Richmond Skyline from the south side of the James River
Every year early in November, the streets of the Richmond, VA are packed with thousands of runners taking part in the Richmond Marathon. The race options consist of the 8k, half marathon, and Marathon.
This year was the 42nd running of “America’s friendliest marathon”! The three races are always held on the same day, with the 8k starting first at 7 am, the half at 7:30 am, and finally the Marathon at 7:45 am. So what is it that makes this event so friendly and special? Well, it could be how the community comes together – from the Sportsbackers, who put on great events in and around the river city – to the volunteers, who devote their time to make sure every aspect of the event runs smoothly – to the party zones, where people offer encouragement when it’s needed most – to the runners themselves, who endured months of training, coming together to compete and complete their goals.
Although I now consider Boulder, CO home, I spent 29 years in Richmond, so this city holds a special place in my heart. I grew up just a couple of miles from downtown, attended college in the heart of the city. Over the years I lived in several parts of the city – sharing countless miles and memories in RVA. This event is a good time for me to visit with family & friends, and also allows me the chance to race in the streets I grew up in! I relish on these opportunities, as I tend to get the most out of myself when emotions are involved. This is evident, as both my 8k and half marathon PR’s reside in Richmond.
I have raced the 8k at this event 6 times, running my PR of 24:09 back in 2010. I’ve raced the half 3 times prior to this year, running my PR of 67:49 in 2015. This year would make it 4 times racing the half, and that PR of 67:49 was on my mind. When the timing works out, I’d love to return to my hometown and win the Marathon. Although a lofty goal, I believe this is well within the wheelhouse of my ability. With my dedication to the sport, mixed with a little extra motivation, time will tell.
After racing Imogene Pass in early September, I decided to switch gears and train for another Marathon. If you did not read my race report on Imogene Pass, I recommend checking it out. It was time to get back in road racing shape after training for high mountain races in Colorado this summer. I decided on the Houston Marathon as my goal race on January 20th. I find it important to test myself and have checkpoints in the lead up to a big race.
I had 8 weeks of solid training leading up to Richmond. This cycle consisted of more miles than ever for me ( Avg 90 mi/wk for 8 weeks), more double runs, lots of threshold work, and some Marathon pace efforts on long runs. Since the main priority early on in the Marathon build consists of mileage, consistency, and strength, I had yet to run a lot of intervals or work at subthreshold. Although I felt stronger than ever heading into Richmond, I knew anything under 5:00/mi would be tough for an extended period of time. My goal of running a PR in the middle of Marathon training would be a challenge, but realistic.
Race day had finally arrived and it was time to test my fitness. This was my first road race since early June so I was eager to get going. After all these years I still get nervous. This is a good thing because it means you’re committed, and when channeled in the right direction, helps with maximizing performance on race day. We all have moments of doubt, no matter what level you’re competing at. During these moments I remind myself of my fitness – how hard I’ve trained, how prepared I am, and to be the best version of myself. I ask the same thing from the runners I coach. This puts my mind at ease in moments leading up to the start.
This situation was a little different than others as I stayed with my Mom, who lives 20 miles from downtown. My girlfriend Sarah, and good friend Matt also made the trip out for the half. I enjoy having others around, so this really took my mind off racing. With that said, I am all business once it’s time to warm up. The three of us warmed up 50 minutes prior to the start. My warm-up consists of 20 minutes of easy running, a number of drills, then 4-6 strides before the start. The race was off, as I found myself just behind the lead pack. My plan was to run 5:05-5:15/mi for the first 10k, then try to run a negative split over the second half of the race. There was a brisk headwind coming out of the northwest, so the first two miles would be more of a challenge. I came through the first mile in 5:03, but the pack was 5 to 10 seconds up on me. I couldn’t push much faster, as this was already a bit faster effort then I was ready to run. The next few miles were in the 5:05-5:15 range, depending on the direction of the wind, and rolling hills. I was running alone into the wind for the first half of the race, but I stayed calm and ran the pace that my body would allow. It was a long race, and feeling confident over the ladder half was key.
Around mile 8 of the 2018 Markel Richmond Half Marathon
I came through 10k in 32:10, which is in the middle of Bryant Park. I could no longer see the group ahead of me, which caused me to lose some focus over the middle miles. My pace didn’t fall much, but my legs began to feel heavy. Never a good sign with 5-6 miles to go. My breathing rate was great, which is typically the case when coming down from altitude. Although my legs were tired and heavy, I reminded myself that I’ve been training hard and could finish strong. No competitors were around, but this was a race to be the best “ME” on the day. That’s exactly what I did, finishing the last 3 miles with splits of 5:12, 5:09, 4:56. I ended up finishing in 10th place with a time of 68:11. Not the PR I was hoping for, but a solid effort on the day. Upon finishing, I turned around to see my good buddy and 2:19 marathoner Matt, finish in 11th.
It was now time to see how Sarah would finish. Her workouts had been fantastic leading up to this race, so I knew she was ready to run something impressive. It wasn’t long before I could spot her flying towards the finish line. She crossed the line in 3rd place, running a massive PR of 76:02! She has overcome a lot with injuries over the past few years. It goes to show what months of consistent, smart training, can do in the long-term.
Each of the races finishes next to the James River, with the post-race party taking place on Browns Island. Everyone gathers to celebrate their accomplishment, all while enjoying beautiful views of historic Richmond. The fall colors were still hanging on, which makes for a nice backdrop. That evening I showed Sarah around Richmond and had the chance to catch up with some old friends from my Richmond days. The next morning we met up with a friend and elite runner, Esther Erb, for some easy trail miles along the James. It was good to catch up, as well as introduce her to Sarah. Our last evening in Richmond was spent with family at my Mother's place. I don’t have the chance to get home as often as I would like, so I cherish moments with family and friends, especially the older I grow.
Sarah taking in the River City views
I like to give myself 24 hours to analyze a performance – good or bad. There were a lot more pros than cons regarding my race, so I’ll RUN with that moving forward, as I continue training for Houston in January. I have bounced back quickly since racing, which tells me my body is adapting to the higher volume. Next up is a very competitive Turkey Trot in Ft Collins, CO on Thanksgiving, followed by the Holiday half marathon in December. As a coach, I’m thrilled with the way Sarah raced! She executed her fitness to perfection on the day. Lastly, returning home to do what I love, with the people I love and care about, is what life is all about.
Fall colors in Richmond’s Shockoe Bottom