zip pocket in the back to easily carry my gel. Desi Linden was running the 8K and we were able to watch her go off at the start. This is the second time this year I’ve seen her run so that was pretty fun. I chatted with a runner who was also in town from Columbus (he was wearing a Columbus-area race shirt) before I got into my corral.
The race start is fairly uneventful. I decided to use music for this race simply because I knew it would be on the quieter side. I started off at a pretty easy pace and just allowed my body to get warmed up. I knew it would take 2-3 miles to fully get into a groove, but I found I was pacing in sync with those around me. The first 2 miles of the half are down Broad Street, so it’s a nice straight start and a good course for getting warmed up. My first mile beeped in a little faster than planned, but not to the point that I went out too fast. I knew I needed to keep it under control because there are some rolling hills in the park and a short, but steep incline coming out of the park and I didn’t want to burn up my energy too quickly. Mile 2 came easily and I was able to keep it under control for mile 3 as well. (8:25/8:23/8:19). All three of these miles were quicker than planned, but again, not fast enough that I felt I’d overdone it.
When my watch beeped in at mile 4, it was much faster than I wanted to be going. I felt really good though and almost forgot to take my gel. This was the point that I threw my progressive pacing plan out the window. The first 4 miles were faster than I had planned, the weather was perfect, and I knew it was going to be a good race. Plus, I knew I’d be heading into the park soon and figured the small rollers would slow me down some so I didn’t stress about that mile. I was just enjoying the race and happy to have my legs moving and not be worried about overheating and dehydrating. I didn’t let myself get fooled by the cold weather though, and did proceed to take a drink at each fluid station. Mile 5 beeped in and we headed into the park. I was surprised how quickly the race was going by. Prior to the race, I had talked to my friend Courtney and told her I didn’t feel recovered enough for a super fast race. She pointed out that, mentally, I was prepared for a much longer distance. I do think this helped me during this race as 13.1 miles suddenly didn’t feel that long after weeks of running 18+ miles each Saturday. Mile 6 was a downhill slope and I decided to ride those downhills hard and allow my body to take full advantage. It definitely helped as I watched my pace drop for that mile. (8:11/8:10/8:08)
The park was a series of ups and downs and I realized I was taking the downs much faster than most people around me. I remembered running the race years ago and being surprised at the rollers, but this time around I knew I just had to get out of the park and things would flatten out again. Mile 7 was much, much faster than I wanted to be going and I knew I should pull it back a bit. I ended up being glad I hit that one so fast though, because I had forgotten that heading into mile 8 was a tight turn matched with a fluid station and an incline. I got slowed down here getting stuck behind another runner as we exited the park. I didn’t want to weave because the course allows for some really great running of the tangents and didn’t want to mess with how close my watch was matching up to the mile markers. I charged the downhill as we exited the park in hopes of making up for the mile a bit, but it didn’t seem to help too much. It was at this point many years ago that I started to get tired. Passing the 8 mile mark, runners are heading up a long, easy incline. It hit me that I felt really strong here this time and I was really happy as mile 9 beeped in as my fastest yet. (8:05/8:15/8:00)
At this point, I knew this was going to be a good day for me. I generally start to feel tired after mile 8, but I felt I had enough steam left to push myself hard for the last few miles. This area of the course is very straight and I decided to just start kicking it into high gear. The sun was out and I finally felt warm enough to pull down my arm warmers. I figured if I could get to mile 10, I could convince myself to keep pushing for 3 more miles. Before I knew it, I’d reached mile 10 and I couldn’t believe I only had a little over 3 miles to go. I had done a good job of running the tangents on the few turns there are in the course. I spotted a girl up ahead that I had seen while leaving the start. She had a little strappy top on and short shorts and for some reason in this moment, that really bothered me. In my oxygen deprived brain, there really was no reason to wear such little clothing to run a half marathon in that weather, so I pushed ahead so I could pass her shortly before turning onto West Grace Street. This part of the course takes runners right past VCU and I knew I was getting so close. There was a slight headwind and I was in the shade and suddenly wishing I hadn’t pulled down my sleeves, but I pushed on. I began just picking runners off. I ran by one guy that started to walk and called out “Come on, you’ve got this!” while passing by. In the past, when a runner has yelled this it’s helped me, so I hoped it would help him a bit too. The course goes slightly up hill here, but I just kicked and kicked and was a little surprised at my split. I was finally starting to feel tired as I headed into mile 12. I was still running slightly uphill, but knew if I could hang on, the crazy downhill finish was on the horizon. I honestly felt like a bit of a mad woman trying to push as hard as I could. (8:00/7:50/7:56)
I was in the last mile. I couldn’t believe how good I felt. Richmond has been good to me both times I’ve run it. Finally, I saw Penny Lane Pub and knew I was at the last turn to head down to the finish. I was pushing hard and began to cruise down the hill for the last .60 of the race. I knew I was going to PR by a tiny bit and just ran as fast as I could without toppling over. That downhill finish is painful even in the half marathon! I crossed the finish, hit stop on my watch, and felt so relieved. (7:30/6:30 for last .10ish).
My official time was 1:46:12. This was a 1:22 PR over my spring half. More so, it is the half marathon equivalency time for the goal marathon time for which I’d trained. I felt so proud, relieved, and happy to know that, despite the horrible weather that sidelined my fall goal marathon, the work I had done had gotten me to the fitness level I needed to be in order to have achieved my goal time. I didn’t feel tired when I finished and I know the long-distance conditioning had much to do with that. I can’t express how great it felt to finally get to run fast after 6 months of weather that really restricted me from doing so.
The race hands out a fleece blanket instead of a space blanket, a finisher hat, and the medal. I headed over to the UPS truck area to pick up my bag. This was one positive/negative about the race. Since the start and finish are in different spots, the bag check is in UPS trucks. This is nice because I feel it keeps the bags more secure. The negative is that Richmond organizes the trucks by number/corral. This causes a bit of the backup for the half marathon since everyone is pretty much finishing at the same time. A woman waiting with me mentioned that another race she does organizes it by last name as to stagger the pick up spots. This is definitely something I think could be improved because the line for corral A was super long and by the time I finished getting my bag from the corral B truck, the line had grown really long behind me. Afterward, I headed onto Brown’s Island to meet my family and I got my post-race beer as my mom and sister were kind enough to stand around in the cold while I drank half of it before decided I was too cold.
I honestly did not think I had it in me to pull out a PR in this race. About 10 days prior I did my first speed work session since the full and the miles just felt hard. I thought I wasn’t recovered, but looking back it may have just been the 60 degree temperature that was impacting me. I only ran twice in the week leading up to the race and have only run once since, so I am finally feeling recovered and ready to jump into my winter training cycle.
I’m glad I decided to go for it and allow myself the chance to put in a fast race before the end of the year. Since I registered so late, there was nothing printed on my bib and I was able to write “MBrady Strong” and run for my husband’s cousin, Maureen, who recently started treatment for breast cancer. She is just 22 years old and is taking on her treatment in the most brave, positive, and mature way. Please consider donating to her GoFundMe page.
My 2016 season has now officially come to a close, but my 2017 season is just beginning.