I had an incredible weekend in Richmond, most of which had nothing to do with my personal race. There are so many things I want to blog about from the weekend, so I figured that I should break it into a few blogs. The easiest to write is a race recap, so I’ll begin with this, and other posts will come over the next week or two. (Then I’ll have to get on the ball and write my Tulsa Route 66 Marathon race recap, too!) So without further ado, here is my experience with the Richmond American Family Fitness Half Marathon on Saturday, November 14, 2015.
This race is often called ‘America’s Friendliest Marathon’ which is quote the label to live up to. I was interested to see how they would deliver on this idea that I was entering the ‘friendly zone,’ and I have to admit, I fully support this tag line for the Richmond Anthem Marathon weekend. From start to finish, race experience, course, amenities and even email support, I felt the love. As I understand it, runners are the ones who coordinate and implement this race, which means they know what makes the runners on the course feel special! And they hit one out of the park with the weekend.
I picked up my packet on the Friday with little issue. Because I thought I would ‘take it easy’ at this race, I put down that I would finish in about 2:30, which after much more thought was a ridiculous idea. Never in any of my other training runs, even in triple digit heat, did I slow to a pace that would have me run 13.1 miles in 2:30 minutes. Maybe if I was dragging a 30 pound tire behind me…so after getting my bib, I went to see about changing my corral. It was super easy and it look less than a minute. I had been moved up to a 2:15 finish time (corral F), which was still rather slow for me, but certainly within a realistic finish for my ‘take it easy’ plan. I also saw Bart Yasso (again). This was the fourth time. And I’ll see him again in Tulsa on Sunday!
Race morning came, and my friend in the Richmond area drove us into town. He knows the city and I trusted him to get us parked and to the start line within plenty of time. Traffic seemed bad, but I personally wasn’t affected by it, so I can’t speak to how that went. I headed straight to the start to find my corral, while Keith went to the Marriott to see if he could catch up with others in our MegsMiles group (I’m the person that must be at the airport at least two hours ahead of time. So of course I would rather stand in the cold at the start line so I don’t miss the race than go to the Marriott and stay warm.)
We had a moment of silence for the Paris terrorist attacks, which was followed by a beautiful rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. I was amazed at how everyone stopped what they were doing to pay respect to the national anthem. So often, you don’t see that.
After a bit of time in the cold, our group was at the start line and clothes were being shed like mad. It was a nippy 45-degree temp (or thereabouts), and I couldn’t feel my feet very well for about the first two miles. Luckily, I didn’t have any issues as a result. Instead, I thought I was taking it easy based on my breathing, but in fact, my Garmin kept logging sub-9-minute miles. For the first five miles. I was in a bit of shock at that; it is a pace that I am not used to (gotta love running in cooler weather!), and based on my breathing, I was still not labouring. So I went with it. I enjoyed it!I felt fantastic! I was passing people left and right for much of the race. Rarely was there someone who passed me. And since the field wasn’t crowded (, I didn’t have many instances where
The crowds were great fun. There were ample aid stations that had both water and powerade. I skipped the first few stations, as I carry a water bottle with me. Life was good! The signs were fun to read. Neighborhoods had their own aid stations. Running through Bryant Park was nice. Then as we came out of it. there was one hill that I thought about walking – mostly because my hamstrings at this point started to scream at me. I looked at my Garmin, confirmed I was still on a PR pace and decided to push ahead and get over the hill where it somewhat flattened out.
Unfortunately, I don’t recall many specific places on the course outside of that. At some point, there was a neighborhood sponsored ‘beer stop’ and I had a bit of beer (I think it was around mile 8). Another place, I grabbed some pretzels at another neighborhood aid station. There was yet another one that had a selection of like six different things – I saw chips, pretzels, gummy bears and jelly beans (but there were two other pans out, so I’m guessing that there were two other options!). A little girl was with her dad handing out (what I think were) Twizzlers. The amount of support along the course was fantastic! Several spots had music; a DJ was even set up for a full on experience! It really is nice to see all this community and race support as a runner.
With about 1.5 miles to go, I saw that it was going to be close for a PR, so I picked up the pace, reminding myself that in less than 15 min, it would be over. I could maintain that pace for another 15 min. Then I got to the last 1/3 mile, making the turn to head towards the James River. People, this is a STRAIGHT DOWNHILL experience. Which can be exhilarating and frightening all at once. Yes, you can let gravity do some work for you, but be careful! Your knees might not appreciate the extra boost! I realized this from my Harper’s Ferry Half Marathon in May, so I wisely slowed myself a bit (although watching others just speed up to hit maximum speed on the downhill was pretty crazy to see! My knees hurt just from watching!). I crossed the finish line with a PR of 1:57:10, which is 54 seconds faster than my previous best from the Cayman Islands Half in 2014. My fastest mile was mile 13 at 8:11. And my total distance was 13.15, meaning I wasn’t running all over the course to get around people.
After finishing, we headed down the chute to get our medals, a fleece finisher’s blanket and a finisher’s hat (we got our long-sleeve tech shirts at the expo). Talk about swag!! And that blanket was a life saver with the wind that was blowing that day. Beyond the finisher’s area was Brown Island, where all the food and drink was set up. Runners could get granola bars, trail mix, bananas and pizza, along with water, powerade and a complimentary Sierra Nevada draft beer. With nourishment in hand, I headed to the grass and enjoyed my well deserved pizza and beer while letting the sun shine on my face. From ‘taking it easy’ to a new PR in the half distance, Richmond was good to me, and I thoroughly enjoyed my run through her streets.
Once fed and changed into dry clothes, I headed to the final downhill and cheered the runners in with the group I was with. We stayed out there for another five hours after I finished, which was an awesome experience in itself (and actually the highlight of my weekend). Seeing others achieve their dreams and enjoy the fruits of their training is something so powerful, and it was an absolute privilege to be a part of that aspect of the race.
And with the great course, party atmosphere and the amazing memories of this weekend fresh in my mind, I have already registered for next year’s half at the same course. America’s Friendliest Marathon? Richmond, you certainly get my vote!