Fitness · Just my Thoughts

Richmond Marathon – Recapping Race Day

Grab a warm beverage. I truly recommend cocoa or herbal tea today as it is cold, January type of cold, here in Upstate NY. This will probably be long.

I took a Greyhound bus, actually two, to Richmond so was without a car. At first, I didn’t think that was going to be a problem as I was only about 3 miles from the start line and I figured the walk would be a good warm up. I did not expect rain the morning of the race. I had set the alarm for 4 am. The marathon started at 8. That gave me time to eat and to find a ride. I knew there were plenty of runners staying at the hotel so my goal was to be in the lobby by 5 am and catch a ride downtown with someone.

Enter poor planning. I did not bring a rain jacket or throwaway poncho. I did bring a throwaway sweatshirt. At first I did not think I would need it but after going downstairs and walking outside, I knew I was wrong.

Anyway, back to the morning of the race. I woke before the alarm went off. This is a common occurrence when I am out of town for a race. I started the coffee maker in my room and got out my breakfast food. Knowing that the hotel breakfast would not be open in time for me this morning, I had taken oatmeal and a banana and yogurt to my room for breakfast on race morning. I made my oatmeal and ate my banana. I also made a container of nuun so I would have some to drink and some for my fuel belt.

After eating and getting dressed, I loaded up my bag to check. I was planning, hoping the weather would stop, to walk home from the finish. I know that is a huge thought but I wanted to have warmer clothing to put on for that walk. I then headed to the lobby to stalk runners leaving and find a ride to the start. I love being at the start early so I didn’t mind going in with a half runner. The first runner I asked said come along.

I had asked the front desk for a garbage bag but she could only find a small kitchen sized one. That would not be comfortable so I left it in the room for packing dirty running gear in. I headed out with a Ragnar tech shirt, short sleeves, and my running skirt on. I had my throwaway sweatshirt on over the shirt. I was hoping I could find a Starbucks downtown as it would be approximately 6 when I arrived near the start lines. Yes, I said lines. The 8K, the half marathon and the full marathon all had different start lines.

The rain that had been heavy when I woke at 4 am had stopped. There was s light mist but not real rain. I thanked my ride and wished her luck in the half marathon. I headed off to find things like baggage check and coffee. I stopped and asked a volunteer and a police officer about a coffee shop. The volunteer at least told me nearer the hospital. The police officer said he had no idea where a shop would be. I found the UPS truck for my baggage check and checked my after clothing. I asked there about coffee. The UPS driver said to let him know when I find out. One of the girls, a VCU student, gave me directions to Einstein’s – a bagel shop inside the children’s hospital – and off I went. I came back with my black holiday blend and a bag of cream and sugar and a black coffee to give the driver. He did not realize I was buying his patience as I would be out there at least 5 and a half hours.

As I waited for the 8K to start at 7 am, the rain started. It began to pour. I did not want to be totally soaked before the start so I stood inside a portapotty with the door slightly open. I was willing to come out in the rain for someone to use the potty but I stood in there a good 15 minutes before that happened. I cheered from the portapotty for the 8K runners as they went off. I cheered from the portapotty for the first few waves of half marathoners as they went off. Then I glanced at the time and realized I wanted to find the 5:30 pace group.

Other pace groups were lining up. I saw no sign for the 5:30 group. I happened to start talking to someone and we both said we were looking for the group. Surprise! We were standing next to one of the pacers and there was no sign for them. Blanca kept looking around for Drew who would be the other pacer. She was hoping he had the sign. Drew showed up just about start time and no sign. Somehow this pace group got forgotten. Consequently, the group started off with two pacers and three runners. One of us was running a Galloway method of 3 mins running, 1 minute walking. Drew and Blanca had emailed all who had signed up and said walking through water stops would be it. I myself am use to a 5 minute run, 1 minute walk but figured I could do the walking through waterstops.

With over 6,000 full marathon runners, we were close to the back but it only took us about six minutes to cross the start line. I had stripped off the sweatshirt prior to the start. I would second guess that as the race began. Before we hit mile two, the rain had started again. While the sweatshirt would not have kept me dry, it would have kept me warmer than I was when it rained for that short period of time.

Somewhere between mile two and three we passed this statute. I believe it is Stonewall Jackson. I would pass this statute again between miles 18 & 19 which is when I took the photo. By then, my time was shot so stopping for photos was not deterring me.

Between miles 2 & 3 and again between 18 & 19 where the photo was taken
Between miles 2 & 3 and again between 18 & 19 where the photo was taken

The pace group was running well. We were a bit ahead of schedule, according to Blanca and Drew, but still the walking through water stops was not what I had planned. I figured we would walk through the stop and for a good block. Generally speaking, I should have run my own race and walked as much as needed then. We ran across the Huguenot Bridge which had just been rebuilt. I remembered that we would be going down the left hand ramp from the bus tour. Not exactly sure how I got in front of the pacers but one of the other runners in the group and I were ahead. We had a great discussion on running the tangents so you don’t end up with a 27 mile marathon.

River Road was absolutely beautiful. We ran along the James River. Before coming down to Richmond for the marathon, my only memory of the James River was getting stuck on a bridge over said river on the way to my aunt’s in NC for Christmas one year. This river is absolutely beautiful. It is also allows Richmond the distinction of being a city with world class rapids in it.

We headed up one of the “hills” on the course. Truthfully, there were few inclines or downhills on the course. Those that were there were not like the up or down hills here at home. About mile 12, my stomach started revolting. My stomach had actually bothered me enough at mile 8 that I did not take my second energy gel. I had one prior to the start and one at mile 4. Generally, I take them every 4.5 miles but since there was a water station at mile 4, I took the gel there. Drew looked back, as I was behind the group. I yelled to him not to worry. My stomach was giving me some issues and I would catch up. By mile 13, the group was out of sight.

Mile 14 signaled the start of the end for me. I was certain if I stopped at the portapotty I would be fine. Top that off with saltines at the water table and I figured I was set. That stop was not what I thought it would be. I stood up to leave the portapotty and promptly got sick. I carried on, figured that this would take care of whatever was causing me issues.

I walked across the Lee Bridge, trying to pull myself together and figure a plan forward.

James River and railroad tracks from the Lee Bridge
James River and railroad tracks from the Lee Bridge

While with the pace group, we had been keeping fairly close to a 12:30 mile. I had no problems with this except for, every now and then, I wanted to open up a bit more than that. I kept thinking that history told me I would need to bank time from the beginning. Negative splits during a race have never been my strong point. Miles 13 & 14 were in the low 13 minutes per mile. Miles 15-17 clocked in around 14:30 and my stomach was not feeling any better. Each of these had a few good points in the miles but mile 18 came and another bathroom stop was required. The next six miles were between 15 minute miles and 16:30. A  lot of walking was done. My stomach was causing other issues.

And since pictures are worth a thousand words, below are some photos of me at various times throughout the race. These are not my photos but from marathonfoto.

After getting ill - What was I thinking?
After getting ill – What was I thinking?
Around mile 21 or 22. Feeling slightly better.
Around mile 21 or 22. Feeling slightly better.
On Grace. Almost done.
On Grace. Almost done.
Downhill finish
Downhill finish

The Richmond Marathon is a great course. The race is beautiful. The volunteers, very friendly. They have wet wash cloths twice on the course. They have two junk food stops. Everything you can ask for so you do not have to carry items with you. Water stations along the full route are every two miles until mile 20 and then they are every mile. There are two energy gel stations. I would highly recommend the race.




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