Amanda, Sharon, Steve, Helene and Julie
Last Saturday, I ran the American Family Fitness Half Marathon and, you know what? It was awesome. I hit every single one of my goals: I broke two hours, set a new PR and…AND!…and I had a great time. I felt awesome the entire time. Never once did I think, “Dude. This is stupid. Instead of finishing I’m going to just go over there, lay down and start crying.”
That might be a first for me. It’s definitely a half marathon first.
Let’s start at the beginning.
The only little race hiccup actually happened before the race. Sharon and I got stuck in long lines for the port-a-john and missed our wave. We ended up starting almost 15 minutes late. It’s not terrible; because of chip timing we still have an accurate time, but at worst it slowed us down because we were weaving the entire race. We didn’t really have an open road until mile 11. At best, it was just annoying. The silver lining is that, because we were late, I saw my old friend Lori from high school cross country.
This was our race plan: start out fast (I know. This is running suicide, but Sharon and I wanted to run a fast first mile to get out of the congestion – and that was our plan even before startin late). After that, we planned run somewhere around nine-minute miles, but never above 9:09. That plan would get us across the finish line in under two hours. We ran our training runs around 9:30, so it seemed doable.
We started out fast and feeling good, running 8:35 for our first mile. Instead sticking to the plan and backing off, we kept going. Sharon was the one pulling the pace, and after running our first 5k in 25:53, I said to her, “Um. We need to have a serious conversation about our pace.” Sharon agreed and we backed off to 8:50.
I felt good running 8:30ish, but I was scared. Every other time I’ve raced this distance, the bottom has fallen out at mile 10 and I’ve practically staggered across the finish line. If I’d been by myself I would have gone even slower, so I completely owe my PR to Sharon. By mile 5, I decided to just buckle down and go for it.
Mile 5 is also around the time I saw Tom, and the race course entered Bryan Park. Bryan Park is a great park, but there was one thing I knew about it: it’s impossible to run in Bryan Park without hills. At mile 7 we rounded a corner and faced a pretty decent hill. I’m so thankful for our training runs on hills, but to be honest, I think that even if we hadn’t spent times on hills we would have been ok because the race support was incredible. People lined both sides of the hill and were cheering and ringing bells, and a band was playing at the top. Support was amazing for the whole race, and particularly great in tough spots — like that hill.
The hills tired me out, but once we hit mile 8 I started to get excited. Mile 8 is the point in a half-marathon where I start to feel like I’m practically done. You’re over halfway and mile 10 is just around the corner. And at mile 10 I knew we’d hit our goal with room to spare. I told Sharon that we could drop our pace to a 30-minute 5k (the distance we had left) and we’d still run under two hours. Instead, we decided to pick it up.
The final 5k was Richmond flat and through the city. I’ve heard that the back part of the course is long and desolate, but people were cheering the entire way. This is why it’s considered America’s Friendliest Marathon.
The end of the race went through the city to Brown’s Island. The race is known as a flat course with a downhill finish — perfect for marathoners looking for to qualify for Boston. But, I don’t know, call me crazy, I thought the downhill was a little overkill. It was a pretty steep downhill, steep enough that if I had been running the marathon, I might have fallen over my fatigued quads.
But I wasn’t running the marathon, I ran the half. So my journey down to the finish line was fast and gravity-aided. My last mile was my fastest — 8:23 — and thanks to the hill, I ran the last .1 mile in 7:06 (See what i mean? It was DOWNhill.)
Chip time: 1:56.25
(And, really, I owe it to Sharon. If there’s one thing I don’t have in running it’s guts; thanks for getting me across the finish line in time.)
Sharon and me in front of the port-a-johns, which is poetic considering a trip to the john is what set the tone of our race…
Part of our cheering section. David spent all his time walking up to strangers and trying to steal their Powerade bottles.
Thinking about training for the half marathon? DO IT. The course is awesome, all of Richmond turns out to cheer, and did you know? The finish is DOWNHILL!!