Wow. I’m a marathoner. I still can’t really believe it!
On Saturday morning in Richmond, I woke up at 5 a.m., feeling rested but nervous, tossing and turning until 6 when my alarm went off. I had all my race essentials in my suitcase in a plastic bag all together so I wouldn’t forget anything, and quickly got organized and suited up. Matt, my brother Steve, and I shared a room in the Marriott less than a block from the starting line of the race, which was absolutely amazing. Not having to deal with getting to the race logistics, porta potty lines, and bag check? Best thing EVER.
At 6:30, Kathleen, my college friend and one of my training buddies, and her fiancé Zach arrived. Matt and Zach started making some fun signs to cheer us on, and Kathleen french braided my hair, which ended up being an amazing decision given the weather later that morning. I spelled her name out on her shirt in my sparkly duct tape, and ate some toast with almond butter and banana that I had packed from home. We kept an eye on the weather outside our window – raining on and off, and really foggy. Darn. Fingers crossed it would stop. By 7:40, it was go time. The race started at 8; time to head downstairs. Ready as we would ever be!
Downstairs, we met up with our fellow training buddy Rachel, who is Kathleen’s future sister-in-law, and Rachel’s husband Will, who headed upstairs to meet up with the guys. The three of us headed out to the starting line. This was it!
We lined up between the 3:45 and 4:00 pace groups and listened to the National Anthem being sung. Almost go time!
And then, before we knew it, they were announcing the start of Wave 1! We were in Wave 2, so we assumed that they would stop us and announce our start, but instead… everyone in front of us just started running, and we realized – whoa! We’re starting! This is really happening!
And then we were off. Eek!
The first mile of the race, we focused on dialing back the speed. Our plan was to keep a steady 9 ish minute mile pace the whole race so we didn’t get burned out. It was hard to not start out fast because of excitement, but we settled in. And just as we settled in, about a mile in… it started POURING.
Fail. It rained steadily for about 2 or so miles, and by the time it stopped we were soaked. One way ticket to chafe-town, please? Thanks.
Those first few miles were probably my least favorite of the race. Between the rain, my sluggish feeling legs, and the fact that we had SO FAR to go, I was feeling kind of blah about everything.
- Mile 1: 8:48
- Mile 2: 9:03
- Mile 3: 9:10
- Mile 4: 9:10
Just after mile 4, my spirits lifted because I had people to look for – blog reader Rebecca had emailed me on Friday that she would be out cheering between miles 4 and 5 with her baby. I saw a woman and her baby cheering big time for me and knew it was them – such a mood booster. Thank you again for coming out, Rebecca! Shortly after, I also started looking for my blog friend Brittany, who said she’d be out around mile 5. It was awesome seeing her, too, and she snagged this fun shot of us as we ran by.
Shortly after we passed them, the 4:00 pace group passed us. My legs were still feeling sluggish, and I remember thinking: “Ohhh, man. There goes that dream…” But we actually ended up sticking close by in their crowd for quite a few miles.
At mile 6, I started eating my mocha Clif Shot Gel and things were looking up. We crossed the 10k timer and heard beeps, which was exciting as we knew that meant our time would be sent out to those tracking us. It helped so much to know that people were following us and excited to see us succeed! I settled into the groove and at mile 7, there was a fun party station with a ton of people cheering. It’s amazing how much a big group of people cheering for you will raise morale!
From there, we ran over a bridge to the other side of the river.
- Mile 5: 9:02
- Mile 6: 9:07
- Mile 7: 8:31
- Mile 8: 9:01
There wasn’t a whole lot of crowd support on the other side of the river, but I really enjoyed miles 8 to 11. I was feeling good and there were some great views, too. I can’t even imagine how pretty this would have been were it not foggy/gross out!
Around mile 9 or 10, the girls and I were still in the crowded 4:00 pace group area, and we were all feeling good, so I suggested we run around them and try to get out of the crowds a bit. We forged on in front of them, feeling strong.
- Mile 9: 8:44
- Mile 10: 8:53
- Mile 11: 9:13
- Mile 12: 8:52
At mile 13, there was a fun cheer station, and I remember crossing the half marathon timing mark and saying: “Okay, we just have to do that again.” Rachel said: “I’m not sure if that makes me feel better or worse…” I replied: “Let’s go with better.”
Miles 13 to 15 were pretty unmemorable – the girls and I chatted a little on and off and snacked on margarita shot bloks; we just tried to stick with it and keep moving. Mentally this was a hard part of the race for me because there wasn’t a ton of crowd support, and I knew we still had a long way to go, but our pace was great.
- Mile 13: 8:48
- Mile 14: 8:45
- Mile 15: 8:38
- Mile 16: 9:08
We were all really excited to cross back over the bridge around mile 16, back to the side of the river where we would be finishing the race. Mentally, knowing we were at least on the right side of the river made a difference!
We were also excited to cross the bridge because we knew that we would see our significant others cheering for us around mile 17! Sure enough, shortly after the bridge, we were back in downtown and I heard Matt yell out my name! They had JUST arrived and almost missed us – apparently the text message timing updates being sent out were confusing and hard to understand. So glad they arrived just in time!
Lol to the “Love, your lazy husbands/fiancé” part! The guys had made all sorts of fun signs (I took these pictures after the race) – I love the “Body Glide application station – Free – Not pervy” sign, ha! And Steve’s pink sign. Clearly they had fun with their cheering duties!
Matt raced ahead and got a few action shots of us running by, too.
Around the same time I heard someone else screaming my name and saw fellow blogger Clare, who was out cheering on a friend. So much excitement in one area! The girls and I charged on, feeling re-invigorated and pumped.
And if I wasn’t already pumped enough, seeing this random turkey guy sent me over the edge. How awesome is this outfit?!
I was really excited when we hit mile 20 – such a big milestone, and I knew another round of text message pace updates would be going out. Woohoo!
- Mile 17: 9:07
- Mile 18: 9:01
- Mile 19: 8:49
- Mile 20: 9:15
I had heard from a few of you guys that there was an actual wall that had “The Wall” written on it, right around the spot where most people do hit the imaginary “wall” in a marathon. Sure enough, just before mile 21, there it was! I got unnecessarily excited about this, and obviously got a photo.
Mile 21 had us going through some beautiful neighborhoods – it reminded me a little of Chapel Hill, actually! I was feeling great and loving the scenery, even though it had started mistily raining on us a little again. Around this point, I ate part of my granola bar I had in my hydration pack.
A few weeks before the race, the girls and I had discussed our race strategy. This was both me and Kathleen’s first marathon; Rachel has done a number of marathons (and ultras) but was just getting back into it as she has a 2 year old. Kathleen didn’t want to be running alone, so Rachel said she would stay with her no matter what, as she wasn’t going for any specific time. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel on race day, but said I might want to break off on my own at the end if I felt really good, so I’d play it by ear.
Around mile 22, I decided to forge off on my own; I had pulled a little ahead of the girls and my legs were feeling great, so I yelled back to them whether they would mind if I went on ahead. We shouted good lucks and see you at the finish-es, and I was off.
Just after heading off on my own, a woman and her husband ran up next to me. The woman said she was a blog reader, that this was also both of their first marathons, and that she had been inspired to sign up when I did! I was so flattered! I asked what their goal was, and they said they were also aiming for sub-4 hours. Awesome! She said: “You’re looking so strong!” And I replied that they were, too! What a fun boost of adrenaline to see a friendly face out on the course. I wish I’d gotten her name, but I finished right with them, so I know they beat 4 hours, too – congrats!!
At this point in the race, everything was starting to hurt, but I really couldn’t believe how good I still felt overall. My legs were sore and tired but I felt strong, and mentally I was totally in the game. I couldn’t believe it – I was nearing the end of my first marathon! I was really going to do it – and it looked like I’d make my goal, too, since the 4:00 pace group had never passed me again!
- Mile 21: 9:08
- Mile 22: 9:17
- Mile 23: 9:04
- Mile 24: 9:08
I kept waiting for my body to totally fall apart, or to burst into tears, or to go totally insane. Everyone always says all hell breaks loose in the last few miles of a marathon, but somehow, I still felt great.
Just before mile 25, I saw Matt and Zach again. Seeing them gave me another great boost of energy, and by the time I hit mile 25, I was totally “endorphin wasted,” as my friend Theodora would say. I was practically giddy. My friend Lauren (who I cheered on in the NYC Marathon a couple weeks ago) had written me a sweet card that arrived last week, which said: “At mile 25, take it all in, for this is where the magic happens and where you go from runner to marathoner.” I thought about that, and about all of you cheering me on and believing in me, and how excited I was that I had made it so far in my running that I was even at mile 25 of a marathon. I could hardly believe it.
At mile 25.5, we passed a fun band, and I took a little video to remember the moment by. Less than a mile to go!!
Passing the mile 26 marker was amazing – I was SO close. By this point, the course had some significant downhill. I was like: “Sweet, downhill, I can totally bust out a fast pace for the finish!” And then as the downhill arrived: “OMG OUCH!!!! MY QUADS!!” Lol. I had to forge on rather gingerly on the downhill – that hurt! I’ve never run so far before that my legs got really sore DURING the race instead of just after – crazy.
And then, before I knew it, there it was. The finisher’s chute. I had arrived!
As soon as I saw that finisher’s area, I started flying. My quads were screaming, but I didn’t care. I was almost done!!
- Mile 25: 9:04
- Mile 26: 8:48
- Last 0.4 mile pace (my watch said the course was a little long): 7:45 (!!)
Shortly before crossing the finish, I heard Clare screaming for me – I looked over and she yelled: “You’re doing it! Under 4 hours!!” I screamed back: ”I KNOW!!” with a huge smile on my face. She snagged this photo of me as I raced by:
I took another video as I was finishing, so I’d always remember this moment. It was truly amazing – so many people cheering and I had done it – I was finishing my first full marathon!
My official finish time: 3:56:48. Wow! I not only beat my goal, I smashed it!
Right after crossing the finish, I looked over and saw Bart Yasso, “Chief Running Officer” of Runner’s World and a majorly amazing runner, standing there cheering people on as they came through the chute! I snagged a photo with him – he’s awesome.
A couple minutes later and Rachel and Kathleen came through! They finished in 3:58 – so awesome!
Shortly after finishing, I found my friend Ashley and her boyfriend Brian who were out cheering me on at the finish – so great to see them!
I also found my brother Steve, who said he had had a ROUGH race. He finished his first full marathon in the spring in 3:22 with no problem (insane, yes), and was aiming for something similar this time, but it just wasn’t his day. He bonked hard around mile 15 and said the rest of the race sucked. He said his training wasn’t as good this time around as it was the first. Next time!
The girls and I also found Matt and the rest of our cheering squad. A big thank you to them for supporting us out there!
What a great day and a great race, even with the nasty weather. I would highly recommend the Richmond Marathon to anyone thinking of doing it – it was so well organized, and aren’t the medals stunning? I love the blue glass water. The half marathoners and 8k-ers received a smaller version of it. So pretty.
I’m so proud and excited to be able to call myself a marathoner now. A big thank you to all the volunteers and spectators who came out in the cold rain to support us – they are the real heroes of the day! Also, thank you to my running coach Mary for putting together a successful training plan for me for my first full. I think the 22 miler she had us do was key to feeling prepared on race day!
And as for you guys – thank you so much for taking this journey with me. From signing up, to training, to actually doing the marathon, your support and encouragement were with me for every mile.